Commentary: Mitt Romney’s African-American Problem

The GOP candidate is heckled and booed during a short trip to West Philadelphia.

Posted: 05/25/2012 07:52 AM EDT
Mitt Romney booed

Mitt Romney greets students in a 6th grade language class at Universal Bluford Charter School. During a roundtable discussion at the school, Romney said federal funds under his new education plan will allow low-income children to attend any school in their state.  (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Ever since it’s become clearer and clearer that Mitt Romney is going to be the official Republican nominee to face off against Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, people have wondered if Romney can beat Obama. They’ve wondered if he can overcome America’s skepticism of Mormonism; they’ve wondered if he can get the women's vote while being against reproductive rights; and, if they’re Black, they’ve wondered if their friends, neighbors and family members in the African-American community would ever vote for Romney.

In an op-ed column from USA Today last week, African-American pundit Sophia Nelson wrote:

Romney has touted himself as a businessman who knows how to restore fiscal order. But the discontent in the Black community is not only economic. When President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, many Blacks felt he turned his back on the Black church. Many Black faithful will tell you the Bible expressly promotes marriage between a man and a woman. In April, a Pew poll showed that nearly half of all Blacks opposed gay marriage. This could be a game changer for Romney if he is bold enough to seek out Black middle-class voters, who are churchgoers and often privately align with many GOP positions.

If Romney can indeed gain some Black voters, it could be very helpful to him in his effort to defeat Obama in hotly contested states like North Carolina, which Obama won narrowly in 2008. But is winning those votes a pipe dream for Romney? An interaction from Thursday morning might help answer that question.

On Thursday, Romney went to Universal Bluford Charter School, a school in a mostly Black section of Philadelphia, to try to earn support for his education policies among a broader range of fans than he already has. What resulted was not a warm welcome for the candidate, according to Washington Post writer Philip Rucker, who notes that Romney was greeted by shouts of “Get out, Romney!”

Residents, some of them organized by Obama’s campaign, stood on their porches and gathered at a sidewalk corner to shout angrily at Romney. Some held signs saying, “We are the 99%.” One man’s placard trumpeted an often-referenced Romney gaffe: “I am not concerned about the very poor.” 

Madaline G. Dunn, 78, who said she has lived here for 50 years and volunteers at the school, said she is “personally offended” that Romney would visit her neighborhood.

“It’s not appreciated here,” she said. “It is absolutely denigrating for him to come in here and speak his garbage.”

Never underestimate the power of a community to smell a phony. People can hope all they want for Romney to get some of the Black vote, but the reality is that his policies are not geared toward the majority of Black voters, and no short visit to West Philly is going to change that.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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