'Fear of a Black Republican': GOP and Race

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A scene from the documentary (Shamrock Stine Productions)
A scene from the documentary (Shamrock Stine Productions)

By Vanessa Williams

Kevin Williams, an earnest young white Republican living in Trenton, N.J., couldn't believe the response he got a few years back from a county party chairman when he went to get door hangers for a presidential election.

The chairman refused, saying that there were no votes to be had in majority-black Trenton and they didn't want to rile up Democrats and make trouble for a Republican candidate running for re-election.

Williams persisted, and the chair grudgingly handed over the campaign literature. But the encounter left him perplexed. So Williams and his wife got out their cameras and set out to answer the question: Does the Republican Party really want more black people?

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It is the opening statement in a documentary, Fear of a Black Republican, which is screening Thursday and Friday at the E Street Cinema [in Washington, D.C.].

Williams, who serves as the narrator of the film, poses the question to various Republican political leaders, including former Republican National Committee Chairmen Michael Steele and Ken Mehlman and current presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Of course, everyone says, it's important that the party try to win over black voters. Williams said he began the project wondering whether racism was at the root of the party's relationship with African-American voters but came to the conclusion that perhaps the party has decided that it's a hopeless cause.

"What we really found was that they have led themselves to believe, 'They will never vote for us,' so they don't even try. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy," Williams said in an interview.

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The documentary covers the period that includes the 2008 presidential election, but recent events in the current Republican nominating contest suggest that little has changed with regard to the party's struggle to connect with African-American voters.

Read the rest of the article at the Washington Post.

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