Fear Of A Black Republican

2011/06/24

Last night, I attended the world premiere of this very indie documentary with a most-provocative title: “Fear of a Black Republican.”

It’s evocative of the title of Public Enemy’s 1990 album “Fear of a Black Planet” (the first P.E. LP I ever bought, incidentally) and, like that song, it’s not afraid to point a finger at both halves of the problem.

Indeed, one of the marketing taglines is that it’s “the film neither party wants you to see.” Being a card-carrying political moderate and independent voter, I knew I had to see this.

——————–

Filmmaker Kevin L. Williams, white and a self-described RINO* (Republican In Name Only), turns his camera on the effectively one-party system of many urban (read: majority-black) municipalities. That system, his film argues, is largely ineffective for the urban constituency. After all, despite our (black people’s) overwhelming support for the Democrat Party, our communities continue to crumble.

But, as the white Williams uncovers in his filming and interviews, the Republican Party isn’t much help, either. Though they give lip service to the idea of increasing black participation in the GOP, the follow-through is sorely lacking.

Nowhere is this more starkly illustrated than in a sequence midway through the film during which a struggling grassroots black Republican manages to get a hallway plea with then-Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman for some party support for her campaign. No sooner is she done trading business cards with him than he is deluged by about a half-dozen more candidates who’ve also been looking for even this brief meeting.

Little appears to come of any of it.

Unlike Williams, I can’t say I was at all surprised to see how marginalized black Republicans appear to be both in their own ethnic communities and in the GOP. What really struck me, though, was how black Republicans merely reflected the increasing marginalization of black people as a whole.

See, we’ve been in such lock-step with the Democrats (and, before President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Republicans) that they feel they no longer have to court our vote at all beyond repeating the same few scare tactics of Republicans trying to “turn back the clock” on civil rights.

For their part, Republicans seem to think that, at best, courting our vote is an utter waste of time and resources. Early in the film, Williams tries to get 1,000 doorknob hangers from his local Republican office to ask for his urban neighbors’ vote for then-President Bush’s re-election. He’s handed far fewer.

Republicans refuse to even so much as ask for the black vote, confident that they can’t get it. They’re scared to even try. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile, Democrats don’t have to ask for the black vote.

Both parties court the Latino vote, the Asian vote, the gay vote. We, alone, are the exception. We’re utterly taken for granted or given up on.

——————–

Williams’ film isn’t a perfect work, having been obviously completed well before Obama’s milestone election to the presidency. It could use some tighter editing to get the 111-minute running time down a more svelte 90 or so. But it’s a valuable conversation piece that, in showing that most marginalized and often despised political being, the black Republican, is emblematic of the marginalization of black people in general.

 

*[8/8/11 EDIT: Williams stresses that some conservatives would call him a “RINO” simply because he lives in a more moderate area of the country, not that he considers himself one. That’s an important distinction that I understood but failed to communicate.]

 

Trailer for “Fear Of A Black Republican”

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8 Responses to “Fear Of A Black Republican”

  1. Chyll Will Says:

    The two-party system is a sham. It was not built for the lower classes (as there was no middle class during their respective inceptions) and did not involve members of other races out of principle. The observation that Dems feel they automatically have our vote and the GOP doesn’t even bother also states that it is not even an important principle beyond the number of votes they can accumulate, Neither truly have our interests in mind or else the problems we face regularly in our communities would have been addressed long ago.

    But God forbid if we started our own party. Then the FBI and the CIA get involved and we’re hearing about radicals, terrorist cells and separatists. We don’t even control our own media, what exactly is radical about a subculture of people who were dragged into a place far from their original homes against their will wanting a fair share of the profits of their labor? Never mind welfare and so-called Equal Opportunity, what about giving people the tools and the education to be self-sufficient without being hypocritical about the opportunities afforded to them?

    The American political system will continue to trip over itself for the benefit of the few who can afford to fully participate, and since ethics are not truly part of the equation, neither are people.

    • kharisampson Says:

      “The two-party system is a sham. It was not built for the lower classes (as there was no middle class during their respective inceptions)”

      This is an important observation, Will! It’s so true that the origins and beginning of a thing so often points to its future.

  2. Asha Says:

    Insightful, Khari. I have much to say about the topic of people’s marginalization of people. I believe the American views and misconceptions over differences are exploited in the political arena on purpose. The forefathers that we speak of were warning of polarization amongst the people in the realm of politics. I don’t believe that Democrats or Republicans are operating separately on behalf of either section of the American public. I believe they are both operating in conjunction on the behalf of big business and keep this in- fighting as a show with which to distract the American people. Divided we fall.

    • kharisampson Says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Asha. I don’t buy your “in-fighting merely for show” theory; members of the two sides have deep differences in worldview that drive the debates. I will say, however, that big business certainly knows how to exploit the fighting to their benefit.

  3. Kris G Says:

    I haven’t seen this, but in my opinion, but I have a small disagreement with one idea: I think that Black are the one group Republicans think they cannot get, true, but I think they’re pretty half-hearted with most minorities, and in fact don’t WANT the black voter. They don’t want the black vote because they’re uncomfortable with us having a voice. They ignore the gay vote, because they want it to be invisible. They want the hispanic vote, but can’t really stop threatening them with random immigration shakedowns. There have been reports over the last few years that even immigrants with proof of citizenship are getting denied and intimidated at the polls.

    This is all just conjecture of course, but I want it clear that I’m not calling Republicans broadly racist. But just like blacks voting democratic, there are enough racists in the “base” that Republican politicians tend to use minority issues as wedge issues which pushes us away. Like the lowest common denominator that harms the American way of life in so many ways, a Republican who does not pursue this avenue is considered a “RINO” and the base will find the candidate with the most aggressive stand against immigration, gay marriage, and affirmative action.

    One thing I like to mention, often, is the demographics of the last Presidential election. A lot of people are convince that “those racist blacks” elected Obama. Not true. 1. Blacks vote democratic anyway, so I doubt Hillary would have lost the black vote. 2. All minorities, Blacks, Jews, Asians, Gays, all voted for Obama, but the ONLY group McCain won was white folk.

    • kharisampson Says:

      “A lot of people are convince that “those racist blacks” elected Obama. Not true. 1. Blacks vote democratic anyway, so I doubt Hillary would have lost the black vote.”

      This is absolutely true, Kris. It fairly astounds my sensibilities that people actually believe that.

      Now, if black folks were to overwhelmingly vote for a black Republican, then the people you’re talking about would actually have solid evidence to back that claim up. But that’s not happening for a good while, if ever — and certainly not in 2012.

  4. Mike Says:

    I was state chair of college republicans back in the 90’s, so there’s alot to say here…but I’ll keep it short.

    My experience with the party was that true racism was very rare. There was a David Duke representative at one meeting and everyone shunned him, some angrily. Anything that even sounded like the klan, etc. was usually called out. You always had a few good ol’ boy yahoos but that’s kinda universal.

    However, when I brought black friends to meetings…the instant polarization was amazing. The people at the meetings immediately assumed they were democrats visiting. And the visitors perceived a hostility that wasn’t really there.

    Philosophically, many extreme Republican positions (Immigration, family issues, religion) poll well with black voters…..until they know they’re Republican positions. And many Republicans would vote for a Black candidate if they didn’t know he/she was black (because they assume that means a “closet liberal”, RINO, etc)

    I think this just boils down to a deeply imbedded cultural thing for all relevant groups. Yet another thing that can only be solved by a successful 3rd party without all the cruft and baggage.


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