Today, 12 p.m.: Join the Live Online discussion on MICHAEL STEELE AND THE GOP's FUTURE  with The Root's deputy editor Terence Samuel.


They are black Republicans…

A rapidly disappearing political subculture that seeks legitimacy by asserting that they are something different, something special—the other dark meat. They define themselves—with a quizzical ethos of inverse snobbery often mistaken for self-loathing—by what they are not: Al Sharpton, in need of affirmative action, or “like those other black people.”

Of course, now one of those “other” black people is president and the Republican Party is in disarray with its small contingent of black members getting smaller all the time. So while a black man has been elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, the question now has to be asked: Are black Republicans obsolete?

Despite Michael Steele’s triumph at the RNC meeting on Friday, the rise of President Barack Obama has fundamentally undermined the five pillars of black Republicanism.

1. Drive-By “Snooting”

Sometimes you just want to stand out from the crowd—maybe you wear red to Diddy’s “white party” or you put 20s on your Prius.


Being a black Republican is a lot like being a Lakers fan from Boston—you get a lot of attention simply because you don’t pull for the home team. Ninety percent of black people support the Democratic Party, so by becoming a black Republican, you place yourself in a more select, if not refined, category. People sort of admire you for being a “maverick.” But they seldom stop to ask: What, exactly, is so admirable about the instinct to put as much distance as possible between yourself and your community?

2. “No, My Brother—You’ve Got To Buy Your Own

Many black Republicans enjoy a certain measure of mainstream success. Although not necessarily titans of industry, they probably have financial security, formal education, and in some cases, a closet full of bow ties. But somewhere along the way, pride in their own personal accomplishments morphs into a judgmental credo, “K.U.M.B.A.Y.A.”—Kan’t U M*th*rf*ck*rs Be As Yielding and Affluent?


3. Four Score And … and…

It’s true that “the party of Lincoln” isn’t the worst slogan of all time, but let’s get real black Republicans. Over the last century, the presidents whose agendas have meshed the closest with the mainstream political interests of African-American voters have been FDR, Truman, JFK, Johnson, Carter and Clin…well, anyway, they’ve all been Democrats.

The bottom line is that if Garth Brooks is turning out at the Lincoln Memorial to serenade Obama two days before his inauguration, then black Republicans are just going to have to look elsewhere for their icon. Maybe if there’s ever a black Republican president, he or she will be treated to a tribute medley by an aging 50 Cent in front of the Dick Cheney Memorial.


4. Haterade

And there’s no question that black folks will participate in player hating someone else’s good time, just like everyone else. Just ask your gay neighbors in California who booked weddings for early spring and lost their deposits.

Yes, there’s always been a large conservative segment of the African-American electorate. They go to church “religiously,” hide their money from the IRS and fantasize about being stranded on a deserted island with Sarah Palin.


But you can player hate without signing off on the fruitless torture, costly wars and huge budget deficits that the Bush administration gave us. If the pitch is “conservatism,” then the last eight years have “rendered” black Republicans’ case hollow and weak.

5. The Color of Blindness

As The Root’s Dayo Olopade recently reported, one of contemporary Republicanism’s favorite precepts is that race is “ancillary.” Theirs is a political calculus that moves directly from racial hostility to ignoring race altogether, completely skipping over the heavy lifting involved in racial reconciliation. In other words, today’s Republicans have evolved from “Up yours, nigger,” to the more egalitarian, “Up yours!”


Now, ironically, with the election of an African-American chairman, the RNC appears to be augmenting the “content of their character” with a little “color in their content.”

So although Obama just arrived in D.C., Steele appears to be the newmagic Negro” in town. Somehow, he’s supposed to rebuild the Republicans’ “Coalition of the Illing” and simultaneously sell the next generation of African Americans on a political party that used every dirty trick in the book trying to prevent the election of the first black president. Against that backdrop, it’s going to be tough convincing black folks to “be like Mike.” Good luck, brother.

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root.

Today, 12 p.m.: Join the Live Online discussion on MICHAEL STEELE AND THE GOP's FUTURE  with The Root's deputy editor Terence Samuel.


David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter