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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A new beginning.

2011/06/21


“I’m on your side 
When times get rough 
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down”

— Simon and Garfunkel

I am a political moderate. This means I’m equally displeased with both sides of the aisle and have little problem voting against either party.

(Note that I do not vote for either party. If it were up to me, I’d throw all the bums out!)

One thing that bothers me, however, is the degree of rancor between liberals and conservatives. It’s particularly distressing when my associates and friends are participants in this fighting.

  • Both tend to demonize the other, ascribing the worst possible motives for any given  position. For example, hard core conservatives criticize every move President Obama makes as horrible and anti-American. Meanwhile, liberals denounce those critics as mere racists who are incensed that a non-white man holds the Oval Office.
  • They refuse to listen to differing points of view for this same reason of absolute suspicion and distrust.
  • Both sides are insistent that the other is leading the nation and world toward chaos and destruction. Anyone who follows a given side is either immoral or ignorant or both.

In the midst of this fighting between these troubled extremes of opinion, one important matter is lost: that both sides have things at least partly right.

My chief goal in this blog’s new title and refined focus is to try to illuminate that common ground a little more brightly. To connect the two a little better, should they wish to do so.

Like a bridge, as the song lyric puts it.

To further the metaphor: “I will lay me down” in the sense that this bridge will be built upon my blog’s original convictions:

“This blog is about Truth. Contrary to what our morally relativistic culture would have you believe, absolute truth does exist. And it behooves us as thinking beings to strive to know that absolute truth to the best extent that our finite minds can grasp it.

This blog is about Justice. Plainly put, some things are just right and some things are just wrong. The element that steers matters toward the “right” side of the scale is Justice. That’s what I’m about.

This blog about the Way. Not the “American way,” but the Way referred to in the New Testament. And I wish to do so in a thoroughly non-religious fashion.

My other goal is to call out the nonsense in both arguments for what they are. Perhaps if I do that effectively, it will encourage readers to meet in the middle. Or, at least, genuinely tolerate and lend grace to people they disagree with, even if they can’t accept the opposing position.

 

Look for new posts each Tuesday and Thursday or Friday. Hope you’ll travel the bridge with me!