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Conservative blacks: Who listens?

By Robert S. Sargent, Jr.
web posted September 2, 2002

On March 6 of this year, Clarence Thomas visited the University of North Carolina's School of Law. The "African-American Faculty of the UNC School of Law" issued a statement (dated February 28) in which they explained why they were going to boycott his daylong visit:

"For many people who hold legitimate expectations for racial equality and social justice, Justice Thomas personifies the cruel irony of the fireboat burning and sinking... For us - his visit adds insult to injury... Justice Thomas...engages in acts that harm African Americans. (He) articulates a conservative politics that drives a conservative jurisprudence to obstruct the quest for long-delayed racial equality... We oppose the de facto, if not intentional, linkage of conservative political themes and racial injustice. Moreover, Justice Thomas has joined and now perpetuates the political-jurisprudential tradition that extends from the racial politics of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Herbert Walker Bush. Their race politics had a bearing on the selection of the justices they appointed and the outcomes of judicial decisions those justices have made... (Therefore) we will not participate in any institutional gesture that honors and endorses what Justice Thomas does." Signed by Charles E. Daye and four others.

You have views opposed to ours and, by God, we will not listen to you! (One wonders what these law professors teach their students about the First Amendment.)

I imagine Justice Thomas is used to liberal Democrats plugging up their ears when he appears. How about Republicans? Do they listen? In an interview with Bill Kauffman for Reason Online (November, 1987), Thomas said, "The Republican Party and the conservatives have shown very little interest in black Americans and have actually done things to leave the impression among blacks that they are antagonistic to their interests...I can say that conservatives don't exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they're welcome." How about today, 14 years later? Has anything changed?

Dr. Ada Fisher
Dr. Fisher

This year in North Carolina, Dr. Ada Fisher, an African-American, is running for senate in the September 10 Republican primary (against Elizabeth Dole, among others). In her paper titled "Is There a Place for Blacks at the Republican Table?" which she described to me as a "wake up call for the RNC," Dr. Fisher states where she stands on various issues for North Carolinians, and America in general, but she also speaks of the issues of African-Americans and the two political parties:

"Republicans in party leadership positions want us (African-Americans) to be Republicans on their terms...It's the same song we get from...Democrats...(who) say all the right sounding things to get your vote but...will do nothing to keep you in the fold after (they) get it. From every front it's the same old song and dance-'I hear you knocking but you can't come in' unless it's on (their) terms... The passivity of the Republican party in aggressively seeking blacks for membership...denies a golden opportunity to the party to truly embrace the African American community..."

In Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, North Carolina), according to the Republican Party, there are 12,000 unaffiliated African-Americans (4,300 registered black Republicans). If the Republican Party wants to tap that reserve (which I imagine is typical all over North Carolina and the country), it better start listening to conservative blacks and "making a place" at their table.

Robert S. Sargent, Jr. can be reached at rssjr@citcom.net.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • Courting minorities A GOP challenge by W. James Antle III (July 8, 2002)
    The Republicans have always done poorly attracting minorities to its fold and it looks like it's getting worse. Despite that, W. James Antle III argues, minority outreach is still very worthwhile
  • Judged by the content of their message by Steven Martinovich (August 7, 2000)
    The minorities you saw on television during the convention don't reflect the actual make-up of the Republican Party, but Steve Martinovich says the party is improving. There is still yet more work to do though

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