“STEELE RESOLVE”

I’m going to start by saying that there are few areas in politics where Michael Steele and I agree, particularly regarding some of the issues facing America today.  Still, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.  The fact that he has chosen the current Republican Party, though, is one area that confounds me.  It is, at the same, time both “bewildering and admirable.”

I’ll start with “admirable.”  From the time of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency until that of  Lyndon Johnson a Democrat, African-Americans had a strong reciprocal relationship with the GOP.  With that in mind, it’s not too difficult to understand, from a historical standpoint, how he could make that choice.

Here is an excerpt from the keynote address given to the Jackson County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner, March 4, 2006.  The speech is entitled:

“The Ship and the Sea: ‘The Party of Lincoln’ and Civil rights.”

“For 150 years, the Republican Party held high the banner of civil rights. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party defended slavery, segregation and allied itself with the Ku Klux Klan to take the vote away from black and white Republicans and terrorize them into submission. Little wonder the Democratic Party was known as the “party of the Klan” well into the 20th century. When Democrats finally embraced the cause of racial freedom in the 1960s, they were the “Johnny come latelys” of the civil rights movement, simply undoing the damage their Party had inflicted on racial minorities during the prior 100 years. We, the Party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and Ward Connerly, have a far better claim to civil rights but we have forgotten our own history.”

The entire speech is a must read and it can be found at George Mason University’s “History News Network.”  http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/22526.html

There is another reason that I find Michael’s choice “admirable.”  The lack of African-Americans in prominent positions of authority within the party has been a persistent point of consternation for Blacks throughout the nation, and I have to admit that seeing him being interviewed in 2008, representing the party as head of the Republican National Committee, wearing a baseball cap on occasion, speaking with occasional “street slang,” and vowing to diversify the party, and expand the republican “big tent,” offered a measure of hope that, perhaps, given the emergence of then candidate Barack Obama, the republican’s may have found the right man to counter the drift towards homogeneity the party had taken.  But alas…..

The “hip-hop chairman” image was not something that a large group within the party, ultimately, could embrace.  Still he showed tremendous “resolve” by clearly pointing out some of the problems facing his party.  He worked to find solutions to them and attempted to mitigate some of the concerns that many of those on the “far right” had with reaching out to non-members.  Despite his avowed efforts to open up the party to other African-Americans, to reach out to Latinos, to diversify the thinking on issues important to women, the “LGBT community” and other specific demographics within the electorate, all that many within his party saw was that “cap.”

After, what turned out to be, an expected loss to now President Obama in November 2008, the party decided to circle the wagons around their fundamentalist right-wing dogma, and in spite of leading, what turned out to be a remarkably successful 2010 mid-term election run for Republican candidates (the Republican’s gained 60 House seats, 7 seats in the Senate, and 7 Governorships), Michael found himself “odd (at least to their way of thinking) man out.”  In January 2011 was replaced by Reince Priebus.

For all of the party’s finger-pointing, casting aspersions upon the chairman,and, in my opinion, not giving him proper credit, one thing was true.  Michael had correctly pointed his finger at a whole host of problems, that would come back to haunt the party in ways that, though it shouldn’t have, seemed to catch them completely by surprise.

Watching and listening to Michael in the weeks leading up to the November, though it was obvious that he wasn’t surprised.  With the republicans, having moved away from their 2010 mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs to an all out assault on social programs, women’s right’s, voter suppression, anti-union efforts, their reluctance to discuss immigration reform, their fundamentalist attitude’s about marriage, his frustration with the party could be seen on his face and heard in his voice.

So, this is where the “bewilderment” comes in.

Why, given the way they treated him and the direction the party has taken, would Michael want to, again run for chairman of the RNC.  Could it be that his love for his party is greater than his disgust with what they have  become?  Could it be that what he wants is his party back?  “The Party of Lincoln?”  The party of Frederick Douglas?  The party of  Ward Connerly?  The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower?  Could he want it back?

Again, I am not a Michael Steele fan.  I am, though, a fan of commitment, a fan of devotion.  It’s clear to me [that] Michael’s commitment and devotion extends “to and beyond” his party, to all of America.

So go for it, Bro.  This time, though, I hope they love you back.

THANK YOU ANDREW MANIS, THANK YOU FOR ASKING “THIS” QUESTION!

Over the last week I’ve received e-mails from three people asking me to read and respond about “what a white reporter wrote in a Georgia Newspaper.  The “forward list” on all three were quite long, it looked like a mass e-mailing of sort.  After reading the article I saw that it was not so much a news article, but a piece submitted for an editorial  in the Macon Telegraph, not long after Barack Obama was first elected President.  Each e-mail said this was a “must read and pass along,” and I totally agree.

I’m going to post it for you here in its entirety.  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this.

Andrew M. Manis is associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia and wrote this for an editorial in the Macon Telegraph.

Andrew M. Manis: When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

For much of the last forty years, ever since America “fixed” its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African-Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, “When are African-Americans finally going to get over it?  Now I want to ask:

“When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that “Election Spurs Hundreds’ of Race Threats, Crimes” should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in “Bombingham,” Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than “talk the talk.”

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent.

Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes.

Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster.

But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we’re back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we’ve proven what conservatives are always saying — that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president.

But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to “assassinate Obama.”

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, “How long?”

How long before we white people realize we can’t make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us?

How long until we white people can – once and for all – get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color?

How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior?

How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin?

How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners?

How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we start “living out the true meaning” of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that “red and yellow, black and white” all are precious in God’s sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn’t believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don’t believe I’ll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem.

But here’s my three-point plan:

First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I’m going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I’m going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama.

Third, I’m going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can “in spirit and in truth” sing of our damnable color prejudice,

“We HAVE overcome.”

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It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

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Dr. Manis,

I appreciate you more, far more, than I can say.  How Long?  The question has been asked for so, so long.  The problem is that for so long we African-Americans have waited for someone other than us to ask the question.  For someone other than us to search for solutions.  I thank you for doing both.

Your editorial harkens back to a time when the struggle was in full force.  It was March 25, 1965 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King asked the same question, standing on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery Alabama.  This was after the successful completion of the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Let’s reflect on excerpts from his speech.

“The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. (Yes, sir)
The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. (No)
There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”

“Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man. (Yes)”

“I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” (Speak, sir)
Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, (Speak, speak, speak) plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?” (Yes, sir)

I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, (No sir) because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” (Yes, sir) How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because “no lie can live forever.” (Yes, sir)
How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because “you shall reap what you sow.” (Yes, sir)”

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The fact that we are still asking that question today, 47 years later, well…!  Rev. King asked, “How Long?”  When others like you ask that question, “Not Long” may be closer than ever.  We can only pray.

Thank you again, Andrew Manis.  Thank you!

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For more on race-ethnic relations search for “Wisconsin Why???” on this site.

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