By Raynard Jackson
Last week, Joyce Jones, a columnist for BET.com wrote an article titled, “The Loneliness of the Black Republican: What attracts young African-Americans to the GOP?” Although the article was off-base on so many points – No I won’t waste my time listing them here – it got me reflecting on this younger generation of Black Republicans.
Undoubtedly, young Blacks are attracted to the GOP brand more than older Blacks. If Jones could have tapped into that phenomenon, it could have been an enlightening article. But, not surprisingly, her column ended up being your typical Black Republican-bashing.
How would she know “it’s not easy to be a young, Black Republican?” She talks about conservatism, but fails to define the term. She refers to “rising stars,” but fails to identify those stars or what makes them rising stars.
As for Black Republicans being lonely, a deeper explanation is in order. Many Black Republicans who are of the millennial demographic have made a conscious decision to self-isolate. Translation: They can’t possible go behind the Democratic stranglehold on Blacks and not expect to be isolated. Millennials are generally defined as those born between 1980-2000.
Tina Wells, a 30-year old and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, a youth marketing company, was interviewed by Black Enterprise and had this to say, “The sense of entitlement that Millennials exhibit can be performance prohibitive. Their idea of paying dues is different from their parents…they have grown up in a very instant world, so how do you tell them that a job they want in six or seven months is a job they have to wait usually six or seven years to get?”
This sense of entitlement has caused many millennials to think that simply showing up is all they need to do in life. All too often, these millennials have no political curiosity about those who paved the way for them. There are about 30-40 Black Republican staffers who work for members of the House and Senate; but they have not formed an organization of like-minded people. They have shown no interest in building relations with Black operatives such as Michael Steele, Shannon Reeves, or Greg Simpkins.
How can you call yourself a Black Republican and have no knowledge of Bob Brown, Arthur Fletcher, Bill Coleman, or Kay James, to name a few? These three are living legends within the Republican Party and important trailblazers. Also, in every instance, those pioneers did not run from their community. They were staunch Republicans, but they never forgot their Black roots or to fight for the Black middle class. In other words, they knew who they were.
This year alone, I have been called by no fewer than 10 members of Congress or other political operatives about these phenomena with Black Republicans. I am asked why Black staffers are emphatic that they don’t want to be the point person for the Black community – they just want to be a staffer; as though they are mutually exclusive. It can be both and!
I would go so far as to say these Blacks thrive off of being anonymous to other Blacks. They seemingly get more satisfaction out of being known within White circles. I don’t expect a lot of my White readers to understand this dynamic; this is a dirty little secret that Blacks refuse to discuss publically.
Many of these Black Republicans will deny what I am saying, but I know them by name and from direct experience. Maybe I will write a book about my experiences with these Blacks in our party.
These are the type of Blacks that many Republicans are most comfortable with. They never raise any objections to anything thrown at them in private meetings relative to the Black community. They never raise a voice when some of our more extreme elements make incendiary statements towards members of our community. They never stretch out their hands to help others move up within the party. Many are devoid of any real connection to our community.
On a personal level, I have reached out to many of these millennials and find their sense of entitlement and arrogance repugnant. They have accomplished very little, but yet think they have arrived. Being a low level staffer is not an accomplishment, it is a foot in the door.
Whether Joyce Jones knows it or not, by definition, you can’t be lonely if it is by choice; you can be alone, but not lonely.
So, to all my millennial Black Republicans, stop making it an either or proposition. Embrace your party, embrace your community, and embrace your obligation to those coming behind you; but also, pay homage to those who paved the way for you.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.