NRAAC's National Chair Dr. Jean Howard-Hill
Dr. Hill is also a contributor to David Frum's Forum at http://www.frumforum.com
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"Is it racism? We think not. Most white Republicans are afraid to speak out too much about Steele's mess-ups, simply because they fear being labeled as racists. Even Steele throughout his tenure as RNC chair has avoided both the mentioning and the dealing with issues of racism within our Grand Ole Party. So to use it at this juncture, merely would be just another mess-up."
Not many are wanting to have this discussion and many are avoiding it. However, in the wind is the rumor that there are those who wish to make the ending of RNC Chair Michael Steele's tenure as being racist.
Is it racism? We think not.
Most white Republicans are afraid to speak out too much about Steele's mess-ups, simply because they fear being labeled as racists. But Steele's demise has little to do with race. Aside the July 2010, calling the Afghanistan war a largely un-winnable conflict of President Obama's choosing, which drew criticism and urging he step down by those within our own party, (including two prominent GOP Senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham), Steele's problems mainly resulted from his lack of stewardship over the RNC's coffer. It was his spending! The very thing he pointed a finger at the other party for doing, he found himself doing.
When Steele took the chairmanship in 2009, the RNC had a $23 million surplus, which was quickly spent. In March 2010, he brought embarrassment to the party after reports of the RNC's lavish spending spree that included $17,000 for private jet travel, $13,000 for limousines and car services, $9,000 for a trip to the Beverly Hills hotel and a nearly $2,000 fundraiser at RNC's expense at Voyeur West Hollywood, a risque strip joint.
Then heading into the November 2010 midterm election, was his failure to raise more than the DNC with them topping the RNC by $15 million in fundraising. Of the $79 million RNC did raise, he managed to spent all of it. By September 2010, the RNC had about $3.4 million in cash on hand and $4.6 million in debt, which prompted the RNC to take out a $2.5 million loan in September.
The RNC suffered further embarrassment with third-party groups, such as the Tea Party that were able to raise in a few months, almost as much as the RNC has since January 2009.
We also cannot omit the criticism of Steele spending too much time vying for a book deal or a spot as a commentator or his own television gig.
None of these mess-ups seem to point to racism - not as we define it. Even Steele throughout his tenure as RNC chair has avoided both the mentioning and the dealing with issues of racism within our Grand Ole Party. So to use it at this juncture, merely would be just another mess-up.
A review of Steele's record in bringing the GOP closer to looking like a party of racial inclusion is certainly lacking to say the least.
As a national African American Republican organization, we cannot help but recap the two year tenure of Steele with disappointment. We were pleased to see him be the first African American to take the helm of the party. This gave us hope for further minority inclusion within the ranks of the Republican Party. However, during his tenure, with much regret, we have very little to report as to any substantial difference in reaching out to minorities. In fact, over the past two years, as a Caucus with its primary goals to attract those of color to the Republican Party, it has been extremely painful to endure the failures of the Steele leadership and administration to reach out to us or even respond to us reaching out to it.
Having known personally Steele since 2001 when the Bush White House had me make his acquaintance, as the NRAAC national chair, I was thrilled and filled with high hopes and great expectations that with him at the helm, we would see a better and more inclusive GOP. Unfortunately that did not happen. Instead, many veteran African American GOP'ers have felt even more alienated, ignored and denied access than ever by the Republican Party leadership. Yet most of us have hung in there, although we were among the first to see the handwriting on the wall, and the hand as it began to write the warning to Steele.
We knew things were destined to become problematic when fresh out of the stall, Steele suffered from a strange politically expedient disease of alienating himself from us and ignoring those of us he once shared minority fellowship. That was the beginning of the handwritings on the wall, which read, "Michael do not forget where you came from, because you might have to return to us someday". The problem is - Steele failed to see or read it. Or maybe he did, but chose to just ignore it.
Despite Steele's moving story of how he went from inner-city poverty to political stardom, we have found him to be less convincing in his role as leading man, once he reached the helm of the GOP. In fact, he has shown very little commitment and almost non-existing efforts to bring minority presence and participation to the party. It seemed it was enough to have him be the lone star with only a few of us coming close to getting back row tickets to his two year GOP performance.
It has been almost two years to the date and the NRAAC is still waiting for an appointment to meet with and work with our RNC chair, Michael Steele, regarding minority recruitment or for him to return a call or answer letters and cards to him. That says a lot about his commitment and the value he placed on minority recruitment and involvement during his past two year term of office.
I am even sure there are some good white Republicans who also are disappointed at his failure in this area as well.
So now to hear wind of a few of "us" who dare step up and paint a version of his leadership as being so worthy of a second term is very interesting. But if you follow those who step forward, it is easy to understand why. Perhaps they are among those who hustled for the few back row tickets to the Steele performance, with a little something for the something. Maybe?
It may be too late for Michael Steele to reinvent or refine himself. But here's a word of wisdom to the GOP as they seek his replacement. NEVER again seek a GOP leader of color, just because the other party and the nation have elected a Black president. Do it because it is right and the choice is based upon that person being capable and ready to move into this position on his or her own merits. We are not wanting to be mere tokens on display. But rather, active participants who despite what is going on at the polls or within the rival party, we are seen as solid, capable, and valued American Republicans who have earned a meaningful place within the party.
My advice to Steele? The next time you get to the Promise Land or think you have "overcome", do what is right! Because you never know where you might land.
[Dr. Jean Howard-Hill is the author of Black Eyes Shut, White Lips Sealed. She has served 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.
Outside of her role as the National Republican African American Caucus [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 Faces 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. In 2010, she received the Girl's Inc., Unbought and Unbossed Award.
She has taught full time and as an adjunct, American Government, State and Local Government, and International Politics and Culture of Non-western Countries at the University of Tennessee at 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 and national political commentator. She holds a doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, College of Law and is working on a Doctorate of Philosophy in Social Research from Oxford Graduate School. She also is ordained clergy and heads The Healing Place Ministries International, overseeing 47 ministries throughout Africa.]
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