(The author with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Photo: Courtesy of Charles Badger)
“A disgrace to his race” is how Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) described Dr. Louis Sullivan in August 1990.
Fending off challenges to one’s Blackness would become a familiar pattern for every African-American Republican appointee for the next near quarter century. Yet Sullivan, medical doctor and later founder and first dean of Morehouse Medical School, disarmed Stark’s smear with seven simple, yet devastating words: “I don't live on Pete Stark's plantation.” With that, Sullivan asserted his “right to think for myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to me…” as Justice Clarence Thomas often puts it, in what’s become a Black Republican refrain.
Many African-American Republican politicos were shocked to find a fellow member of their small community group attacking one of his own in a National Newspaper Publishers Association column Monday, that was in part a reaction to a BET.com article titled "The Loneliness of the Black Republican."
In “Young Black Republicans Who Deny Their Blackness,” Raynard Jackson adopts standard form for commentators opining on topics about which they know little.
Step 1: Announce that you’ve “met” members of a group, and although not a member yourself in it, you’re not less an expert on the group (“I have reached out to many of these millennials…” Jackson writes).
Step 2: Don’t ever directly quote members of this group in their own words. Eleven times Jackson charges “Black Republicans” with something without ever naming any actual Black Republican committing the offending act.
Step 3: Impute self-loathing motives to members of this group, as in: “They seemingly get more satisfaction out of being known within white circles,” in a statement that combines psychoanalysis with your superior gift for divination.
Step 4: Combine phantom quotes and wild conjecture to form a straw man of “The Self-Hating Black Conservative Millennial” or Hill staffer.
This allows Jackson to wonder “…why Black [Republican] staffers are emphatic that they don’t want to be the point-person for the Black community — they just want to be a staffer; as though they are mutually exclusive.” Yet when the Republican National Committee (RNC), which Mr. Jackson also used to regularly criticize, sought top talent to be the “point person[s] for the Black community” — three of the four staffers it hired to do just that were recruited from the Hill on Jackson’s recommendation: RNC national field director for African-American Initiatives Kristal Quarker, who had served as senior legislative advisor to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter; RNC communications director for Black media Orlando Watson, who worked for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ); and RNC deputy press secretary Raffi Williams, who worked on Rep. Dan Benishek's (R-MI) re-election campaign.
Jackson insists that the “30-40 Black Republican staffers” on the Hill “have not formed an organization of like-minded people.” That would come as news to the members of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association, which is exactly that.
Finally, writing “Republicans who are of the millennial demographic have made a conscious decision to self-isolate,” betrays an ignorance about organizations like Kay Cole James’ Gloucester Institute and J.C. Watts’s INSIGHT America. The cross-generational mentorship amongst African-American Republicans definitely exists. Mr. Jackson simply isn’t looking in the right places.
Moreover, what Jackson takes as insufficient Blackness, may just be Black Republican millennials affirming their right to think for themselves and refusing to live on someone else’s intellectual plantation.
Charles Badger, 24, is former Capitol Hill staffer for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). He writes a column at Washington Times Communities section and currently works in New Jersey state government.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.