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.

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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.

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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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