As Rick Warren’s Saddleback presidential faith forum approached last Saturday, I ran to the store before it closed to pick up a few items. At the register, the conversation quickly turned from my purchases to politics. The problem with politics, the white male cashier said with more than a hint of cynical frustration, was politicians, especially Republican politicians. Republicans, he continued, could not relate to everyday people—folks who struggled with everyday issues like child care, crime and education. Republicans, he concluded, didn’t have much contact with real people.
I smiled politely. As a survivor of a violent crime and a former single father who graduated from college at 30 while caring for two young children, I related more than he may have imagined. I told him I was a card-carrying Republican. I ended the conversation respectfully, letting him know that I had to attend a meeting for volunteers of the Domestic Violence Speakers’ Bureau.
A lot of labels, theories and bits of conventional wisdom have been tossed around by pundits and experts lately, as they try to figure out how citizens will vote in November. We are conservative and liberal. We are boomers, Gen Yers, the hip-hop generation. We are blue-collar voters, working-class voters and black voters. There are energized Democrats, disaffected Republicans and unaffiliated voters.
There is one demographic category, however, that regularly gets overlooked. It is a group that most people simply laugh off, are puzzled by or outright dismiss. Meet the “Hip-Hop Republicans” of 2008.
The moniker may seem like an oxymoron at first, but the worldview that it encompasses fits the politics of many in the post-civil rights generation.
It may be easier, in some ways, to begin with what a hip-hop Republican is not.
A Hip-Hop Republican is not an Uncle Tom.A Hip-Hop Republican is not a sellout.A Hip-Hop Republican is not a race traitor, willing to sell out the best interests of the black community for the scraps off of the proverbial political table.A Hip-Hop Republican is not meek and mild, content to be a poster-child for GOP diversity.
Former Lt. Governor of Maryland Michael Steele perhaps said it best, “…African Americans and other minorities no longer want a seat at the lunch counter, but to own the entire diner…” Hip-Hop Republicans have not lost their collective identity as a result of self-hatred or economic success.
Modern Black Republicanism—and notably Hip-Hop Republicanism—is an avant garde movement. It represents the cutting edge of black political diversity, and it ensures equal protection in our political reality.