MAXWELL:  Black Republicans are strange indeed

12/8/1999 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


By all standards, some creatures are just plain strange, making us do double takes because their compositions or habits or appearances defy our sense of logic and our way of viewing reality. Take the wildebeest, the warthog, the hyena, the brown pelican, the Shar-Pei. These animals, seemingly wrought by committee, make us laugh or shake our heads.

Another such creature, of the human kind _ and perhaps the strangest of all _ is the black Republican. Do not laugh. This is a serious matter, given yet another Alan Keyes run _ absurd as it may be _ for the White House. He is the talk show host who exhibits an obnoxious Messianic complex that emerges each time he appears on TV to debate his white counterparts.

My grandfather, a smart Pentecostal pastor who died five years ago, would have said that Keyes, along with others like him, is “out there cuttin’ up ’round them white folks.” This was my gramps’ portrayal of black sycophants, whose raison d’etre was pleasing their white “superiors.”

After each debate, Keyes declares himself the winner and attacks the press for not praising him. He is not praised because he acts too much like a kid pledging a fraternity he instinctively dislikes. Doubling Keyes’ misery is his pathetic effort to persuade white Republicans to accept him.

And therein lies the rub: Black Republicans fail to understand that white Republicans will never accept them as equals. Although they will not acknowledge the truth, white Republicans, like most other whites, view black Republicans as strange creatures.

Following last week’s GOP debate in New Hampshire, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd interviewed Keyes and revealed that the prez wanna-be is an existential mess. He cannot understand why the networks’ Sunday morning talk shows ignore him. “He does not seem to accept the fact that it is his own party that dismisses his candidacy as an oddity, useful only in enabling Republicans to make a perverse claim to diversity,” Dowd wrote.

With few exceptions (Gen. Colin Powell being a notable example), black Republicans are trotted out like unfinished trophies, Pirandello-like proof that the GOP’s “big tent” is real in someone’s warped mind.

White Republicans feign consternation that most blacks find them contemptible, arguing that those mean old Democrats have been black people’s real enemy all along. Keyes and others, such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts and California businessman Ward Connerly, also spout this nonsense. Keyes told Dowd: “The people who invented this system of racism, segregation, sort of American apartheid, were Democrats.”

Oh, please.

If Keyes and others are talking about Dixiecrats, then they should say so. They certainly are not talking about the millions of white Democrats who joined blacks against Republicans to secure every piece of civil rights legislation.

Blacks who switch to the GOP say they do so because they share Republican values on crime, family and self-reliance. I do not know a single black person, except for a handful of vicious thugs, who see any benefits in crime. Blacks have always opposed crime. Most black people, like whites, love their families. Self-reliance? Until urban renewal used expressways to break up many black communities, black businesses thrived and people took care of themselves. Such values are not the sole possession of Republicans.

African-Americans do not need hypocrites like Keyes, Thomas and Connerly to lecture them. They certainly do not need the advice of white Republicans.

Some blacks, like Gen. Powell, become Republicans because they see clear political advantage or because they work for Republicans. Most others, however, are mean-spirited self-loathers who rarely find anything positive to say about fellow blacks. They out-nasty the worst white racist, calling the likes of Jesse Jackson, the NAACP’s Kweisi Mfume and the Urban League’s Hugh Price evil men hellbent on destroying America.

White Republicans love this kind of stuff. They wink and nod each time black Republicans claim that racism is a thing of the past, that whites and blacks are free to compete equally. Black Republicans have fooled themselves into believing that white Republicans are their brethren. And, of course, black Republicans delude themselves into believing that they alone are responsible for their success.

Strange, passing strange.