by James Dunn
Now-retired long time Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow once wrote a column that said (I paraphrase), “Look around at your four best friends; that is you.” This column had a profound effect on me because I thought deeply about what it was saying. I looked around me at the way we live our lives. On Sundays Blacks largely go to Black churches, whites go to white churches. In Dallas Blacks largely live on one side of town and whites another. Gays have their own large neighborhood that they call the “Gayborhood,” the Oak Lawn. A large Asian population lives in a Dallas suburb, Richardson. We largely gravitate to those like us.
Four Kansas state law makers recently defected from the Republican Party to the Democrats. One of the lawmakers, State Senator Dinah Sykes, said of her defection, “If I’m not re-elected, that’s O. K., but I did what I felt was right.”
This brings me to the strange cases Tim Scott, William Ballard Hurd, and Mia Love. These are all Black people who ran as Republicans in the last congressional elections. My question is why they felt that they were invited to the party?
In 1996, I was a delegate to the Republican State Convention as a Pat Buchanan delegate. Buchanan had won some Republican primaries and he had promised not to sign NAFTA into law. I feared that NAFTA would take manufacturing jobs out of this country. Both the Democratic nominee, Bill Clinton, and the eventual republican nominee, Bob Dole, had promised to back NAFTA. What were poor, unskilled Black people going to do when good jobs left for Mexico, I lamented. Well, Clinton won and the Black prison population exploded after he signed NAFTA. The prison population quadrupled when Bill Clinton was president. Black mass incarceration became an epidemic.
You see, I had a dog in this fight.
My father had been born in 1911. He had never learned to read or write. He had been born only 46 years after Texas slaves had been informed of their freedom. He had been able to find a really good job at General Portland Cement Plant, where he worked for 40 years. We lived in a neighborhood where, according to a 1992 Dallas Morning News article, more Blacks had at least one college degree than any other neighborhood in Dallas. Our neighbors consisted mostly of teachers, registered nurses, police persons and others involved in government bureaucracy. We lived a very middle class life. I worried that the ability to live a middle class lifestyle would be largely closed to Blacks when the factories left, I was prescient. Thus, the incarceration explosion.
So, that explains my foray into the Republican Party. After the election I returned to the Democratic Party and served as a delegate for them up until 2004. But what explains Blacks in the Republican Party now? The Republican Party has proved to be a party where we are not welcome. Even thinking Republicans are leaving the party in droves as have the four congress people in Kansas. So, why do the elected Black congress people remain? Do they hate themselves? Us?
Look around at your four best friends; that is you.
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