Black Republicans: More a Ripple Than a Wave


A number of writers have questioned the much-hyped black Republican surge after many of the candidates failed to win nomination in the latest round of primaries. The Root's Cord Jefferson asked ''Whatever Happened to the Black Republican Wave?'' as if black Republicans have failed in some regard.


Granted, black Republican politicians did not deliver many election-night victories. But there is another way to look at their efforts and why the ripple of progress that black Republicans have made in 2010 may not be quite the wave that some people expected.

No doubt, the defeats of former Newt Gingrich staffer Princella Smith and Alabaman Les Phillip were a setback, but there were also victories that Republicans can celebrate. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Bill Randall (R-N.C.) were leading vote-getters in their primaries, forcing runoffs, notable accomplishments considering that their first-step victories occurred in the bastions of the ''Southern Strategy.''

Black Republicans retain influence through key party leaders. Dr. Robin Armstrong, vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, George Williams in Alabama and Glenn McCall in South Carolina remain in strategic leadership positions—all working to break down the legacy left by Republican political racism in the past 40 years. And despite the frequent prognostications that Michael Steele would be let go as RNC Chair, he still leads the GOP going into this crucial midterm election.

Viewing the black Republican wave as a hit-or-miss prospect undervalues the historical challenge facing the movement. The Southern Strategy was not a one-term presidential initiative in an isolated region of the nation but one that drove Republican politics for decades. Using technology, the toxin of uniting racist Democrats and conservative Republicans spread to voters throughout the country. George H.W. Bush's ''Willie Horton'' ad had a national polarizing effect in the 1988 presidential election because of television, just as the North Carolina GOP's ''God D@#n America'' ad against President Obama impacted the 2008 election through new media. The worst Tea Party imagery and behavior only makes these incidents of mistrust more divisive.

All can be overcome, but not overnight. Therefore, the black Republican wave of 2010 cannot be viewed as a lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon. Instead, it is a sledgehammer, hitting a political wall built on racism and division. The wall will fall, but it will take more than one blow.

It will take more than just black Republican efforts within the conservative movement to erase the legacy of the Southern Strategy.  It will take a change of approach in black America as well. As long as many African Americans continue to view black Republicans with disdain without engaging them in proper political discourse or debate, black Republicans will have to maintain their journey toward political balance in America while battling stereotypes on all fronts. Regardless of church affiliations, school associations and family ties, black Republicans continue to be forced to ''prove themselves'' both as valid conservatives to the GOP and as proud African Americans to the black community. Until both conservatives and black Americans understand that this never-ending litmus test hurts them more than it does black Republicans, both groups will fail to optimize their political strength.


The litmus test forces some black conservatives to avoid speaking out for fear of being ''called out.'' For black America, the litmus test only promotes the anger and hatred we profess to oppose from white racists. A quick perusal of the chat rooms and response boards (including the one to Mr. Jefferson's article earlier this week) highlights in words the walls that the black Republican wave hits regularly. The spitting incident around the health care vote in March and the assault on a conservative protester in North Carolina bring home this reality as well.

Rest assured, the black Republican wave has not petered out. Instead, it follows the ebb and flow that our ancestors endured during their efforts to advance America. Every political or social change in America was won through persistence. The black Republican wave is no different. The ripples of progress are there, even if the primaries of 2010 did not deliver a tidal wave of election-night victories.


Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the book, Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative). He is featured regularly on outlets including CNN, Fox News and XM Radio. Follow him on Twitter.