"There can be no cure or remedy for racism, if we are not willing to be candid and honest in our discussion of race within the educational systems, American politics and the Republican Party. __ NRAAC, Nat’l Chair"
The National Republican African American Caucus [NRAAC] National Chair, Dr. Jean Howard-Hill contends that within the debate on the appropriate versus inappropriate statement made by Senator Harry Reid, and the calling for the stepping down of Reid by RNC Chair Michael Steele, there is truth within this debate that cannot be denied.
“As a national political organization of people of spirit and faith, we have to admit truth, no matter how distasteful it may be. Regardless of the source, truth is still truth.” She says.
She suggests there are two undeniable elements of truth that are evident within this debate.
First, the Republican head of an all white exclusive congressional political party, with absolutely no African Americans serving in Congress, cannot accuse its rival Democratic Party of being racist, when but for it, there would be absolutely no African American presence at all, in the U. S. House or the Senate.
Second, African Americans, no matter how politically incorrect Senator Reid’s statement may have been, cannot deny the validity of Senator Reid’s statement as to a growing language deficit among us.
Let’s face it”, she says, “within the Republican Party, there simply are not enough flies in the bowl of buttermilk!”
“I used to hear my mother and older southern Blacks use this phrase. I didn’t quite understand it back then as a child, but now as a Republican, I understand its meaning all too well.”
She explains that the bowl of buttermilk represents the almost lily white complexion of the once colorful Lincoln Republican Party that also once welcomed, embraced and integrated into the political landscape at all levels, former slaves. And of course the flies? She says, “Well depending upon the ethnic label used, that’s us - African Americans, Blacks, Negroes, colored folks, and etc.”
“I know this may seem humorous at first”, she admits, “but there is nothing comical about this, if you are one of the flies. It is even less humorous if you are the fly that they are trying to get rid of. Because with one swat at the hands those in power who do not want you there, you are gone or silenced.”
She says that this has been the experience of far too many African Americans within the Republican Party, and especially within the South and within her home state of Tennessee.
“It is not that the Republican Party does not like a few flies in the milk. Quite to the contrary”, she contends. “However in most cases, it seeks only those flies who enjoy a sip of the buttermilk, but are willing to sip it gingerly and quietly, as the tokenly exclusive, one or two Negros in the bowl!”
“In Republican pockets such as in Tennessee, you have to be safe, non-threatening and colored, to truly be accepted; willing to write the check and just show up at meetings and events for the Kodak moment, to add the speck to the buttermilk. This is to put to rest any accusations of not having Blacks in the Party. Therefore, almost always, you can depend upon seeing at least one or two token flies.”
“Or you can be the fly who comes looking for the fish and the loaves. This means you are not too concerned with the Republican message or its core values - just the goodies. The kind of fly who is so greedy for a piece of the Republican pie, that they sell their souls to the highest bidder. Therefore, it is to be expected that this kind of fly will say and do just about anything to keep the goodies and to reign in leadership, supreme over the other flies. This kind of fly is careful not to associate with the others, nor do they dare speak out against wrong doing or racism, because they do not want to lose their goodie privileges.”
“Last but least”, Howard-Hill says, “there are those who truly believe in the core values of the Republican Party. They are the ones who hang in there, not because of what is promised, offered or given. They simply are there because they are a Republican at heart. These are the ones who within the right mixture of buttermilk fair well, only if they hail from those states and pockets of true Lincoln republicanism where they are accepted as co-equals and as first class citizens.
“I know this is a hard word to swallow for some, including even some African American Republicans, nevertheless, it is truth. And it is about time someone has the courage to stand and tell the truth. We cannot correct the problem, if we are not willing to first take an honest look at what is wrong within the GOP.”
“When you have been a Republican for as long as many of us have been, and have paid the price we have, coming from both our African American community for wearing the Republican label, and then have endured the divisive, mean spirited and racist treatment that comes out of the Party’s failure to address, let along admit there is a problem, there is something inside of you which cannot allow you to just sit back and not proclaim truth. For those who know and stand on truth as a foundational principle of one’s faith, it is hard to not embrace truth; especially when those who are divisive, mean spirited and racist are also laying hypocritical claims to the same foundation, as alleged people of faith.”
“There can be no cure or remedy for racism, if we are not willing to be candid and honest in our discussion of race within the educational systems, American politics and the Republican Party.”
She also says that there has to be a candid and honest discussion of the validity of Senator Reid’s statement.
Howard-Hill points out that racism still plays a part in educational inequalities among Blacks. However, African Americans also cannot deny the fact that as a race, with each new generation, we are becoming more language illiterate and deficient. She says, “This is unacceptable, given the sacrifices made by so many who were enslaved, lynched, killed, hosed down, jailed and humiliated in order that we might have the freedom to break through the once ironclad barriers of educational segregation and denial. We all should be alarmed at the rate of the decrease in African American written, verbal and presentational skills. It is something we have to deal with, two-fold. First, this must be dealt with at the level of inequalities within the educational systems, and the other on the level of self-responsibility.
Institutional racism is never acceptable in America’s educational system. Making sure quality education is available within even the poorest of school districts is something we have to push for, and accept nothing less. Every child educated in America should have the same rights to an educational environment that is conducive to learning with opportunities to enhance skills and to be exposed to new experiences. This is not always the case in minority predominated schools, and has to be address.
We too have to shoulder the blame. Education begins in the home first, and as parents our first gift to our children, should be the gift of knowledge. Put a book in the child’s hands. Read to them and have them read to you. Allow the child the opportunity to venture into the vast worlds of knowledge, where a book can take them, even when your bank account cannot. Regardless of the race of the parents, there is a time to cut off the television, videos, games and even the computers and demand that your child spend quality time, engaging in learning.”
“It is up to every parent to reinforce what is taught in school at home. Correct their language and do not allow them to use incorrect grammar. And for their sake, make them pull up their pants! But we don’t always do this collectively as a race. Instead, we have allowed our kids to speak in tongues, which are not native to intelligence, and to use and write in language, which is borderline illiterate. That coupled with their appearance looks and spells failure. So before we take aim at Senator Reid, we have to discover the truth of our own failures, which cause his statement to be grounded in truth.”
She concludes, “Either way, there is much that needs to be done. However, if Senator Reid’s statement is indeed true, and there still remains traces of the Negro dialect lingering within the African American race, then it is an indictment against America for its past slave history. Therefore it becomes America’s responsibility to correct it, by first continuing the dismantling of the institution of racism in both education and in the politics governing educational policy.”
[Outside of her role as the NRAAC national chair, Howard-Hill is known for her involvement within the African American community and her efforts to correct and enhance verbal, written and presentational skills of African American students, and her “Pull up Your Pants and Dress for Success Campaign” to improve the appearance and fate of African American males. She has created and directed the Many Facers of Diversity at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which teaches these skills to minority, “at-risk”, and first generation college bound students. She is currently working on the Tennessee Youth Research Study, a research project aimed at identifying causes and providing connectors to reconnect to the youth of this generation. She also has taught full time and as an adjunct, American Government, State and Local Government, and International Politics and Culture of Nonwestern Countries at UTC, and was voted 2006 Outstanding Professor of the year.]