Majority of African Americans Reject Modern Republican Party: Some History

In my last post titled “Herman Cain: African American Voters Too “Brainwashed,” I stated that presidential candidate Herman Cain claims that African Americans are not open to Republican ideals and believes his message is marginalized by the liberal media. I went on to state reasons why some African Americans join the Republican Party. This post extends the Cain post and offers some historical explanations as to why African Americans in general do not vote Republican.

During the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century, it must be noted that both the Republican and Democratic parties viewed African Americans as racially inferior to whites. But the Democratic Party, the most powerful of the two parties, was the party of southern planters that opposed black participation in politics and were determined that slavery had not ended. On the other hand, the Republican Party was the first of the two parties that welcomed African American participation and contributed to the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau. As a result, the majority of the African American community voted for the Republican Party until the Great Depression.

In 1866, the 39th Republican Congress passed the 14th Amendment, a major civil rights bill, granting former slaves U.S. citizenship. When this legislation was passed, former slave states opposed the idea of living among and associating with former slaves and white Democratic planters, the ruling elite, did everything possible to stifle black progress. In 1867, Thaddeus Stevens (R-PA), a powerful leader in the Republican Party, presented the Reconstruction Act that would grant black males the right to vote. Southern planters moved swiftly to prevent this voting right, but the Act was passed.

In 1870, under the Reconstruction Act, African Americans began participating in the Republican Party, and were concerned about the government’s division of land and the restoration of the property taken from them when the Confederate soldiers returned. Their concerns were not considered, and state amendments were passed in favor of the planters. Here lies part of the black economic problem. When blacks were freed from slavery and the government gave them property, the land was taken from them and returned to the southern rebels when their states rejoined the union. The taking of the land or what blacks call their “forty acres and a mule” destroyed blacks’ ability to self-determine their future and to provide for their posterity. There was no public effort to educate them and laws were passed to keep them as close to a slave status as possible.

The Reconstruction Era (1863-1877) lasted about 14 years and turned African Americans into a potent political force. During this period, African Americans enjoyed political, economic, and cultural progress, even though the black codes—whites treating free blacks as slaves—instituted by the legislature stalled the progress they made. Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), an orator and author, received substantial financial support from the white power elite because he insisted that blacks should prepare themselves for citizenship through self-help programs and industrial education. Washington, like other black conservatives of his day and modern day black conservatives, was an accommodationist. He believed African Americans were creating hostility among whites for demanding their rights, ignoring America’s major role in subjecting blacks to slavery and putting legal barriers in their way after emancipation.

Herman Cain is a modern-day Washington. Cain does not seem to understand that as long as black accommodationists, such as himself, pander to the white racial frame, absolve white racism, and believe that self-help programs will open the door to economic prosperity for the masses of African Americans, he is living an illusion. Cain has extrapolated his own personal success to all African Americans, leaving room for ongoing racist practices against African Americans and other Americans of color.

In 1876, Republican president-elect Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), who initially supported black rights, struck a deal over a disputed close election between himself and his Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, in support of the interests of the South, thus ending the Reconstruction Era. Consequently, the Republicans formed a coalition of radical segregationists to resist all Reconstruction reforms. With the help of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, the political safeguards African Americans enjoyed were removed after Hayes took office. This opened the door for political oppression through segregationist Jim Crow laws that lasted for almost a century. Since African Americans who traditionally voted for the Republican Party from 1867 to 1932 saw a rolling back of their civil rights and no economic progress, they abandoned the Republican Party, switched their loyalty to the Democratic Party, and voted for Franklin Roosevelt. Although Roosevelt showed little sympathy for the plight of African Americans, he invited notable African Americans to participate in his administration and challenged state-imposed limitations on their civil rights during his third term in office.

There is a connection between the losses African Americans experienced during the post-Reconstruction period and the current conservative backlash. During the late 19th century, the southern states rolled back equalitarian laws for African Americans. Today’s congressional conservatives are rolling back the gains of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and accommodationist black conservatives are turning a blind eye to this historical fact.

Herman Cain: African American Voters Too “Brainwashed”

On CNN, Herman Cain offered strong words against the African American community. Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather Pizza, says African Americans are “simply brainwashed,” “not open-minded,” and “opposed to GOP ideals.” He asserts he is experiencing vitriolic attacks against his messages because he is a black Republican and has been liberated from the Democratic plantation.

Cain, obsessed with “getting off the Democratic plantation,” has turned a blind eye to modern day Republicans’ quest to destroy what America stands for: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as birthrights of all U.S. citizens. Today’s Republican Party is not the “Party of Lincoln” that opposed aristocracy and corruption, but the Party has been pulled to the extreme right by the adamantine Tea Party, an extreme anti-government group with an ax to grind.

Given Cains’ disposition toward the Democratic Party, there are explanations why African Americans become Republicans. First, black conservatives, like Cain, see capitalism as the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” for black economic liberation and urge them to forge close business ties with white business leaders (See Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, 1983, p. 182).

Second, black conservatives challenge race-based social programs that encourage black dependency on welfare and believe their views that encourage self-help programs by and of African Americans are given scant attention by the dominate liberal media.

Third, black conservatives insist that African Americans can succeed in American society on their own and argue that the racial caste system will no longer divide the races. Fourth, black conservatives blame big government solutions and liberal initiatives for economically weakening the black community. Last, black conservatives embrace limited government in the lives of the American people, but have acted contrary to this philosophy.

When the GOP was given a sweeping victory in the 2010 elections, the Party was given control of the U. S. House of Representatives and the majority of governorships. The Party did not use its power to create jobs and pass legislation that would help revive the economy. Instead, the Party gave the American people culture-war legislation that interfered with women’s rights, union stripping, Sharia Law; and voter suppression laws that disenfranchise vulnerable minority groups, students, and the elderly, limiting their access to the ballot box. In support of the GOP agenda, corporate conservatives have been corrupting the American democracy with the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, an organization that Koch Industries and other notable large corporations financially support to diminish the civil rights of average American citizens.

Herman Cain sees the Republican Party as a one-way ticket off the 21st century Democratic plantation and uses the media to make a case for disassociating himself from an oppressive black history he cannot elude.

“Skin Color” Thicker Than Water: Limbaugh Again

Rush Limbaugh, the father of the conservative noise machine, is at it again. He now claims he knows how former Secretary of State Colin Powell will vote during the 2012 elections–that he will vote for Obama.

But if Powell says he will not support Obama for re-election, he has good reasons. Powell, a moderate Republican, is known for supporting centrist causes, if these causes help the marginalized and voiceless. Limbaugh believes without a doubt that Powell will vote for Obama because “skin color” is thicker than water.

Limbaugh knows “skin color” is thicker than water, a historical fact we cannot dispute. Limbaugh knows this because “whiteness” bestows all the “opportunities, freedoms, and rewards that this nation offers white Americans.” Beyond this, Limbaugh is well aware that whites have looked out for each other since the founding of this country for the same reason he believes Powell will vote for Obama: “skin color.”

Of course, the only way Limbaugh could know Powell will certainly cast his vote for Obama is that Powell will have to change his mind and announce his support for Obama, for no voter can know with certainty what other voters will do when they enter the voting booth.

Cornel West: Out of Touch With Reality of Racism

President Obama lives with the reality of racism on a daily basis and must contend with Republican obstructionism that blocks his presidential efforts to make any real economic progress. Does Obama need black enemies when he has the GOP? When I read West’s article titled “Dr. King Weeps From His Grave,” I was quite surprised by his statement when he said:

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

“Tragically”? This kind of elminationist rhetoric sounds a bit Republican. Perhaps West could physically continue the work that Dr. King could not finish. Is West critical of Obama because he feels ignored by him? West is not actually talking about poor people; he’s talking about impoverished African Americans. I do not recall Obama running on a platform to help African Americans only. Majority of the African American community is under no illusion that Obama can improve their economic circumstances overnight. African Americans have been faced with poor economic conditions for over two hundred years since their so-called emancipation from slavery. And West has ignored that black poverty is the result of whites turning them out of slavery into a hostile racist society with no material assistance to help them build their own lives. Brooks offers the most plausible answer to African Americans’ inability to achieve racial and economic justice and equality in U.S. society, even today. This allegory helps clarify the long-term economic problems facing African Americans today:

Two persons—one white, the other black—are playing a game of poker. The game has been in progress for almost four hundred years. One player—the white one—has been cheating during much of this time, but now announces: ‘From this day forward, there will be a new game with new players and no more cheating.’ Hopeful but somewhat suspicious, the black player responds, ‘That’s great. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for some four hundred years. Let me ask you, what are you going to do with all those poker chips that you have stacked up on your side of the table all these years?’ ‘Well,’ says the white player, somewhat bewildered by the question, ‘I’m going to keep them for the next generation of white players, of course.’

This allegory suggests that if whites wanted to create a society where racial justice and equality prevailed, they would have shared a portion of the wealth with newly freed slaves, giving them the necessary resources to provide for themselves, their families, and their posterity. By doing so, government social programs on which many impoverished African Americans rely today would not be an issue and stir the hatred of whites who are deliberately ignorant of black history and believe African Americans want the government to take care of them.

Even though African Americans have seen some improvement since the death of Dr. King, they still have a long economic way to go. When West claims that Obama has failed to articulate “a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief and jobs and investment in education,” he is being political and his rhetoric sounds much like that of the Republicans, eliminationist rhetoric. How can poor African Americans afford mortgage relief when intergenerational poverty has prevented the masses of them from becoming homeowners? The unemployment rate among African Americans (15.9%) is greater than the national average, 9.1% and generally has been the highest among all racial groups for many decades. Moreover, I do not recall any African American males touting that West has visited them in prison, have helped them get a college education, have created any organizations to help them achieve basic math or reading skills, or have visited depressed urban areas to plead their case before Congress.

West, like the GOP, has failed to acknowledge Obama’s many accomplishments, and they focus too much on what Obama is not doing rather than how they can join him in a national effort to help ease the problems of African Americans and American citizens in general, as West suggests in his statement. Carter G. Woodson, considered the father of black history, informs us that elite African Americans who have been so long inconvenienced and denied opportunities for development are naturally afraid of devoting themselves to uplifting the black race.

Rewriting U.S. History: A Revisionist Republican Perspective

We should now understand the reason Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) cannot get her history straight. She claims the “founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery,” even though southern founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, owned them.

Bachmann also believes that African American children born during slavery were better off than African American children born after the election of the President Obama. Lacking any real historical knowledge of American history and viewing black history through a white racial frame, Bachmann does not understand that black families were broken up and sold like chattel on the auction block. Marriages between a black man and black female were not legal, but took place with the blessings of the slave master. “But the wedding vows they recited promised not ‘until death do us part,’ but ‘until distance’ or, as one black minister bluntly put it, ‘the white man’ – ‘do us part.’”

Revisionist GOPer David Barton and other conservatives want to rewrite the history books by “shifting black history away from the civil rights movement.” Barton wants the Republican Party to receive credit for liberating African Americans from the atrocious treatment at the hands of white racists:

Barton, who was hired by the GOP to do outreach to black churches in the run-up to the 2004 election, has argued elsewhere that African Americans owe their civil rights almost entirely to Republicans.

Barton goes on to argue that Martin Luther King should not be given “credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, ‘Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.’” Are we to accept the position that the majority would have freely given African Americans their civil rights had they not fought for them under the leadership of Martin Luther King? It is understandable why Rep. Allen West (R-FL), an African American Tea Party darling, believes his membership with the Republican Party has given him a one-way ticket off the “21st century plantation.”

But Barton has a point. Only majorities can set the record straight, since they are in power to change laws after minority groups raise a political ruckus for their civil rights they have so long been denied. It is obvious that Barton and other conservatives are trying to rewrite American and black history and to woo African Americans to an unfriendly, racist, and obtuse Party that has ignored their economic, political, and legal woes, which is no more than “propaganda masquerading” as pretentious outreach to carry out their quest among many to destroy the Democratic political base. During his second term as president, former President Bush gave a speech before the NAACP where he

acknowledged that whatever prestige the Republican Party once had with African Americans has been squandered, telling the NAACP on July 20, 2006 that he understands why “many African Americans distrust my political party” and that he considers it “a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African American community. For too long my party wrote off the African American vote, and many African Americans wrote off the Republican Party.

Systemic Racism Eludes Millennials

I recently read a study conducted by The Applied Research Center (ARC) titled Don’t Call Them “Post-Racial”: Millennials’ Attitudes on Race, Racism and Key Systems in Our Society.

What’s interesting about this 42-page study is that Millennials, the18-30 age group, do not link racist behavior to the history of systemic racism in U.S. society.

Millennials believe racism is personal and only occurs on the interpersonal level. In other words, it has nothing to do with America’s overt racist past, and they see no reason to label it as that. In fact, another study conducted by ARC explains that Millennials have “difficulty defining present-day racism when initially asked.”

They are more progressive in their thinking about interracial dating, have the highest percentage of interracial marriage than previous generations, and voted for President Obama.

If Millennials limit racist behavior to interpersonal acts, do they recognize the attacks on the first African American president on the macrolevel are racist? Even though systemic racism eludes Millennials, they do believe it poses a problem in key systems such as education, housing, employment, criminal justice, and healthcare, decades-old targets of systemic racism for African Americans and other Americans of color.

Whites Arming against Black Males: Overt Racist Talk to Modern-Day Lynching

The conservative right-wing has remained unabashed about its racist talk. We have heard vitriolic metaphors such as “Don’t retreat, reload,” “armed and dangerous,” and talk evoking the second amendment to encourage (white) Americans to protect themselves against a “tyrannical government,” and I might add, African Americans and other Americans of color. This kind of discourse does not contribute to the development of the great debates on which this country was found and how it solved its problems. Even though we live in the 21st century, our conservative right has returned to the so-called “glorious” days of the Jim Crow era, where the lynching of African Americans was the way of southern life.

For Neal Boortz, an Atlanta-based right-wing radio host, the subtle practice of racism against African Americans and other Americans of color is not enough. Boortz is advocating that whites should take up arms to defend themselves against “urban thugs.” He literally has generalized the criminal activity of some urban black males to the entire black community as well as Hispanic communities. One danger of Boortz’s statement is that some hate-mongering neo-Nazi will use this as an excuse to target at random innocent Americans of color as an excuse to eliminate them, becoming judge, jury, and executioner. Boortz also fails to understand that crimes in urban areas are usually “black-on-black” crime.

Therefore, is Boortz using the phrase “urban thugs” as racist imaging of urban Black men generally — and maybe thereby justifying some whites’ attacking them? The late Marable Manning once said:

Black-on-black crime usually victimizes the working and poor, but it can paralyze virtually all Black people of whatever social class or neighborhood. It produces for capitalism and the state a deep despair, a destructive suspicion [blacks] hold against each other. It thwarts Blacks’ ability to achieve collective class consciousness, to build political agencies which advance [Black’s] material and cultural interests, and develop [themselves] economically. It forces Black inner-city merchants to strap revolvers on their calves or shoulders, while serving poor patrons behind plexiglass shields. It stops Black doctors from making emergency calls to their patients who live in the midst of a tenement slum or ghetto high rise complex. It instills a subconscious apathy toward the political and economic hierarchy, and fosters the nihilistic conviction that nothing can ever be changed in the interests of the Black masses.(p. 66)

Manning does not mention whites in this passage. His statements are limited to black neighborhoods regardless of social class. Any sensible law-abiding American citizen would never approve of criminal activity by any individual, regardless of race. But urban black males and their families live in poverty because systemic racism has incarcerated more black males at a greater exponential rate than poor white tattooed males, because of the outsourcing of jobs from urban and rural communities to overseas, because of the lack of educational opportunities, and because of the lack of a strong support system.

Moreover, systemic racism has economically underdeveloped the urban Black community (see Marable Manning’s book above). Because of the black male’s frequent inability to head his household because of the above mentioned reasons, many black women and children have remained in generational poverty. But the most devastating effect systemic racism has had on blacks was reducing them to animals in the minds of whites to justify the ill-treatment of them, then blaming them for their subsequent poor conditions.

New Voter ID Laws: Reducing a Segment of Society’s Participation

A handful of newly elected radical Republican governors are on a quest to destroy the Democrats electorate base by eliminating unions and passing stricter voter ID laws. They know this new law will reduce voter participation among a number of Americans of color, college students, the elderly, and the poor that typically vote for the Democratic Party. This law is being passed in many states under the pretext of voter fraud. Perhaps the governors themselves are perpetuating the greatest fraud in voter history to destroy the fabric of our democracy. The Republicans will stop short of nothing to get their way, if it means ramming their bills through the state houses and senate and removing all political dissidence. They are about dominance, reductionism, elimination, racism, classism, and the State Supreme Courts are validating these Republican-inspired voter ID laws.

Furthermore, the American people were hoodwinked into voting them back into power during the 2010 mid-term elections, and the only substance the Republicans have given us in the short time they’ve been in office is a far-right radical agenda and politics that operate outside of mainstream political thought. If the Republicans destroy the Democratic base and take full control of this country, they will place “federal policy and decision making” at the service of the wealthiest citizens of this country “who will fill the party’s coffers on an unprecedented scale.”

With the passing of new Voter ID laws, these states have added hurdles and rules that will hinder voter participation that will certainly affect a percentage of Americans of color, college students, the elderly, and the poor who will not be able to surmount this hurdle. In fact, it will deter them from voting, and this is on what the Republicans bank their political strategy. But it is up to the American people to protect our democracy and keep this country from turning into an elite plutocracy, the Republicans true political agenda. Every vote counts.

Florida’s Drug Screening Legislation: Created to Pander to Whites but Target Americans of Color?

Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed a bill on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, that requires those seeking public assistance and those already on public assistance to be drug-tested, and they will have to pick up the cost for the test. This bill will affect approximately 58,000 recipients in the state of Florida. Since Americans of all races have lost their jobs, this piece of legislation, in the minds of scholars and practitioners, may be perceived to target so-called “criminally minded, welfare-depended blacks.” There are those who need some public assistance until the job market improves, which should obviate this racial stereotype. Howard Simon, Director of ACLU said:

Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals.

Many white Americans are already under the illusion that welfare is synonymous with people of color, specifically African Americans, resulting in various negative images such as “welfare queens” who eat well and drive fancy cars. The white racial frame can only see African Americans as the only racial group that is draining the system. Even white college students who prepare essays or speeches about welfare in our communication classes tend to overrepresent African Americans on the welfare rolls. However, they have overlooked in the research that more whites receive public assistance.

With this said, does Florida’s drug-testing measure deliberately target people of color, specifically African Americans, given the racial stereotype that they are lazy and want the government to take care of them?

African Americans’ Social & Racial Identity Under Attack

The social identity of individuals is linked to their racial and cultural identities which give them a sense of purpose in life. It is common knowledge that Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, French, Swedes, Finns, Norwegians, Spaniards, to name a few, have identifiable cultures that are linked to their social and racial identity and that this identity is embraced, welcomed, and accepted throughout the Western world. These cultural groups are known for their goods and services, foods, modes of production, religions, and regions. However, a radically different story emerges about people of color, specifically African Americans. When reflection is given to individuals of African extraction, what thought comes to mind? Naturally, racialized societies throughout the world associate negative images to persons, groups, or things they do not understand or to those things they perceive as different (See Images of the outsider in American law and culture: Can Free Expression Remedy Systemic Social Ills, Chapter 21, pp. 225-235.) These negative images usually come from a white racial frame that is sustained and maintained by systemic racism.

African Americans have been the subject of racialized and discursive discourse that has socially constructed them as criminals and amoral human beings, which challenges their humanity and their right to a legitimate social and racial identity. Such racialized discourse has its roots in slavery, was reproduced during the Jim Crow era, and is maintained today through systemic racism to keep them from having a healthy identity, one that the world can appreciate and respect. When CNN’s Black in America aired during the month of July 2008, Fox News invited both black and white contributors to share their perceptions of the CNN documentary. These contributing sycophants used offensive and racially-charged statements to demean African Americans. To this end, African American guest speakers were expected to express bigoted and inflammatory statements against their own racial group with reference to crime and out-of-wedlock births, suggesting that African Americans lack moral character and can only be identified as criminals and an amoral people. Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes that

The image of the malevolent black male is based on durable and time-resistant bedrock of myths, half-truths, and lies. The image was created during the European conquest of Africa, nurtured during slavery, artfully refined during the nadir of segregation, and revived during the Ronald Reagan-George Bush years. . . . To maintain power and control, the plantation masters said that black men were savage and hyper-sexual. To strengthen racial control, late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century scientists and academics concocted pseudo-theories that said black men were criminal and mentally defective. To justify lynching and political domination, the politicians and business leaders of the era said that black men were rapists and brutes. To roll back civil rights and slash social programs, Reagan-Bush Limbaugh type conservatives say black men are derelict and lazy.

When racist media, such as Fox News, use black intellectual mercenaries to pander to white audiences to denounce a cultural practice or particular behavior in African Americans in general, they are, in essence, identifying African Americans as subjects worthy to be oppressed, absolving a racialized society of all blame for their oppressed condition and the reason such behavior has become a normalized practice.

With this said, many African American men and women do not have the luxury of marrying and raising a family together under normal circumstances because of many black males’ difficulty acquiring gainful employment with medical benefits. Without gainful employment, African American men are essentially unmarriageable. With so many African American men lost to the prison system and with little economic advantage, many are reluctant to marry because they cannot support a family.

Finally, Kenneth Estell, as well as many other black scholars, documents African Americans’ contributions to America. Estell documents both black achievements and chronicles their accomplishments, such as Blacks’ creation of national organizations, involvement in politics, entrepreneurship, gains in education, religion, literature, the media, performing arts, music, sports, military, science, medicine, military, and many other achievements.