"Republicans don’t treat blacks any better than Democrats. The so-called “establishment” doesn’t bother with engaging blacks, particularly black Republicans, until elections roll around and candidates need some votes. And even then the GOP barely fakes its “minority outreach,” by creating “advisory councils.” That’s what former Congressman JC Watts said September 19, 2013 in rousing remarks during the Republicans for Black Empowerment Annual Gathering in Washington, DC.
The event is held each year to coincide with the Democrat dominated Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference known more for throwing parties than grappling with substantive issues facing black Americans. Speaking to a crowd of black conservatives who cam from all over the country as far as California, Watts told many of us what we already knew “the Republican National Committee really isn’t interested in outreach.” Watts said he’s heard lots of promises from the RNC that it plans welcome more minority voters to the party but has seen no action to back up Chairman Reince Priebus’ words. As I’ve noted numerous times, it’s been nearly a year since the GOP lost the 2012 presidential election because of its failure to woo minority voters and we’ve seen zero change in the RNC’s game plan. It’s still as white centric as ever.
Watts painfully reminded the young and old people standing in the room that he is all too aware that being a black Republican is very challenging. We are generally ignored by our party and then vilified by Democrats. “I’ve been doing outreach for 20 years,” Watts said. He added he never wants to hear about anymore advisory councils only created during elections. Laughing, Watts said most of the time black Republicans don’t even know they are on these councils until they read about them in the news media.
After seeing nothing had really changed, Watts said he decided to focus on inclusion and founded Insight, a 501(c)(4) organization a to bring diversity to the GOP. The lack of inclusion of minorities in the party continues to be stunning. Besides hiring a few brown faces to work on the RNC’s stalled Growth and Opportunity Project, the same old white faces populate the RNC and its surrogate program.
Watts drew laughter from the black Republicans attending Thursday’s event when he noted “when black Republicans criticize party they are accused of looking for contract work but no one says that about whites. ” Watts added, “So what if they are?” Let’s remember the RNC fired Strategic Allied Consulting, a white owned firm that it paid $3 million in 2012, because it allegedly committed voter registration fraud in Florida. Watts added he didn’t need to be a Republican to make money.
Most shocking news Watts delivered that night was that he has “never met Reince Priebus.” Not only is that shameful but very indicative of the lack of seriousness on Priebus and the RNC’s part in including blacks or other minorities in the GOP tent.
Prior to Watts speaking, black Republican Erika Harold, 2003 Miss America and Harvard law graduate, who had the audacity to challenge incumbent Republican Rodney Davis for Illinois’ 13th Congressional seat. Harold said that it hasn’t been easy because many in the party thought it wasn’t her time. But she said she’s “not waiting her turn” to run for office but doing it because she has ideas to make America better and “wants the GOP to reflect our country.”
In other words, like Watts, Harold wants to the GOP to be inclusive and go back to its roots of being the party founded in opposition to slavery and in support equality for all. In a moving story, Harold told the crowd she decided to run for Miss America so she could afford to attend law school. Her parents were skeptical but Erika set her goals high and reached them. JC Watts said she is “over qualified to be a member of Congress.”
I agree. And instead of discouraging candidates like Erika Harold, establishment Republicans should be welcoming them in the tent but that’s where people like Priebus and others are unqualified for their jobs.