What We Know About Paul Ryan and Blacks

Ryan and Romney (Getty Images)
Ryan and Romney (Getty Images)

(The Root) — So far we know this about Rep. Paul Ryan: He is a congressman representing Wisconsin, he's a budget hawk and he is now the soon-to-be Republican vice presidential nominee. We also know that he has no problem attacking President Obama. (His remarks on Saturday included the quip (which I'm paraphrasing), "I have good news and bad news. The bad news? Barack Obama is president. The good news? He won't be in November.")


But beyond that, we know little else about Ryan's thoughts on black Americans and race, but below are a few points that may provide some insight.

1. He thinks electing a black president is "cool."

How do we know? Because he said so. Ryan was quoted as saying, "I love the idea of Barack Obama," he says. "I love the fact that we elected an African-American man as our president. I think that is a really cool thing. I just don't like the ideas coming from Barack Obama." 

2. He has a dismal record on civil rights.

For the 2009-2010 legislative session, the NAACP gave Ryan a 10 percent rating. That's out of 100 percent, with 100 indicating one of the absolute best records on civil rights and zero representing the worst. I guess, on the bright side, he didn't get a zero.

3. He celebrates the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by honoring community activists.

Keep in mind that there were conservatives who voted against a holiday honoring King, so the fact that Ryan does celebrate the holiday annually actually counts for something (even though I recognize that is setting the bar for our elected officials pretty low). According to one source who attended one of these events, Ryan even quotes King, praising the community activists one year by saying that they were "making a 'down payment on the promissory note' America had given to African Americans." (No word on his thoughts on community organizers!) Unfortunately for Ryan, one of this year's honorees declined to accept the award from Ryan, declaring that the policies Ryan supports go against everything King stood for. Oops.


4. He doesn't appear to be a fan of the poor.

According to the National Poverty Center, poverty rates for black Americans exceed the national average, with more than a quarter of the black population among our nation's poorest citizens. Ryan's hatchet-heavy approach to budget cuts, particularly to programs like Head Start, would have devastating effects on black Americans, particularly children, living in poverty. Although he is a devout Catholic, it is reported that Ryan's proposed cuts to programs benefiting the poor have even been a source of concern among Catholic leaders.


Keli Goff is The Root's political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter