Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pay Attention

October 15, 2009

I’m sitting here at my laptop, incapable of putting together the exact words that I want to say in reaction to political consultant Raynard Jackson’s comments on recently.

Saying that GOP Black candidates are a “…total embarrassment…”

Saying that GOP Black candidates are “…more intent about being accepted into the party than calling a spade a spade…”

Then, following it up in his personal op-ed with “…White people are supporting you (Black Republican candidates) because you are Black so that you can speak out against the Black president, so the white people won’t have to (because they can’t call you a racist since you are Black). Oh, I get it now. You know we have a term for people like that and it begins with the word UNCLE!”

In an editorial titled, “Black Republicans Running From Race”, no less.

At first, I was in need of a title that was appropriate and tempered.

It took me a moment, but at least I can say.

Ah, yes. I have the words now.

Mr. Jackson, “Pay Attention.”

First, pay attention to the Black Republicans– the candidates as well as party activists, elected officials, and pundits alike - that are out there fighting racism within America as well as the degradation of the Black community simultaneously.

I assure you, it’s a thankless job, one that prompts criticism from all sides:
• from many Democrats that state that Black Republicans don’t really love Black people even as we work to help the community with our efforts, speaking to political issues that impact our communities, especially Democrat-controlled urban centers;

• from many Republicans that question Black Republicans’ loyalty to the party’s message and values when we call for accountability on issues from all sides, including Republicans; and

• from Black people themselves, many of whom put us through unnecessary, repeated rounds of validations to proof how Black we are.

Apparently, that criticism now also comes from Black conservative pundits that seemingly feel more comfortable in calling out the rising crop of Black Republicans in the media versus using their platforms to reflect and uplift the current movement – and even hold them accountable constructively without calling them an “embarrassment” and devaluing their candidacies.

Offering them time on your radio show to address your concerns is, well, to paraphrase your own words, very “uncle” of you, Raynard. Perhaps next time it would be better to offer it proactively versus giving a reactive response to a public slam.

Not only would it give them a chance on your platform, but it would also involve the leadership – on your end as well as theirs – to pursue solutions, not just raise opposition, filling the void you allude to with your opinion.

Again I say: pay attention.

Pay attention to how these Black Republican candidates are following the pattern that Black Democrats (including President Barack Obama) have played out over the years – a pattern that has allowed the previous candidates to win unlikely seats, including the White House. What is that pattern? Namely - talk about race only when pressed and it is politically comfortable, but do not fixate themselves on issues of race, lest they become marginalized as solely a “Black candidate” – and one incapable of winning a larger race.

As a political consultant, you should know this: it’s not advantageous to be a political anomaly (Black conservative) when you are trying to be a winning candidate. Novelty is only successful on television; familiarity and comfort are what’s successful in the voting booth.
Just as Black America collectively does not hold President Obama accountable for the race-related issues going on in the nation (including Black-on-Black crime), we must not demand that these candidates do so, particularly as they are in the process of fundraising, brand-building, and networking. It is not their calling at this point in time. When repeated calls for President Obama to be more vocal concerning the plight of Black people in this nation, the overwhelming response includes rhetoric explaining that the president is “the president of all Americans”, thus exonerating him from speaking out. Just the same, if these candidates are of the business of the whole electorate they seek to serve, why must people (and Black Republicans, no less) go out of their way to force them to – in many ways – validate their Blackness by speaking out and jeopardizing their electoral chances? Don’t they have enough obstacles to overcome as historical figures?

I thought that we Republicans believed in “We the People”, not the monolithic model we see elsewhere?

Raynard, if these candidates are running to represent whole districts or states, why must we force them to go off-task, especially as they rally against being underdog candidates that have to fight stereotypes, funding challenges, and perhaps even the “good ol’ boy” network that still exists in certain segments of the GOP at the state level in some regions of the country? It doesn’t do them any good to speak to the racism that they have to overcome as candidates – both with the state structures and perhaps within the electorates they must bond with. Let the untouchables tackle the tough issues, for after all, not every political animal (especially Black Republicans) needs to become a sacrificial lamb. Do we not have enough public figures that are Black, conservative, and active in the on-goings of politics and community development to speak out in the void of leadership concerning race relations that you are mentioning? If we don’t have enough, why are not the few filling the need of the many right now? The harvest is ripe but the harvesters are few – and must get busy. And if we do have enough, wouldn’t it make more sense for Black Republicans to support historic political hopefuls in an off-election year than it would to attack Black GOP candidates with a double standard not applied to the likes of Roland Burris, Deval Patrick, and a host of other Black Democrats that often tip-toe around issues of race during campaigns and terms in office?

Maybe, unless, of course, you’re not paying attention.

So, I say again: pay attention.

Namely, pay attention to your role in the game as well as the other roles of other players in this political game that impacts our society – and Black people throughout the nation as well as all Americans.

There is a time and a place for the words of rhetoric to meet with the actors in history and windows of opportunity. For that time and place to be maximized, it must be pursued and enacted by the right people with the right motives. The power of the pen influences the pulse of politics. The power behind the pen has the ability to write a better history if motivation with the pen is rightfully paying attention. Thus, there is a historical and ethical obligation that you hold, Raynard, particularly in regards to your opinions with the current crop of Black Republican candidates. There is an obligation to ensure that your words and deeds hold people appropriately accountable, making sure that your actions are more BENeficial (even as you hold them accountable) instead of just being Ben-like – uncle, that is.

And let me say as one that gets called “uncle” much despite only having one niece – that is such a dirty term, particularly coming from another Black man. Use it as you would use a gun, because just as with a bullet, neither can be put back into the chamber once fired.

Putting words in their mouths (saying that they stand with the folks that called President Obama a Nazi or saying that they echoed Joe Wilson’s disrespect in September) isn’t beneficial or, from what I can see, accurate. Saying that they believe that their Blackness is only an asset when criticizing President Obama (even as many would say that their Blackness is NOT an asset as a candidate running for office as a Republican) seems to misconstrue their positions on being Black and Republican (something that each candidate seemingly is equally proud of simultaneously) in 2009. Saying that they are distancing themselves from race only because they will not fixate on it as candidates applies that aforementioned double standard that Black Democrats use to their advantage, even as Black Republicans must validate their Blackness at every mention of race relations. It hampers Black Republicans. It hampers the GOP. It hampers America.

And saying that there has not been any opposition to the incidents of racial insensitivity within the GOP’s ranks by Black Republicans? All I can say to that is, well, pay attention.

For fellow Black conservatives like you, Raynard, there is a considerable and historic requirement to pay attention to the rules of politics post-Obama and subsequently apply them with every political maneuver. There is an absolute need to pay attention to history calling us to benefit America, save Black America, and change the dynamics of politics in America. We must start using that call as a guide to determine best steps daily. Calling a Black Republican the “U” word or holding up double standards to Black Republicans (even at the risk of defending Black liberalism – as a Black conservative, no less) only earns one a place in a long line of haters, race baiters, and the disillusioned. It does not answer the calls to leadership. It does not prompt a viable call for accountability. It does not bridge people to better social and political realities as Americans. It does not even prompt more people to…well…pay attention.

So, I’m asking that you do just that – pay attention: to the rules, to the goals, to our needs, and to the call of history before us. And just know that others are paying attention as well – to you and to others - to written and spoken words being offered as ropes regarding our Black Republican candidates. Let’s make sure that they are used to pull up – not hang up – these candidates as they gain momentum.

After all, the nation is paying attention.

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