Republicans gear up to compete for black vote

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus inherited a simple mission: stop inflaming racism and expand the voter base beyond white, male America. Like somany Republicans before him, Priebus repeatedly gets in his own way in his attempts to appeal to blacks and other minority groups.


William Reed, NNPA columnist.

In the months since the Democrats’ decisive electoral victories among blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans, officials at the RNC have talked a lot about engaging the country’s different and more diverse communities. At their Boston summer meeting session, the Republicans declared that “engaging youth and building the party at the grassroots level is key” to the party’s successes toward 2016. The RNC’s latest effort to sell itself is a plan to showcase the diversity in the GOP ranks. The Rising Stars initiative highlights the next generation of Republicans: a group of activists, authors, elected officials and candidates who combat the GOP’s “old boy” image.

In its initiative, the RNC’s publicity professionals will be shining a spotlight on its younger, minority up-and-comers every three months. The first batch of Rising Stars includes T.W. Shannon, Oklahoma’s first African-American Speaker of the House and a protégé of former Rep. J.C. Watts. The RNC plans to thrust Black Republicans such as Shannon into the limelight.

To grow and expand the party among blacks, the GOP should remember that, “it’s all about the economy.” Despite woeful, economic gains under Democratic political leadership, African Americans have allowed themselves, and their issues, to be dumbed down to accept mediocre governance. The last 40 years, the black vote has gone so overwhelmingly for Democrats that the GOP has never invested much effort in trying to capture it. In what Priebus says is “an unprecedented effort,” the RNC is putting money and muscle into getting more African Americans to vote Republican. The RNC just hired 150 field staffers “to help court new voters.”

Throughout the spring and summer of 2013, Priebus and a core group of Republicans, lurched from convention-to-convention in a kind of “rock star” procession seeking “grip-and-grin” photo-ops with notable blacks. What he needs to do now is move out of the picture, replacing himself with strategic “outreach” professionals and techniques “to effectively spread the word” specifically, among African Americans.

Some say Preibus should spend his money elsewhere and think that the

Republican Party faces an impossible task adding blacks to their ranks. With targeted efforts, the RNC can easily capture 30 percent of the black vote by 2016. Party leaders can’t second-guess themselves and must continue to provide the resources necessary for the outreach to be successful. The Republicans have to deliver messages among African Americans that explain to them why the GOP’s world-view is in their best interest.

The Republicans need to project images and an agenda that blacks can relate to. In order to be effective, the party needs to provide the black outreach team the budget and autonomy needed to set up networks that allows them to consistently engage African Americans through their media, about their issues.

In addition to the field representatives, Priebus announced in Boston, the RNC headquarters outreach team includes Amani Council, director of the RNC’s African-American Communications, Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield, who heads up the political arm, and Raffi Williams, whose focus is the youth vote.

Priebus says the RNC expects the staffers they recently hired to live and work in minority communities and pitch Republican values. Between the headquarters’ crew and field representatives, Republicans should be putting forth issues that blacks truly care about, and through new technology and local news outlets to “meet them [blacks] where they are.”

Republicans can take a page from companies that target and develop the African-American consumer market. It’s time Priebus & Company allow their “black outreach” team the full reign they need to effectively sell the Republican message, convene conferences, and be a resource on Republican ideals, and assemble and conduct political education among African Americans that touts: strong families, faith in God, personal responsibility and equal economic opportunities.

William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey

Let’s have an honest discussion about race

If we talk about what ails us that will make it better. When will black Americans stop getting short shrift? After the Supreme Court’s invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) described it as “a central pillar of the civil rights laws that helped bring America’s ideals closer to reality for all.” Leahy said he “feared the ruling would jeopardize the rights of racial minorities.”


William Reed, NNPA columnist

A familiar activist chant of activists is. “Black life is valued less than white life.” And that has gained currency in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Now, the national conversation is about “race in America.” What we really need across America is “a conversation about race” that helps blacks to rearrange some priorities.

As President Barack Obama said after the Zimmerman verdict, “We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our communities. What Americans need are a series of race dialogues toward garnering ongoing commitments to combat prejudice and strengthening understanding among all.”

Republican Senator John McCain should be recognized as an ally for saying America has “a long way to go” before racial disparities end. The senior senator from Arizona said that Obama’s impromptu speech about being a black in America, “…proved there needs to be more conversation about the issue of race. We cannot become complacent when we still have a dramatic disparity in black youth unemployment.”

It wouldn’t be as ironic as some blacks think that Republicans might follow McCain’s lead to bring about a conversation on race in America. Race and racism are the most challenging issues confronting America. Yet, polite society refuses to discuss it. Racial inequality in the United States underlies a wide range of societal issues that affect different groups disproportionately. The total wealth gap between white and African-American families increased from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009. The biggest drivers of the racial wealth gap are homeownership; household income; employment; inheritance; financial support from families or friends; and pre-existing family wealth. Whites have 22 times more wealth than blacks.

The story of race in America has been at the center of some of our greatest national traumas, as well as serving as the yardstick by which progress toward a more equal and fair society is measured. It’s apparent both from the varied reactions to Obama’s presidency and events beyond it, that race still serves as a critical stumbling block in American society.

Times of challenge provide the opportunity to create change. There has never been a better time to re-examine and correct racial inequalities in American society. Instead of allowing the taboo on the subject to continue, the nation needs to start an honest discussion about race. We all need to pay more attention to the growing wealth inequality and expanding racial wealth. There needs to be some systematic, organizational commitment to making policy that helps blacks to gain grants, and investment in our communities and businesses. Let no one tell you “all is equal” with demonstrated disparities in health care, education, housing and criminal justice continuing.

Don’t let the “talking heads” that regularly represent the country’s wealth interest have you believe “all things are equal.” White Americans have continued to enjoy material advantages based on past racially exclusionary practices and current institutionalized discrimination. However, this long history of racism has created social costs in terms of social instability and loss of economic productivity. African Americans bear costs of low self-esteem, high unemployment, low socioeconomic status, and limited opportunities.

As we march from one unemployment line to another, don’t let American politicians and media weasel out on this one. A dialogue on the role race currently plays in the economy from the workplace to the criminal justice system is needed. Politicians should be encouraged to expedite a series of conversations on race across the country.

William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and is available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey