The GOP Wooing Blacks
by Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com
The Republican Party is schizophrenic.
One day, the GOP claims it wants to become more racially inclusive and reach out to African-Americans to broaden the GOP’s ethnic membership, and days later, Republicans do something bizarre that totally undermines their questionable outreach efforts.
This week, for example, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain announced that he doesn’t like the idea of being labeled an African-American.
During an interview with Bloomberg, Cain said that he prefers to be called an American, explaining that the word “African” on the front of his racial identity limits him and inaccurately describes him.
“I don’t like people trying to label me,” Cain said. “’African-American’ is socially acceptable for some people, but I am not some people.”
So, here’s the GOP saying it wants more African-Americans to join the ranks of the Republican Party, but the only black GOP presidential candidate insists that he doesn’t want to be called African-American.
How do Republicans really intend to attract blacks to the GOP with candidates like Cain?
This is not to say that all blacks agree on the reference to African-Americans, but most blacks in America agree that their roots – even partially – originated somewhere on the continent of Africa. It’s highly likely that Cain’s family has an African connection, too.
If the GOP believes Cain will lead the welcome wagon for African-Americans, Republicans should think again.
There’s more. Cain’s surprise announcement comes as Reggie Brown, a comedian impersonating President Barack Obama, made racial jokes Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
“Michelle celebrates all of Black History Month,” Brown quipped about Obama’s bi-racial heritage. “I only celebrate half.”
Brown also said: “My mother loved a black man, and she was not a Kardashian.”
And flashing a picture on the screen of Fred Sanford of “Sanford and Son,” Brown said that’s what Obama would look like when he got older.
Brown didn’t just limit his jokes to Obama, though. He also mocked Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, ridiculed Newt Gingrich’s faltering campaign and suggested Tim Pawlenty needed a spinal transplant. As Brown was preparing to make a Michele Bachmann joke, one of the conference’s officials came out to the lectern and told the comedian to leave the stage.
A reporter who attended the event exposed the GOP’s double standard – and thin skin.
He said Republicans laughed at Brown’s racial jokes about Obama, but they cut Brown off and escorted him off the stage only after he began to make jokes about Republicans. In fact, when Brown aimed his humor at presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, the audience booed him.
One thing is certain: Republicans can’t take a joke.
Brown said organizers told him he would have 15 to 20 minutes to perform. But after 17 minutes and midway through a joke about Bachmann, his microphone was cut, and he was escorted off the stage.
“I do believe that I was over my time by a few minutes,” Brown told CNN Monday, “and I also believe that the material was starting to get to a point to where maybe they started to, you know, feel uncomfortable with where it was going. But I was just doing my thing.”
Republican Leadership Conference Chairman Charlie Davis said Brown’s performance had gone too far.
“Had I been in the room, I would have pulled him sooner,” Davis told CNN. “We have zero tolerance for racially insensitive jokes. As soon as I realized what was going on, I rushed backstage and had him pulled.”
Maybe Davis should have pulled his fellow Republican, Hugh McInnish, before he got started.
In March, Hugh McInnish, a member of the Madison County (Alabama) Republican Executive Committee, tried to explain the racial disparities in the Alabama public school system.
At a press conference, McInnish claimed that “blacks misbehave on average more frequently than whites do,” and that black students don’t perform as well as white students.
McInnish also offered a chart that showed the “black crime rate” and the “white crime rate.”
The chart indicated that black people commit more than six times the violent crime of white people overall – eight times as many murders as white people and more than 14 times as many robberies, McInnish said.
Meanwhile, while Cain is telling the media not to call him an African-American, black Republicans proudly list a number of prominent African-Americans as members of the GOP: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mary McLeod Bethune, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Rep. J.C. Watts; Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and boxing promoter Don King.
As the 2012 presidential race heats up, the GOP has already indicated that it will reach out to blacks and Hispanics in hopes of luring more people of color to the Republican Party.
Previous efforts, however, have appeared half-hearted, and black Democrats never believed that Republicans are serious about lobbying black folks.
With Republicans laughing at racially-tinged jokes about President Obama, it’s hard to imagine that the GOP will ever be committed to embracing the black electorate, no matter how many African-Americans they list on a web site.