The 2008 Republican National Convention held last week in St. Paul had the lowest Black representation in 40 years, according to a report by the non-partisan Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies [see Brief below]. Of the roughly 2,400 total GOP delegates, the 36 Black delegates made up only 1.5 percent.
“I think we have a good showing here,” said Renee Amoore, deputy chairperson of the Pennsylvania delegation, who disagreed with the Joint Center report. Added Rufus Montgomery of Georgia, “There are a number of African American delegates who traveled here from across the country. We’re here to support John McCain in his nomination for president of the United States.”
Amoore also spoke to the entire convention September 3, the same evening the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, gave her acceptance speech. “I’m proud to be an African American woman, I’m proud to be a Republican, and I’m proud to be voting for John McCain,” Amoore told the gathering.
Black GOPers “are rising stars of the Republican Party,” said C.J. Jordan of the National Black Republican Leadership Council. “We are not invisible.”
However, the GOP convention’s television coverage virtually ignored them. “When they pan the cameras, they are not [showing] the [Black delegates] who are out there,” according to Rozalyn Strong, a delegate from Kirkland, Washington.
But Cynthia Walker of Birmingham, Alabama, still believed that the Republican Party falls short in putting persons of color in the forefront. “In their speeches, it is never mentioned what they will do to include African Americans, Latinos, or any other minority,” she said. “That always has been an issue for me.”
Jordan, who last week was named national coordinator for the African American Coalitions for McCain, co-hosted a September 2 forum for several Black GOP candidates for U.S. Congress. “We are excited to have been able to highlight our Republican candidates,” she said.
An estimated 30 Black Republicans attended the September 4 morning “meet and greet” session at the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis.
“As a 43-year-old African American, I don’t understand what the Grand Old Party means under the term ‘GOP,’” said the Virginia-born Jordan, who now lives in Ohio. “What GOP means to me [is] growth, opportunity and prosperity. I am a moderate Republican, but I am fiscally conservative and security conservative.”
Jordan supports McCain because “He understands about national security, energy security, and economic security,” she explained.
“I think we [Republicans] have a lot to offer to African Americans,” said Gerald Boyd, Jr. of Silver Springs, Maryland, as he explained why he is supporting McCain.
Arkansas Republican Party State Treasurer Joseph Wood said that he is a conservative, but compassionate. “When you start talking about compassionate conservatism, that’s the Republican Party,” he boasted.
Republicans speak well to her educational concerns, said Sophia Bassett, a Fort Worth, Texas, radio talk show host. “I believe not only as a Republican and an educator but as a parent [that] school choice is the way to go,” she noted.
Lula Bridges of Notasulga, Alabama, is a candidate for her local school board. “It is an area that has fewer jobs, fewer people graduating from high school, and a lot of poverty,” she points out. “My Democratic opponent has been in office for 12 years, and no one can tell me what she’s done — they only know her name.”
Having Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama in this year’s election is especially tough for Black Republicans, admitted Wood. “My friends, some of which are Black Republicans, are going on the other side and voting [for Obama]. They don’t want to be considered [as] doing less than their part to help put a Black man in the office.”
“As we move to November, it is going to be pretty difficult for us to convert anybody [who’s Black] in this short time,” believes Boyd’s father, Gerald Boyd, Sr.
“All of us are proud that at last a Black was selected from one of the major parties to run for president,” Rozalyn’s mother, Rose Strong, pointed out. She has attended GOP conventions since 1976.
“I like the fact that Barack has done well in the Democratic primaries,” says Mykel Harris, an alternate delegate from Maryland, “but if he’s peddling the same issues that I disagree with, I can’t change my position just because he is the same color as me.”
“I’m glad that we have an African American running [for president],” said Jordan, who clearly reminded the Black GOPers that Obama, who she calls “the number-one liberal senator in the history of this country,” is not for them. “We [Blacks] need the ‘Talented Tenth,’ she said, “but he is not one of them. We cannot afford to have a Barack Obama in the White House.”
Walker added that she had hoped Gov. Palin would have talked about issues during her acceptance speech. “I don’t like sarcasm and bashing,” she said. “I’m a [high] school teacher, and I hear too much of that from students. When students hear that from adults, they are going to think the same thing. I hear the bashing a lot, and frankly I am tired of it.”
Nonetheless, Wood and many Black Republicans stand behind the McCain-Palin ticket. “We’re here to support [McCain] for what he stands for, not because of what color he is,” Wood said.
“I know that in our community it is an oxymoron to say that we are Black Republicans,” Jordan concluded, “but I am going to make sure that you are proud to share John McCain’s message and take his message to our community.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.