Why Black People And Republicans Just Can’t Get Along

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Farai Chideya at the Root wrote a very good article about the relationship between the Black community and the Republican Party.  Chideya discusses the perplexing fact that African Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic, yet many millions of us possess value systems that would be a better fit for a Republican pep rally.

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His [Rick Santorum's] candidacy is a perfect example of the different strains of conservatism and how they play with Black voters. On the one hand, many African Americans affirm conservative positions on issues including abortion, in part because of the strong influence of Black churches,” said Chideya.

Chideya is absolutely correct in her assessment that many African Americans are simply conservatives in liberal skin.  We don’t quite fit in a box, and many of us end up walking the thin line between supporting the Democrats who give us civil rights versus protecting our own value systems that derive from the conservatism of the Black church.

A recent case-in-point would be the suspension of CNN analyst Roland Martin, who was challenged by the gay community for a series of remarks that made light of violence against homosexuals.  The Gay, Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was correct in stating that there is no room in the liberal space for those who have any tolerance for violence against the gay community.  What was most interesting, however, was how Martin’s anti-gay comments were applauded by millions of African Americans in the Black church.  Large numbers of Black people — like the much of the Republican party — have no problem condemning gay people to hell (whether it be on earth or in the after-life).

There are other examples of Black political confusion, such as the exodus of many Black voters during the 2004 re-election of President George W. Bush.   Bush’s words against gay marriage, abortion, and the separation of church and state were music to the ears of many African Americans who have weak stomachs on most liberal values.  The strong support of the Black community for the Obama candidacy has also diminished a bit, in part because some think health care reform is a dangerously socialist idea.

The point is that the Republicans could steal millions of Black voters if it were not for the crippling effects of racism: Rather than expanding their platforms by expressing a love for fundamental American values, many Republicans appeal to subtle expressions of racial hatred to pander to those who still can’t stand us.

The first Black president is a prize for many Black Americans who feel (problematically) that White American validation is an important part of regaining their humanity.  So Newt Gingrich‘s decision to refer to President Obama as the “food stamp president” doesn’t do anything to dispel the perception that he is yet another enemy of progress.  The same is true for Rick Santorum, who has made equally embarrassing remarks about Black people as lazy welfare recipients.

So until Republicans learn to conduct 21st century political campaigns and stop seeing the short-term benefits of racial pandering, they are going to continue wondering why highly conservative Black Democrats still appear to be voting against their interests.

A condescending, misguided Democrat is preferable to an abusive, racist Republican almost any day of the week.  There is still almost no reason for African Americans to support the Republican Party and most Black people know it.

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Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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