Black Republicans face a unique situation. We are a part of a party that can sometimes feel unwelcoming. Many Conservatives do not come from the same background as us or experience life the same way we have. Many Liberals have an unfortunate tendency to look down on us as uneducated or indoctrinated. We are stigmatized simply for thinking differently, and approaching problems within the African American community with different, conservative solutions. This situation proves sticky, as you often need to navigate your way through choppy waters. Recently, we saw this on display as Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African-American Republican Senator in the Senate, took to the Senate floor to talk about the current state of race relations in America.
It was right after the Dallas shooting, the Philando Castile shooting, and other incidents involving the police. The nation was on edge, seemingly about to explode into another series of race riots like those in the 1990’s. Our country was divided with one group yelling BLACK LIVES MATTER, another yelling BLUE LIVES MATTER, and still another yelling ALL LIVES MATTER. It seemed crazy for Senator Scott to weigh in on this issue. There couldn’t be much political gain and the additional risk of speaking out during an election year provided a strong incentive for silence. Race relations have been, and remain, a sticky conversation for Republicans. Senator Scott was not in a winning situation. The nomination of Donald Trump did not make this conversation any easier, since many in the African American community felt that he was harming race relations and turning back progress. Nevertheless, Senator Tim Scott spoke up.
From the floor of the Senate, Senator Scott spoke on issues regarding law enforcement and African Americans, not once, not twice, but three times. I have never seen a Republican speak on these issues in such a compelling way. It was inspiring, hopeful, and truthful. This is the predicament, the advocate role, many Black Republicans face
We are asked to be the face and voice of our race in a party where not many people look like us. At the same time, we are the face and voice of our party, in a race where many dislike, or misunderstand us.
This must change. The GOP is the party of opportunity. Expanding our message to more people, including many who don’t vote for us, is what we need to do. We must help them understand that conservatism is not an ideology for one race or one culture. Conservatism improves the lives of all, works for all, and provides opportunity for all. At our best, the Republican party is a party that is color blind and looks at an individual’s character instead of their race. At our worst, we can be a party that is sometimes tone deaf to the problems of minorities in America. Senators like Tim Scott are needed to fix that. This is the predicament of the black Republican.
We must find ways to beat back the negative stereotypes and give people real ideological choice.
To move forward, we must address another critical problem. Too often good Republicans such as Senator Tim Scott are overlooked or attacked. By those on the left, we are called “uncle toms” and other derogatory terms. They vilify us as sell outs and traitors to our race. I reject that notion. The unique perspective I have as an African-American is what led me to be a conservative and a Republican. It is common sense to desire a smaller federal government. Big government does not advocate for me, but pursues whatever advances its interests and the interests of the power-hungry. Throughout our history, “leaders” and politicians have routinely put African-Americans on the back burner, only giving us our rights, and our freedom, when it was politically expedient for them. After all that, why would we turn to the government now?
On the right, we have become too comfortable with idea that race does not matter. That is wrong – it does. Like any other part of me, race affects who I am. My background and experiences are shaped by my religion, political affiliation, and yes, my race. To believe that race has no affect on how you live and experience life is naive. Race has played a large role in how we make policy, good or bad. so yes, race does matter.
I believe in American opportunity. I believe every American has the opportunity to achieve success in America. I also believe that background does play a role in your belief in opportunity. Black Republicans find themselves in a particularly good, and helpful situation. They understand how many minorities feel, and can create policy to help combat division and injustice, helping to expand opportunity for all.
The Black Republican is put in a peculiar predicament, constantly having to sail the waters of race, politics, and culture. No other race, other than the African-American race, has been so criticized or marginalized in American history. We can use that experience and background to affect real and meaningful change. We should use our unique and rich culture and background to do what so many of our ancestors did. We must demand and fight for a better America, an America that works for everyone. Merriam-Webster defines predicament as, “a difficult, perplexing, or trying situation.” However, I view the word and the current situation very differently. Bold activists can find the opportunity within a challenge.
It is up to us to find within our current “predicament” an opportunity to change a nation.