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There's No Better Time Than Now to Be a Black Republican

September 17, 2000|CARLTON T. PEARSON | Bishop Carlton T. Pearson is the founder and pastor of Higher Dimensions, a multiracial church in Tulsa, Okla. He is the author of "Is There a Man in the House?" (Treasure House, 1999)

For as long as I can remember, both sides of my family have been registered voters with the Democratic Party and unquestionably--and often without thinking--voted the Democratic ticket.

But when Ronald Reagan was running for president in 1980--primarily because of his emphasis on moral and ethical integrity, and his conspicuous embrace of conservative concerns regarding faith in God and the church, I changed parties and voted Republican. I have done so ever since.

For the first several years after changing party affiliations, I was a "closet Republican," primarily because Republicans and their party platform have been considered the enemy of African Americans and other minorities. The Democratic leadership knows that, for the most part, they have our vote, so they don't necessarily have to listen to us, and in many cases they don't. In my opinion, the "one-party system" for African Americans has been our curse.

When I saw Vice President Al Gore pandering to the NAACP crowd, even emulating the stereotypical oratory of African American preachers, my stomach turned. He and his liberal Democratic cronies assumed that if they played the music right, we'd dance to their tune. I was insulted by his presumption and disappointed by our gullibility. I wonder if Lee Alcorn, who resigned as president of the Dallas chapter of the NAACP after making anti-Semitic remarks about Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, would have been denounced as he was if Lieberman had been a Republican.

Yet while the majority of African American leaders have career commitments to the Democrats, there is a small but growing number of black urban professionals ("buppies") who are reconsidering the long- and short-term benefits of our carte blanche commitment to the party's liberal agenda. Within the African American community, there are some definite conservative instincts and inclinations. To those people, I would say: It's all right to be black and Republican.

African Americans are making more money, seizing more opportunities and accessing more power and influence than ever before. We've never before realized the powerful advantages of a capitalistic society. But after decades of strong, forceful and consistent civil rights activism and the continuing influence of the powerful and prophetic dreams of Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans--particularly the baby boom generation--are beginning to experience different options and political dispositions.

Some high-profile African American commentators have denounced the Republican Party's attempt to include minorities in their convention, accusing them of "tokenistic" motives and of "air-brushing" their underlying disdain for interests that serve the African American needs and concerns. I agree with Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, however, when he says that it was time for the party to start showing minorities that the GOP is becoming a "different party for a different time." Sure, there were more minorities on the Republican National Convention stage than among the delegates on the floor, but you have to start somewhere. How could there be more minorities on the floor until there are minorities on the stage with whom they can identify? It is far more effective to address African American concerns from within the party than from outside it. Gen. Colin Powell had much greater impact and influence on issues such as affirmative action and broadening the appeal to minority concerns during the Republican convention in Philadelphia than he would have had during the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

As African Americans, let's leverage our political options by removing the unspoken taboos associated with party affiliation. I think George W. Bush could be a powerful catalyst for change. This could be a great new start for the two-party system, especially as it relates to people of color. There is no better time to be a black Republican than now.

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