Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010

NRAAC's National Chair
Dr. Jean Howard-Hill
National Republican African American Caucus [NRAAC] Blog

The National Republican African American Caucus Has It's
Say!: An 18 Day Political Revival

Day 10: Why White Republicans who are inviting and who do want Blacks in the party, (including those who feel this way, but are afraid to speak up or welcome us), remain silent on the issue of racism, even when they see and know it exists within the Party.

The best way to understand Republican silence is to carefully study its root causes. There are three root causes that top the list! Money, power and fear.

Fear is the master demon which has its roots entangled with money and power. From this come the reasons why silence on the issue of racism exists. It has connections between what is in the heart and what is in the purse or pocket that precipitate a reason to fear the lose of power.

Each time I witness the unwillingness of a Republican to take a stand for what is right, I get on the Internet and research the connections that person has to the person who is doing the wrong. Without fail, each time I have done this, I have been amazed to find that there is a money or power connection.

The money trail runs in two directions - the donor and the recipient. And so does the fear. If it is the donor who does not want those of color within the party, they will give to have that directive carried out. Of course this is not something which is openly done. But the directive is done in private or coded. This is not to say every Republican donor does this, but we know that it is done. It is a well kept secret. Even those whites who have assured me it happens, they have pledged to deny it if I call them by name.

Trust me on this one, if the money donors within the Republican Party say, widen the tent, the tent will be widened! If they give the directive to narrow the tent and close the gate, then none to very few of us are getting in!

Then there are the recipients of the money. They normally are within elected or appointed leadership. They understand all too well that in order to get the money, they have to toe the line. But they are not all influenced by their money connections. Many have ample resources of their own and the choice to exclude is because of the darkness of their own hearts or simply because they want the black vote, but are unwilling to share the political landscape and the political power that goes with it.

If you have political aspirations of any sort, power is the root of silence. Therefore very few if any, are willing to jeopardize their political careers to side with blacks on the issue of inclusion. This is especially true, since as a race, within the Republican Party we have had very little to no voting capitol that can influence the outcome of an election. So who cares if we are excluded! With or without us, it does not amount to any significance at the polls. And until this is changed, it is a politically sound reason to encourage silence.

Where the influence of power and money is felt most is on a local and state level. Since my home state is also the state of birth for the National Republican African American Caucus, I can use it as an example. But by no means am I inferring that Tennessee is the only place where this kind of politics exists.

When the NRAAC began to have issues with exclusion at the local level in Tennessee, bearing an olive branch, in peace and love, I went to those on a local and state level. Nothing was done. When I realized that the opposition was spurred on by one of our Republican congressman who was not able to use our organization for his own political aspiration to ascend to the office of governor of the state of Tennessee, again I went with an olive branch first to him and them to others in power. Nothing was done. When we were told by our local party chair that unless we went through her or the good congressman, we would not be recognized or have any involvement in the party, I went back with an olive branch in the spirit of love. Nothing was done. When I saw how we were being blocked in every effort we made to integrate into the Republican Party, I tried again at the Tennessee State GOP level to get relief. Nothing was done. When I was personally investigated to see if I met the Republican litmus test by our Hamilton County local GOP chair, I went directly to her and the local party. Nothing was done. As I watched her follow me everywhere I went to recruit, and once I left, she made it her personal business to contact those whites who thought it was a great idea to have blacks in the party and welcomed our presence, to tell them that I was a "troublemaker" and did not have the blessings of the local party or the good congressman, I sought relief from every GOP level. Nothing was done. When I was required by her to get legal permission from the RNC legal counsel before she would recognize our organization on a local or state level, I went to the RNC with the same olive branch. Nothing was done. When things got so crazy that we were being ignored at events and racist rumors spread about our membership which were so ridiculous that anyone with common sense would know something more was at work, I tried to keep the faith and believe there was someone within the Republican Party at some level who would accept our olive branch and welcome us. Nothing was done. I carried this olive branch to so many, for so long, until finally I realized that no one was willing to do anything about what was happening to us.

There were those who listened and even remarked behind closed doors that what was happening to us they did not condone, but because those involved were well connected with power and to money, they were afraid to speak out against them. It was then that I realized the impact of power and money on issues of race within the party.

Speaking of ridiculous rumors, I cannot pass up an opportunity to at least share one or two good stories. There are three that come to mind that I wrote about in my book.

[Excerpts from Black Eyes Shut - White Lips Sealed, Chapter Twenty, Republican White Wall of Silence.]

When it came time for the 2001 Annual Republican Women's Picnic, our local caucus took several large covered dishes to the event. Our caucus secretary because it was on a Wednesday night, which was a church night for most "black folks", and because she and her husband pastored, was unable to stay. Being a member of the Women's Club and having brought food, with plenty of it for everyone, I asked her if she wanted to fix a plate and take it with her. She prepared one for her husband, and herself. I went over to the dessert table and continued to dish out the desserts. While she was preparing her plates, one of the Republican women, who happened to be the wife of one of the county elected officials came over to her, and in a very nasty tone of voice asked, "How many of those plates are 'you people' going to fix and take out of here?" A few days after this, rumors floated throughout headquarters, that the "black people" had come to the picnic and had fixed all of these plates and were slipping them out the door, and had to be stopped! Despite this we continued to show a substantial presence at Republican functions.

At the 2001 Annual Hamilton County Picnic, with about a crowd of 150, we brought 38 of our local caucus members. With only one to two blacks usually showing up at these events, now to have 38 was substantial. Knowing how they felt about us, I made sure all 38 of us brought the cleaning product they had asked those who were attending to bring. I also told them to make sure they mingled, and to avoid being in a group, because having this number of African-Americans show up, as opposed to their normal two to three, might cause fear and make the white racists within the party a little nervous. I carefully selected the 38 who were to attend and kept that number under 40 people because I knew by now that the greatest fear was not just of our "color", but it was a combination of both our "color" and our "numbers". Just as I predicted, it made some nervous. In fact, Congressman Wamp got so nervous that when he got up and tried to welcome us, he said he was so happy to see so much color or coloreds in the mix. No one, white or black was sure if he said "color" or "coloreds". They all just looked puzzled after his statement.

At Congressman Wamp's annual picnic, we again showed our presence. This time I decided to gradually increase the number to 65 people. We could have had as many as 250 of us who did not have anything better to do other than enjoy Congressman Wamp's barbeque on Labor Day, and would have been happy to come. But again, I was afraid to overwhelm the racists within the Party, in light of their present fears of having us there, and the possibility of having us take over. Also I was afraid that if we showed up in any larger numbers, this would cause the Republican Party to fight us even more. Therefore I only asked a few who I felt could deal with any possible hostility, which at this point had greatly increased to the point this time of Congressman Wamp not even acknowledging our presence! At the Hamilton County Republican picnic, local chair Robin Smith and Congressman Wamp did manage to welcome us, but at his picnic, he welcomed everyone else, his neighbors, his friends, his neighbor's neighbor, his friend's friends, and everyone else, and totally ignored us. It was hard to over look us because this time, fearing possible hostility, I asked everyone to sit together, and try to stay together this time, as opposed to having asked them to mingle at the last event.

We all sat together in the top to middle bleachers. It looked like a "colored only" section! When a few whites, sat next to us we wondered if they knew this was a segregated section. Except for Johnny Horne and his wife, and a couple we never saw before, this is where the "coloreds" sat. Because our presence was so obvious, this apparently made Congressman Wamp even more nervous. It certainly made a liar out of those who had said, we didn't have any members. But our increased presence didn't warrant a welcome, which led us to take that as an unwelcome. Rather than get upset, I joked and told the Caucus members, "That's okay if he ignores us! Let's just eat his food and be happy little colored Republicans". To that I added, "...And make sure this time, we all fix plates and sneak them out the door! Oh...and don't forget the Mayfield's ice cream!"

All during the picnic, we joked with each other about this. They were brave to have endured this, because I was brave. However nothing was funny about the insult, and the way in which we were being treated. But when you have to endure as much racism as we have had to endure as a race, you realize that sometimes you just have to laugh at racist ignorant white folks, rather than get upset about it. There certainly was plenty enough of them within the Wamp-Smith camp to deal with! For them, no matter what we did, or how many of us who showed up, we just were not going to be welcomed and accepted.

Because of what had happened at the Wamp Picnic, by the time the day came around for me to speak at Pachyderms, none of our caucus members wanted to come, and I didn't blame them. We only had seven or eight to show up. But even that was a crowd in comparison to the "one" they normally had.

I saw from these and many other stories like it, that fear is a very powerful weapon. It was the fear of people of color which caused both those who were racist as well as those who wanted to protect their political turfs, not to want us in the party. But also it was the fear of those who were in power or who had money connections that kept the good white Republicans from standing up, speaking out and saying this was wrong.

It was back in the early 2000s that I learned just how powerful fear is. So powerful that it can enslave, when there is a fear of what to do with us within the Republican Party as we grew in numbers. Powerful enough to build fortified Republican white walls of silence that excludes the very race from which the Republican Party was birthed, and claims it seeks to recruit.

Powerful enough to cause even good people to compromise their integrity and turn their heads to wrong, choosing to remain silent.

I guess that is why neither the membership of the NRAAC, nor I walk in this kind of silencing fear.

To reach the NRAAC national chair:

Jean Howard-Hill
NRAAC office

[Dr. Jean Howard-Hill is the author of Black Eyes Shut, White Lips Sealed. She has serves as the national chair for the National Black Republican Women with her late husband, Attorney Bobby Lee Hill serving as the head of the Black Republican Men for Change from 1987 to his death in 1991. After his death up until 1993, she remained head of the organization, and in 1999 combined the two groups to form the National Republican African American Caucus. She has taught full time and as an adjunct, American Government, State and Local Government, and International Politics and Culture of Nonwestern Countries at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and was voted 2006 Outstanding Professor of the year. Additionally, from 1976 to 1979, she designed and directed the "Democracy In Action" Program, which was a civics program taught in the local school systems. Howard-Hill also is a local political commentator and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law. She also is ordained clergy and heads The Healing Place Ministries International, overseeing 47 ministries throughout Africa.

She also is a TN third district congressional candidate. If elected, she would be the first African American Republican and female to be elected from the third district. Her campaign website can be found at: and;;;;; JHHCongress.]

The National Republican African-American Caucus is an organization that is comprised of Spirit filled people of faith within the African American community, that works in conjunction with local, state and national party efforts to embrace, and offer African-American Republicans opportunities for inclusion and involvement in the Republican Party, and builds bridges between the African-American community and the Republican Party. In doing so, it seeks to carry out the philosophy and mission set before President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas to build a stronger and more inclusive Republican Party, where those guiding principles are more important than politics.

More information on the NRAACcan be found at:; [NRAAC] National Republican African American Caucus Social Issue Network (members only); [NRAAC Blog]; [NRAAC Youth on the Horizons Blog]; [NRAAC New Generation-New Direction Blog]; and [NRAAC National Chair's Blog]. Each State Caucus can be accessed by state. See related links at Also can be found on the RNC group page at

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