In a statement released today to The Root, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said that Republican Congressmen-elects Tim Scott (S.C.) and Allen West (Fla.) are free to join the CBC if they so choose.
“Membership in the Congressional Black Caucus has never been restricted to Democrats,” she said. “Should either of the two African American Republicans recently elected to the House of Representatives request membership in the Congressional Black Caucus they will be welcomed.”
Lee’s greeting comes on the heels of West saying last week that he intends to join the CBC in order to demolish its dialogue of “victimization.” “I plan on joining, I’m not gonna ask for permission or whatever, I’m gonna find out when they meet and I will be a member of the Congressional Black Caucus,” he told the conservative WOR radio. “I meet all of the criteria, and it’s so important that we break down this monolithic voice that continues to talk about victimization and dependency in the black community.”
While still campaigning, West told reporters that he believes “institutional racism is dead.”
Since last Tuesday, Scott has remained quiet about his plans in regard to the CBC, but he told The Root in September that he hadn’t yet considered joining and was focused mainly on his campaign.
In its four decades of existence, the CBC has had two black Republican members: Delegate Melvin Evans of the Virgin Islands and Gary Franks of Connecticut. J.C. Watts, an African-American Republican congressman from Oklahoma, declined to join the body, calling it a group of “race-hustling poverty pimps.”
If West does join the CBC, it’s likely that he’ll prove a thorn in the organization’s side. The former Army colonel won Tea Party approval on the campaign trail in part because of his fiery anti-Obama rhetoric. “I can’t stand [Obama],” he once said. He’s also proclaimed that he’d like to dismantle the Department of Education and the IRS.
–Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.