Being Black and Republican
Now, I am one of those unique creatures that you may find just as unique as a unicorn. I am an Afro-American that consistently votes for and supports the Republican party. I do not like the phrase “Black Republican” because I despise the hyphenation. My blackness does not diminish my Republican-ness nor does me being Republican makes me less black. My skin color has little to nothing to do with my political affiliation. However, that statement does not exclude the fact that my Afro-American experience does influence my political views and may give me a different perspective of Republican principles than people of a lighter hue.
I can trace my lineage back to at least two plantations in which my ancestors were enslaved. Therefore, the early mantra of the Republican Party, “Free soil! Free labor! Free men!” has a very personal connection for me. When the Republican Party was established in Ripon, Wisconsin to stop the spread of slavery and to eventually abolish that institution, they were aiming to liberate my ancestors and by effect, liberating me from lifelong bondage. The birth of the Republican Party directly led to the end of slavery in this nation. The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln himself, was the first Republican president. Of course, I am extremely proud to be a member of the Party of Lincoln.
However, over 150 years later and twenty-nine presidents later, some might be reminded of Janet Jackson’s song, What Have You Done for Me Lately? in referring to the Republican party. Of course, one cannot and should not vote for or against a party just because of what it did a century ago or not even fifty years ago.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s in a poverty-stricken and predominantly Afro-American community in Virginia, my journey to the Republican party was very highly unlikely and downright unique. However, for me, it was natural and logical.
My earliest memory of any election was when I was an elementary school kid and I would overhear my elders talking about the upcoming election between Democrat Michael Dukakis and Republican George H. W. Bush (the dad). The older folks would make hyperbolic comments about Candidate Bush inferring that if he was elected, black folks would end up back in slavery or would have to sit on the back of the bus again. As a little kid, the grown-ups had made completely terrified of Bush Senior being elected president and I was totally convinced that if he were to get into the White House that us black folks were going back to the cotton fields. Election Night 88′ was a nightmare coming true when Bush won the presidency. Bush served a full term and there was no hint of slavery or Jim Crow being reinstituted.
Bush served a full term and there was no hint of slavery or Jim Crow being reinstituted. Interesting enough, those same type of scare tactics have been used against every Republican presidential candidate in every election in my lifetime. Since that time, I have lived through two Republican administrations and black folks are not being forced to the back of the bus or being forced to picking cotton in the fields. Therefore, such outlandish slanders accusing Republicans of being racist should have lost all credibility. They have with me.
The year after the 88′ election, Virginia had a historical election between Republican Marshall Coleman and Democrat Doug Wilder, who was hoping to be the nation’s first elected black governor. Although I felt a kinship with Wilder, Coleman was proposing shorter hours for school. Being a school kid, I was all in favor of getting out of school earlier. Therefore, I was hoping for Coleman to win. Well, we all know that Coleman lost and Wilder became governor of Virginia.
However, that one election, in which I did not automatically support the Democratic nominee, was a watershed moment for me and I realized that my skin color does not have to tie me to any type of political affiliation.
By the time of the Bush-Clinton race in 1992, I had switched my allegiance to the Republicans. Pat Buchanan had my support in the primary but in the general election, I was pulling for the man that I had been terrified of in the prior election. Democrat Bill Clinton won though.
However, I began to learn the principles of the Republican Party: individualism, capitalism, and Americanism. All three of those principles were already ingrained in me from my early childhood.
I am an individual above everything else. Throughout the years, I learned that the Republican Party values individualism over collectivism. It is completely all right to feel a part of a group but the rights of an individual should never be reduced for the sake of a group.
The free market enterprise system is the greatest grantor of prosperity in human history. Capitalism encourages men and women to innovate in hope of being rewarded with wealth and fortune. Under a capitalist system, individuals have the solemn right to earn money for themselves without the hindrance of government. Basically, what a person earns belongs to them.
Although there are some uncomfortable things in our nation’s history and we definitely are not perfect, I am absolutely proud to be an American. I love this country and I believe that is the greatest nation on Earth. If it was not for the United States, half of the world would be either under the dominance of the Soviet Union or be goosestepping under Nazi Germany. American heritage is centered around the struggle for freedom. As an Afro-American, I understand the paradox completely but throughout the annals of mankind, there has been no other nation that has fought harder and longer for the concept of the freedom more than the United States, whether it be foreign or domestic soil.
I am a Republican not because of any so-called black issue but I am a Republican because it shares my commitment to individualism, capitalism, and Americanism.
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