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Traditionally White Sorority Zeta Tau Alpha Pulls Shocking Upset. 

The ladies of Zeta Tau Alpha – Epsilon chapter at the University of Arkansas rocked and shocked the crowd during the Sprite 2010 Step-Off  Finals in Atlanta on Feb. 20th. The blogosphere is full of haterade over their shocker win.  Stepping and step competition is a long standing cultural tradition within black Greek organizaitons with roots deep in African American culture.  So it was a shock to the system to see the sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha, a traditionally and predominantly white sorority, bring a tight routine to the stage and rock it pretty decent. Now, black folk are mad but wait a minute, its a step COMPETITION. So I’m moved to ask “What? White sorority girls ain’t allowed to win?

The anger at this win is running hot and heavy in many sectors of the net with some alleging that ZTA won based on novelty value, others stating flatly that they were not as good as the 2nd place team (AKA Tau chapter, Hoosier women hailing from right here in Indiana at IU Bloomington). Others have said they won because of Sprite/MTV rating manipulation or simply because the judges were influenced that they got more “house” than the other teams did.  Some folks who were on the scene for the competition say ZTA broke the rules with the rump shaker moves at the end of their routine and should have been penalized.

I’ve watched the routine several times from a variety of You Tube generated vantage points and I’ve watched the other routines.  ZTA was good. They weren’t perfect.  They got a lot of house from the crowd, perhaps a fair bit more than the other teams and that was certainly due in part to the fact that they were white and doing something a white sorority was assumed incapable of.  But for me, the bottomline was that their routine was a whole lot of fundamentals. A lot of step action, very little dancing or playacting and short transitions without long pauses.  They were in motion nearly the entire routine. At the end of the day, ZTA won with a little bit of novelty and a whole lot of heart and hard work.  They brought it as hard as they knew how and it was enough to win.

They took home $100,000. The crowd and now the rest of us, took home a whole lot of angst. Here is the team that the judges awarded second place.  You can judge for yourself. Bear in mind that for both, the angle is not the best.

Around the net, here were common themes and my reaction:

Stepping is Ours, Now White People Want That Too?
I am so sick of our culture getting raped and we can never have anything to have self respect of our culture and pride….Kingsley –

Black folk didn’t lose something because a white sorority chapter learned to step. Their win doesn’t elevate to a rape of black culture just because they won $100k doing something that traditionally has been a cultural domain of black America. On a more objective level, its not true. This is a southern chapter of ZTA based at the University of Arkansas, so for their entire history as a chapter, they have been surrounded by the cultural practice of stepping. Why be surprised that they took it up. This chapter has been stepping for 15 years according to some reports. I would be very surprised to find that stepping is a part of ZTA sorority culture outside their southern chapters. The reality is that stepping remains very much a part of the cultural DNA of black folk. Nobody came and violated us to take stepping away, we freely displayed and spread it, indeed taught it to ZTA at some point. To say now that we are diminished by their emulation of us is simply foolish and misapprehends the value of our cultural capital.

They Won Because of the Novelty Factor
I was there, and while the ZTA’s did do an excellent job, the Tau Chapter AKA’s definitely did better. What put them over the top for the win was shock value which garnered crowd participation. The crowd went wild when they saw they were white. Bailey – The Smoking Section

This basically boils down to the argument that they had an unfair advantage because they had a gimmick: they were white.  Guess what? That’s true.  They were white and that made them interesting out the gate. The fact that they actually knew what they were doing however is what took them to the next level.  The novelty would have meant nothing if they could not actually step. The novelty was an early hook, it got you to pay attention. After that, it was all hard work and showmanship, the best way they knew how. Crowd appeal is a component that affects judges scoring and Zeta Tau Alpha had that. Its called showmanship. The fact that they (ZTA) all looked alike in appearance and body type generally also gave the “illusion” of higher levels of precision and so on.They worked with what they had.

My personal favorite – Conspiracy! It Was Fixed by Sprite for the Ratings
they definitely won for ratings, which obviously worked; its all over the media.  Bailey – The Smoking Section

This last one is so stupid you can only laugh. They got a standing O from a black crowd in a competition filled with black teams and with all black judges. But the fix was in. This line of thinking was apparently being spun by some judges from the competition on Atlanta radio, some stating they gave TAU a perfect score, and questioning what may have happened.

Bottom line: the contest result here upended everybody’s cart of assumed understandings about who can step, who should step and how we interpret this cultural activity when people traditionally not a participant in it get involved.

Update:  Holy mackerel! Sprite announces on their Facebook page that they have discovered a “scoring discrepancy” that can’t be resolved and to preserve the “integrity” of the competition, they are naming AKA TAU chapter as co-winners of the competition.  The ladies of Indiana’s TAU chapter will now also pick up $100,000 as well.  I’m happy for the AKA sorors because they can use the money I’m sure.  It makes Sprite look pretty lame though, caving in to all this pressure and lends credence (in some minds) to the conspiracy theory.  Pooly played Sprite, poorly played.

Takeaways from this debacle:

Black Greeks: Stepping is traditionally, historically, culturally your territory and domain, but don’t let cultural arrogance allow you to take your eye off the ball in a step competition.  As ZTA has now clearly demonstrated, you don’t have to be black to step with some level of proficiency. You are all on notice, you can get hosed by a white, yellow, brown or something in between step team on any given day if you’re not paying attention.  We invented the game, now raise it.

White Greeks: The novelty factor will only provide an edge once and this was it. From here on out, you’re going to have to bring it hard and with authority. Given the controversy surrounding the ZTA win, you may even have to be twice as good as the black greek teams in the field to get the win, because now black greek teams will be checking for you.  ZTA did a good job, but their performance was not error free. Future white greeks entering the arena won’t have the surprise factor ZTA did to help cover their mistakes. We’re all clear now; white greeks can step if they put their mind to it. You want to compete in this cultural tradition owned by the black greek community, respect it by bringing your A game.

Sprite: Raise the level of your game with the Step-Off competition. First, make sure the rules of competition are clear and fair. Some transparency about the rules and the judging criteria would have helped you immensely in this mess. Clean that up.   Second, make sure you have judges that have some background relative to stepping. Celebrity judges are cool, but you need to balance them with other judges who command credibility (like some stepping experts)  to avoid this kind of controversy in the future.

Now,  the reaction to this has been silly, but for those of my brothers and sisters who just really can’t get past a white step team taking the top prize, you can be consoled in the knowledge that the competition passed out over a $1.5 million in scholarship and prize money and the vast bulk of it went to worthy recipients from black greek organizations, with the exception of the $100k to ZTA. If that doesn’t get you there, you can further console yourself with the knowledge that at least one of those ladies appears to have been a very fair sista who led this team in competition and taught them the moves (look for the one who’s dance moves look particularly competent, practiced and natural…).  Feel better now?

Thats my take on this controversy. Whats yours?

Blacks weigh in on Harry Reid’s racial comments / The Christian Science Monitor –

So Washington is abuzz with the latest piece of red meat for politicians and associated operators to gnaw at, the simultaneously awkwardly phrased, stereotypical yet oddly insightful comments by Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. In their new book, “Game Change,” journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann expose remarks Mr. Reid made in an interview about Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. Mr. Reid is quoted as saying that he believed the nation was ready to elect a “light-skinned” black man “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Race hustler Ward Connerly is one of the voices of outrage from conservatives. it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the spirit of forgiveness is universal—except when it comes to conservatives.”

Conservatives charge there is a double standard, case in point, the experience of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who made remarks praising Strom Thurmond in 2002. Mr. Lott said of the segregationist: “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we [Mississippians] voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years either.” Lott was forced to step down in the aftermath.

I’m sorry to break it to you guys, but there is no double standard here at all. In fact, quite to the contrary, I would argue that the condemnation conservatives get for verbal malfunctions like this, at least from the black community, is entirely logical and consistent.  Furthermore, its not complicated and when conservatives behave as though they don’t understand it, it annoys me.

Let me break it down for you.  Why is it that Harry Reid can make a comment like that and largely get a pass from black folks while conservatives get branded with the “Raaciisst” label for similar verbal vomit? Simple:  

Harry Reid belongs to a party that behaves like it gives a damn about black voters!

I wish conservatives would stop behaving as though this is incomprehensible rocket science. I’ve said numerous times before:  the GOP does not consider blacks to be a political constituency necessary or essential to its aspirations for governance and the party, from rank and file to its leadership, behaves accordingly.  I’ve repeated that many times here at the Season, but maybe I’m falling into that pesky “Negro dialect” thing Reid was talking about and its making me hard to understand.  Why don’t I let our illustrious chairman Michael Steele explain it to you:

Q: Why do you think so few nonwhite Americans support the Republican Party right now?
A: “Cause we have offered them nothing! And the impression we’ve created is that we don’t give a damn about them or we just outright don’t like them. And that’s not a healthy thing for a political party. I think the way we’ve talked about immigration, the way we’ve talked about some of the issues that are important to African-Americans, like affirmative action… I mean, you know, having an absolute holier-than-thou attitude about something that’s important to a particular community doesn’t engender confidence in your leadership by that community—or consideration of you for office or other things—because you’ve already given off the vibe that you don’t care.” –GQ Magazine March 2009

So the next time a conservative makes a racial verbal bellyflop and gets tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail while your neighborhood liberal democrat gets a playful slap on the wrist and a pass and you don’t understand, just return here and let our chairman explain it to you.

This was just a lot of fun arguing about. Remember back during the campaign when Cornel West got cheesed off at Obama for not going to the King celebrations in Memphis? Well, Mo’Kelly posted on the subject, as did I and I stopped through his blog to comment on it, as that whole incident really frosted my cake. Someone visited the blog from a permalink at that post recently and I reread the debate I had with Mo’Kelly. It was a lot of fun. Read the exchange and at the end, leave your vote in the comments on who you think wins the argument. Flashback.

Political Season

West and Tavis both work my nerves with this kind of “blackness” testing. Obama is busy running a campaign for the nation’s highest office. While it certainly would have been nice if Obama could have attended, that he did not go does not change or affect a damn thing of consequence in the lives of black people.

Tavis and West’s reaction is no different than the people jumping on Obama for Wright’s comments. Its the same logic. So what would they have us believe? That Obama don’t care about black folks because he passed on the King events? Is that what we are going to be doing to the brother from here out, jumping in his grill every time he doesn’t show up for some purely symbolic stuff and claim he is distancing himself from black folk for political reasons? Because he doesn’t come and genuflect at some civil rights icon as the West and Tavis think he should? Its bull.

Obama has got to take care of business. King is dead and he gon stay dead whether Obama came to lay a wreath or not. Stop hating on the brother over BS that is less important than the herculean task he is trying to accomplish.

If Obama becomes president, I’ll appreciate it if he shows up for every negro dinner, event and awards show, that will be real nice. But if he never goes to a one, but spends his time being a damn good president and taking care of business in a way that means I as a citizen can take care of business, I will be perfectly fine with that.

As Dyson said at the SOBU, stop hatin on Negroes!

The Mo’Kelly Report said…

Here’s a thought…and I’m not trying to “start anything”…but what if Dyson was one of the leaders that Tavis alluded to in his commentary who privately chastised Obama but publicly gave him a free pass (Dyson was in Memphis)…would that change your thought?

Again, this is hypothetical. I wasn’t in any of these conversations and in no way am I suggesting that Dr. Michael Eric Dyson had anything negative to say about Senator Obama. I just thought given your end quote and thus your willingness to take “some” comments of Black leaders to heart on these issues…what would you say if Dyson (and/or others) echoed Dr. West’s sentiment? Is Dyson, West and Smiley ONLY good enough to listen to when he/they echo your opinions?

Remember, this sentiment was first uttered by Dr. West, a HUGE Obama supporter…someone who still campaigns for him. Tavis’ commentary asks the question of whether Obama will get a blank check free pass from Black folks on all such issues. Tavis didn’t raise this issue…Dr. West did.

Many people feel Tavis is hypercritical of Senator Obama. But this really isn’t emanating from Tavis…it’s from Dr. West, a campaign surrogate. Should it be then be dismissed as easily?

Something to consider…

Political Season said

An emphatic yes, it should be dismissed. Whether Obama shows up in Memphis is not critical in any way, shape or form to the issues facing black people. It would have been nice for him to go, but whether he was there or not doesn’t matter in the big scheme of life. And that is true whether its Cornel West or Tavis making the complaint.

As I read it, they are complaining that Obama is trying to put distance between himself and race issues, coming off the J.Wright controversy. Lets assume they are correct. SO WHAT!? Obama is trying to win an election, one in which he has to overcome the political impediment of being black. If he were running to be president of black america, then I would say it mattered, but he’s not. He’s running for POTUS. He’s got to juggle and manage the impact of racial dynamics on his campaign, like it or not.

This idiotic idea that he must put his blackness front and center every damn day as apparently West and Tavis want to advance is just plain stupid. First off, the brother can’t escape the race perceptions of his actions and never will. That goes for white people and black people. Second, just because he is currently the most prominent black man in America and poised to make history does not mean that he has to sign on for every symbolic black event or thing in order to demonstrate his negro bona fides again and again.

He’s got to get the damn job. Tavis and West bitching because he didn’t come to the cultural equivalent of a really big Negro chicken dinner is just frikkin stupid. These are the same guys who sat around at the SOBU talking up and down about accountability. Is this the kind of BS they want to hold him accountable for, that he didn’t come to the big Negro chicken dinner? When they talked about accountability, I thought we was talking about polices and practices, the rule of law, educational investments, stuff like that. But it seems like what they want to hold him accountable for is proving his blackness by genuflecting before the sacred cows of the civil rights establishment. Thats the kind of BS thinking that produces a moribund NAACP that doesn’t get why representing racists at Dunbar Village is wrong, or an Urban League that puts out a compact with America thats little more than a wishlist of government programs that says squat about what black people will do to solve their problems.

This brother is playing for the history books and their big accountability, finger wagging, stern voice of disapproval is because he didn’t come to the big chicken dinner? Thats house negro thinking and they should both get their heads out of their ass.

The Mo’Kelly Report said…

OK, Aaron…let’s go one step further. I’m clear on what you feel is essentially “unimportant” (paraphrasing you) in the grand scheme of things.

My next question would be this…where is the line. At what point (if any) does Obama manage to offend your sensibilities in terms of his allegiance to African-Americans (who support him 80%)?

If 80% of the unions supported Obama, you can bet Obama would have to answer to them and those most prominent in the unions. If 80% of the Latinos…etc. etc.

At what point is it reasonable to expect, ask or require Obama to come to the table SPECIFICALLY for African-Americans since we support him at a rate FAR surpassing any other ethnicity or specific interest group.

We’ve made it clear we have an “invested” interest in him. What is so wrong about Tavis (or Dr. West) or others saying in effect…we’ve invested in you…but let’s be sure you’re invested in us?

In other words, “at what cost” are you willing to get Obama into the White House? And be mindful, the more you are willing to sacrifice, the more you prove Tavis’ point.

Also, how confident are you that Obama (if elected) will THEN do the things that so many of us as Black folks would “like” him to do? We hear the argument “he has to play the game to win.” OK, but what about after he wins? Some say, he’s not gonna be any MORE in our corner after he wins…if he hasn’t had to ALONG THE WAY to winning.

Remember, I’m an Obama supporter. We can’t be so blinded with wanting this man to become president that we forsake our core values and core issues in the process. Because if we do now…they won’t be addressed later, and it will be too late.

Political Season said…

Mo, you ask some good questions and here are what I think are some good answers….

At what point (if any) does Obama manage to offend your sensibilities in terms of his allegiance to African-Americans.

I blog around the topic of black accountability, its an issue I care about. Obama is going to offend my sensibilities when he knowingly does something harmful to the african american community and when that happens, I’ll be among the first to call him on it.

“at what cost” are you willing to get Obama into the White House?

Well, if his non-attendance at the King commemoration or the SOBU earlier this year are examples of “costs” to get him elected, I’ll pay those costs all day, every day. That stuff is completely irrelevant to solving real problems faced by real people. Black intellectuals opining or genuflecting at the tomb of fallen heroes does not reduce poverty, crime in our streets, create jobs, safeguard the country or anything else relevant to the day to life of black people. In my view, such things are not costs at all, and its that kind of focus on symbolism over substance among black thought and opinion leaders that explains the moribund, ineffective dithering of the organizations which make up the civil rights industrial complex. For crying out loud, he is trying to become LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD and they are bitching because he didn’t come lay a wreath and lament King’s passing in Memphis? WTF! Lord save me from such nattering nabobs missing the forest for the grass. He spoke to the King legacy that day in PA, IN or wherever he was. In case somebody missed it, Barack don’t have a problem getting an audience. Tavis and Cornel both of late have worked my nerves with an attitude that says that your “black” commitment is suspect unless you demonstrate it at the times and places they deem important. Don’t come to the SOBU? Get your black card pulled…don’t come to the King event, get your black card pulled and your integrity, blackness and motives questioned. Its bullshit.

What is so wrong about Tavis (or Dr. West) or others saying in effect…we’ve invested in you…but let’s be sure you’re invested in us?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with them or others saying that. But for cats that are intellectuals, thought and opinion leaders, if you are going to call the brother on the carpet and question his black commitment, I expect it to be over a substantive issue, not he didn’t show up to a symbolic Negro dinner event when he is clearly busy with other serious stuff and the world ain’t gon come to an end cause he couldn’t make it. Dunbar Village is just as F’ed up today as it was on King day and the day before. Didn’t nothing change because they went to Memphis. Ain’t nothing magical about Obama going or not going. He’s da man, its nice if he can come, but I understand if he don’t, cause he is a little busy TRYING TO MAKE SOME BLACK HISTORY, while these guys are in Memphis reliving it. His blackness is an implicit and explicit fact of his being that cannot be evaded or hidden. He is who he is. I don’t need him to reassure me of that by attendance at symbolic Negro dinners.

how confident are you that Obama (if elected) will THEN do the things that so many of us as Black folks would “like” him to do?

I don’t need him to be the black president. I need him to be The President and do the job. And lets be for real right now. Barack is going to do or not do stuff that is going to be ticking off black people and in particular folk like West and Tavis who can be as race focused as a Jesse or Sharpton. I’m a conservative. Government is not the answer to our problems, and I already got a Savior, Obama need not apply. I don’t need him to become President and try to solve every black problem with government solutions. We black folk should want the man to just be a damn good president. How he does that will be informed by his blackness and he is already sensitized to our issues, which does not guarantee he will do what various black folk will want, but should mean we always get a hearing.

At the SOBU, Dyson talked about accountability and to me that means we expect him to do the job and lead the country in the right direction. Not a black direction, the right direction. I support him, but politically, I’m very far apart from the guy. We don’t agree on social issues and I think he is a tax and spend, big government liberal. His views are quite left wing. But I plan to hold him accountable. That means, he want to raise taxes on me, I’m gonna oppose that. That means he want to start a stupid big government program or something thats a bad idea, I’m gonna oppose that. It also means when he wants to do something that makes sense, I’m gonna support that.

It doesn’t mean, and I pledge right now, that I’m gonna bitch when he don’t show for a Negro dinner or don’t do some other symbolic, feel good BS. I already know he is black. I don’t need that. We don’t need that. We need somebody to run the damn country right and that’s the only thing I require of the man. If he handle his business, I can handle the Negro dinners myself.

The Mo’Kelly Report said…

No, I wasn’t directly comparing Obama to Bush in terms of lack of empathy for Black people, but I was making the point that seemingly “minor” actions matter.

I agree, Black folks are catching hell on a variety of levels, and that isn’t something I think anyone who cares about Black people would debate.

But we as a people are ones who can walk and chew gum at the same time…meaning, the minor issues don’t necessarily have to be pushed aside because major ones exist.

It’s a contradiction I would say. On one hand you argue that the whole “King thing” is minor, but at the same time, don’t concede that if it is truly “minor” then all the more reason for him to acknowledge it in the way that most of America chose to acknowledge it. Not just Black people…most of America.

The point Dr. West was in part trying to make was that King superseded any particular race of people and what he embodied was so much more important than any race for any office.

That was over and above and separate from the superficial connections of race or color. This is not a “lapel pin” discussion. We aren’t talking about an empty expression of “patriotism” to Black America. Dr. West was saying, it was the least you could do…”should” do even, given at one moment you’re “conscious” and spend 30 minutes on CNN talking about race only.

I think it’s disingenuous to pigeon hole or trivialize the concerns of Tavis and Dr. West as only “Black” concerns. There are some core issues which disproportionately affect African-Americans, and many times they are wrongly termed as “Black issues.”

As the presidential season moves forward, the discussion for many in the Black community is (or should be) making sure that Barack is in concert with the concerns of the community on issues such as education, healthcare, the future of Affirmative Action (two major ballot initiatives in November) and urban renewal/crime.

It’s not to be oversimplified as “this Black man needs to talk about ‘The Man’ more and do more for Black folks”…not that at all.

This is where I disagree with your “Negro Chicken Dinners” analogy.

It’s about making sure that in a consciousness sense, Barack (or any other candidate for that matter) understands the direct connection between policy and Black people’s predicament.

The philosophical component to this debate is that in theory, if Obama doesn’t hold the things dear to his heart that an overwhelming (not all, but a majority) portion of African-Americans already do…it calls into question whether the policy-related decisions in the future will also be incongruous.

The same argument is made about McCain in terms of his one-time reluctance previously to sign the King holiday into law and his views on continuing the war in Iraq presently. McCain has not been and is not in step with the core issues of African-Americans and does not care about the same types of things that the majority of Black folks do. And no, I’m not comparing Obama to McCain…but I am saying this is my estimation of the thought process behind West and Smiley and their critique of Obama’s actions. West and Smiley ask the question in effect…is Obama in step with our core issues? Or at the minimum, acknowledge those moments when he isn’t.

It’s a reasonable, practical and intelligent approach. To respond with any argument about how close Obama is to the White House only proves their point.

That’s West’s point when he talks about the tension between truth and power. I get this feeling that we’re SO caught up in getting this man elected, that we won’t be honest enough with ourselves and each other to engage in a legitimate political debate. Not minutia, but legitimate political debate. King I would submit (dead or not) is not political minutia.

I posed some questions but here are MY answers. I do believe that Obama is in step with African-American core issues. And I do believe Obama “should” have been in Memphis. And I do think Dr. West and Tavis were right in expressing either their disappointment in his absence.

To shoot them down because they were disappointed in Barack is counterintuitive to this process. We shouldn’t just “shut up” because Barack is running for the White House. It’s all the reason to speak up even more. Or as they say, speak now or forever hold your peace. It’s not the job of West or Smiley to cheerlead for any candidate or remain silent in the process.

I want Barack Obama to become President of the United States, but not at the cost of disregarding the core issues which affect African-Americans. That’s my litmus test and he passes it. But it’s more than fair to remind folks we all need to have one, one other than wanting a first Black President.

We would never be this hyper-critical of criticism against in-house criticism of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or even John McCain…so why get bent out of shape when we hold Barack to the same standard?

If he’s truly presidential material, the scrutiny should be both welcome and reasonably dealt with. We need to stop “protecting” him unnecessarily. My confidence in him is such that we don’t need to mother him.

I want him to win the presidency the right way…not because of 80% blind support by African-Americans wanting a Black president.

Political Season said….

*Sigh* We see it differently.

it’s about making sure that in a consciousness sense, Barack (or any other candidate for that matter) understands the direct connection between policy and Black people’s predicament.

The philosophical component to this debate is that in theory, if Obama doesn’t hold the things dear to his heart that an overwhelming (not all, but a majority) portion of African-Americans already do…it calls into question whether the policy-related decisions in the future will also be incongruous.

Given the totality of the circumstances, his absence is no basis to challenge his black consciousness in any way shape or form based on the record before us. The man just gave the seminal speech on race in America, but his consciousness is in question because he chose not to attend but to focus on his campaign?

I didn’t go to Memphis, most of us didn’t, and we ain’t made no seminal speech on race lately either, or stand on the cusp of making some black history. Nobody is pulling our black card.

I want him to win the presidency the right way…not because of 80% blind support by African-Americans wanting a Black president.

The 80% or more of black folk supporting Barack are not doing it because he is black. He ain’t the first to run. Sharpton has run, we didn’t all vote for him. Barack is being supported by us because he is qualified, credible and bonus, he’s black.

Winning the right way should not mean that Barack is held to artificial standards of black “consciousness” based on the personal preferences of Tavis and West or whether he makes the proper slavish devotion to civil rights sacred cows.

If we are going to pull his black card, then pull it for something serious. Not because he passed on an event that has nothing but symbolic value. Symbols are fine, but we spend way too much time focused on symbolism and appearance, rather than substance and quality of result. My beef with Tavis and West is that they seem to think that these symbolic things have more importance than they really do. The SOBU is a nice event, but didn’t nothing change in the hood after it was over and they been doing it for 10 years. We can commemorate King every single year, but I don’t want to just do that in word, I want to do it in deed as well. And to question Barack’s commitment to his people because he chose to focus on the election rather than go to Memphis is an unfair, unbalanced, immature way to measure his commitment to his community or anybody else’s. Now if thats going to be the standard, then Tavis and West and all other prominent Negroes better have they ass in Memphis every year, or I’m calling them out as lacking in commitment.

Jeremiah Wright has had his entire life of service in ministry and to his country as a Marine boiled down to 60 seconds of video, and his patriotism, his heart and his character are all being questioned based on that 60 seconds of harsh criticism of America. What Tavis and West are doing in this instance to Obama is every bit as unfair and wrong. I think its beneath them and it lowers my opinion of their acumen and their judgment regarding the issues of the day.

So we see it differently Mo. And thats okay.


I’m an attorney by training, so its all about winning the argument with me. So leave your vote in the comments. Who won this debate?

I’ve blogged before about the racial chip that seems to exist on the shoulders of Michael Steele. You know, the one that manifests itself in the repeated use of “in da hood” slang in what I used to think was a half witted attempt to simultaneously keep it real with blacks and reassure whites that his election to RNC chair makes them hip and with it, but what I now believe is a manifestation of Steele’s anger at the way the GOP dismisses blacks as an unnecessary political constituency for engagement.

It began on the very day of his election, when asked what message he had for the president and he replied “how do you like me now?” It continued through a disappointing early Esquire magazine interview laced with profanity and reached a new low when he came to Indiana for the Young Republican election and encouraged minorities “ya’ll come. I got the fried chicken”.

You’ve heard me on this before: why in God’s name is a sixty something year old grown black man with a law degree from Georgetown finding it so hard to use the Queen’s English on the regular? I’d like to say Steele has eased off this really annoying bad habit, but alas, I cannot.

Steele and company at the RNC just rolled out the new GOP. com website, complete with video of a miniature talking Michael Steele welcoming you in. Among other things, the new site sports a blog written by Steele himself. What does he title it: WHAT UP. Yes, I kid you not.

This frosts my cookies on two fronts: #1. I can’t understand why he feels the need to remind people that he is black in this specific way, i.e., the use of slang and vernacular. It doesn’t contribute to him being better understood or to putting people at ease or anything like that in my view. I’ve concluded that he continues to do this for the psychic benefit of thumbing his blackness in the party’s eye, because he is angry (as he should be) at the way the GOP ignores blacks as a political constituency. This is the sort of passive aggressive way that he expresses that, since I guess he is simply not going to press his party to grow in this area. To be fair, he really can’t.

Its worth noting (and to his credit) that even a stalwart, solid conservative commentator like Ed Morrisey at Hot Air acknowledges this reality, even if he doesn’t acknowledge the scope of the fail. “the GOP has not put out much effort in talking sense to black voters and explaining conservative principles in the context of their lives. They should be focused on effective outreach, not slang-titled blogs that sound more patronizing than welcoming.”

#2. It makes my head want to explode because in addition to using annoying slang like this, its like half the slang. If you gonna title the blog this way, then you need to go all the way and call it “Was Up”, not “What Up”. I mean it sounds like a preppie nerd from an uppercrust private boarding school trying to emulate gangster behavior to say it like that. Just annoying, especially out of the mouth of an over 60, balding black man with a law degree from Georgetown.

After a mountain of justly deserved ridicule, Steele and company have renamed the blog “Change the Game”. Thats better

If you have not learned this lesson yet, learn it now. Cut the signifying Steele. Engage your party on the issue thats bugging you and stop this passive aggressive behavior. If you’re not going to make the party grapple with it and confront it, then just accept it and move on.

On a sadly periodic and almost predictably routine basis, the GOP give me reason to question why I bother to call myself a republican, albeit a reluctant one. Perhaps its simply my way of being contrarian, to provoke a conversation in my one man crusade to talk sense to black folk.

I think conservative principles are better as an underlying ideology for policy making. The GOP however are a sorry set of representatives for those principles. Especially when it comes to the party’s messaging to blacks. Party leadership and rank and file often posit the problem as one of communication, that the GOP message is just not getting properly received. I’m sorry, its more fundamental than that. The GOP , from rank and file to its leadership, seems increasingly, almost inexorably, drawn to political appeals crafted in a ways that are covertly and overtly hostile to blacks and other minorities.

Case in point, the recent election of Audra Shay as the head of the Young Republicans of America (which took place here in Indianapolis). Ms. Shay found her candidacy for the post embroiled in controversy after co-signing the racist comments of her face book friend Eric Piker, who referred to blacks in general as “coons”. When some other folks in her FB circle called out Piker for the reference and her for co-signing it, she banished them from her friends list, but kept Piker and his racial epithets in her circle. Hours later, after booting the people who criticized the racist talk, Piker was still a friend and making comments on her wall about how he was a southern boy and if you were black, the sun better not set on you in a southern town.
A lot of folks are calling Shay a racist. I’ve argued many times that the term has become useless for political discourse as its been so carelessly overused. I’m prepared to eschew tagging Shay with the racist label. In fact, its more instructive if we don’t. Because then the issue becomes more interesting to me, namely that I want to understand Ms. Shay’s behavior. Lets take her explanation at face value, that she was responding to his earlier comment, not the coon thing. At some point though, she saw it. Why did it take other people pointing it out before she said anything? Why did she boot the people who called it out instead of the author? In short, if no one had said anything, she would have been cool with that conversation. Why is that? What made any of it okay? Thats what I want an explanation about. Thats the explanation I want to hear from a person who is now leadership for the young republicans nationwide. Why are GOP rank and file so oblivious and tone deaf to this sort of thing? This incident was not subtle nor nuanced and Shay could not manage the right response.
The other case in point that to me is indicative of the attitude towards blacks within a significant portion of the GOP’s vocal and ascendant far right rank and file is the hot mess of despicable and derogatory commentary aimed at Malia Obama by posters at the blog Free Republic because she wore a shirt with a peace symbol on it during the trip to Russia. My fellow blogger in arms, Shay of Booker Rising took them to task for calling the 11-year-old things like “a typical street whore” and “ghetto street trash” after she wore a peace sign T-shirt in Italy (they also said U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama was doing “monkey chants” when she had a fun moment with Malia)”
The Freepers are decrying the criticism as planted comments from liberals, but thats a joke and its really pathetic of them to make the claim. Free Republic, like Redstate, also practices banning people who don’t share their point of view, a practice that would be defensible to the charge of cowardice but for the fact that both sites will ban you for the mildest of divergence from their particular brand of conservative orthodoxy as evidenced by the continuing string of Redstate refugees washing up on our shores here.

Another sign of the times in this regard is simply the quite casual way in which rank and file conservatives on the right will engage in commentary that is clearly rich with racially inflammatory language and feel as though its perfectly okay and justified I guess by the First Amendment and their general anger over the Obama administration’s outrages. Here’s an example from blogger and Twitter user Conservative Gal:

Pinkelephant_normal ConservativeGal
I received my stimulus package yesterday. It contained watermelon seeds, cornbread mix, & 10 coupons 2 KFC. The directions were in Spanish.
2 days ago from web

I responded to her about this tweet and said I thought it was foul and did not communicate goodwill and that got me hit with some name calling and plain old hostility, which is okay, this is the internet. But this sort of thing is again indicative of my broader point, that the GOP from rank and file on up, has not made a decision that blacks are a political constituency it is actually interested in having be a part of its coalition (or latinos for that matter). Conservative Gal’s response to me when I said this was foul was hostility. She didn’t stop and think about what she had said, whether or not it was cool, whether or not it would be considered racially offensive or inflammatory. Think of it in terms of the concept of Christian witness. If you’re a Christian, you are expected to witness Christ with your life and behavior, such that people who observe you will be drawn to Christ because they see Christ’s principles at work in your life. Well, likewise the GOP needs to consider its political witness. Would a person observing this behavior and rhetoric be drawn to your cause? This comment is a bad witness and worse, it was retweeted like mad all over the place.

Members of the GOP like Conservative Gal would do well to keep this idea of witness in mind. When leadership and rank and file GOP members use or cosign this kind of rhetoric so casually and attack people who call them on it, it communicates nothing but hostility and worse to blacks. I’m NOT saying Conservative Gal is a racist. She may have black friends (hell, even family), she may have nothing but wonderful interactions with blacks that she comes in contact with personally, I don’t know. But this kind of comment she made is not funny. Its not helpful to the cause of political dialogue except among those who think this is funny. It does not help in winning the hearts and minds of blacks and latinos to the GOP and a comment like that causes blacks and latinos to wonder if the members of the GOP care if they come at all (much dap to her on her 8,000+ Twitter followers though, she rocks there).

The GOP’s “witness” to blacks and latinos is consistently really poor (my examples above case in point), enough so that one can reasonably question whether or not they have any true interest in minorities as political constituencies at all.

UPDATE I: Routine and predictable, I swear. Weak GOP political witness in action. Republicans figure the way to win hearts and minds is to talk about the President’s momma? To talk about a Supreme Court Justice’s momma?

There is also a crappy little racial subtext assumption here that poor black women are just waiting for a government program that will finance killing their babies. Can we pick a stereotype for pete’s sake. Either we are sexually promiscuous irresponsible baby killers, or welfare mother baby making economic leeches. This kind of stuff is simply continuing proof that the GOP has no real interest in blacks as a political constituency. Dollars to donuts, you won’t hear a mumbling word from Michael Steele.

UPDATE II: Hat tip Electronic Village. Another conservative official has been busted sending racist e-mails. This time, the culprit is Atwater, CA Councilman Gary Frago, who sent at least half-a-dozen racist, anti-Obama e-mails to Atwater staff and community members:

Some compared Obama to O.J. Simpson while others suggested that “n[*****] rigs” should now be called “presidential solutions.”

Perhaps the most overboard e-mail was sent on Jan. 15. It read: “Breaking News Playboy just offered Sarah Palin $1 million to pose nude in the January issue. Michelle Obama got the same offer from National Geographic.”

Frago admitted sending the e-mails, but showed no regret. “If they’re from me, then I sent them,” he said. “I have no disrespect for the president or anybody, they weren’t meant in any bad way or harm.”

When given an opportunity to explain himself, Frago somehow managed to dig himself a deeper hole by saying: “I don’t see where there’s a story, I’m not the only one that does it. … I didn’t originate them, they came to me and I just passed them on.”

A recurring theme out there in the political atmosphere about Barack Obama becoming president is the idea that we live in a PC, guilt addled culture that was willing to elect an unqualified affirmative action candidate for its attendant history making feel good effect.

This meme never fails to tick me off. Every time I hear it or see it expressed in writing in one form or another, I think to myself “Dear God, please stop with the whining”. Its enough (almost) to make one yearn for the days of open and unabashed hostility between white and black as a more open and honest time. 2040 has not arrived yet, there are still way more of you than us. If affirmative action is such an anathema, just outlaw it or better yet, simply stop doing it. I resent the resentment about such things, though if I’m being fair I have to admit black people had a hand in creating it. We share some of the blame, as race hustlers like Sharpton and Jackson have created small, self serving industries out of exploiting white guilt and defensiveness about race. We’ve been willing accomplices often enough.

If I get analytical about it, then I have to ask, if we are a guilt ridden PC culture, what is it that white America is guilty about? What is the guilt that Sharpton and Jackson exploit for money again and again? They keep drawing from this well and each time I see it happen, I’m wondering what underground source are they tapping?

What is it that makes the city of New Haven deny white firefighters promotion because a few black test takers didn’t make the cut? The test subject matter was known beforehand. I presume that the same books the white fire fighters studied were available to the black firefighters. In the absence of some relevant information that I’m missing, at first blush, it just does not make sense that the city of New Haven would behave so completely unreasonably merely because black firefighters complained, legal catch 22 or no.

You can’t put it all on us. What is it at work in the psyche of white America in 2009 that makes the New Haven case possible? Obama is easy to understand (white guilt did not elect him, simple as that), but the New Haven case, that makes much less sense. Can you explain it? I can’t.

On some days, it is hard to find counter arguments to the idea that the GOP is destined to become a regional party largely the province of a core of white conservatives espousing a far right ideology. I’ve often made the point that the GOP’s lousy relationship with blacks is due to the fact that the party has not made a decision that blacks are a political constituency necessary or essential to the GOP’s aspirations for governance. In practice, this means they pay little to no attention to the affect of their messaging on blacks or indeed operate without regard to it. Why bother to be careful about how you communicate to this particular group since you are not interested in their votes?

The party’s ideological commander in chief Rush Limbaugh, has once again brought home this point with stunning clarity with comments on his show earlier this week.

LIMBAUGH: As the economy performs worse than expected, the deficit for the 2010 budget year beginning in October will worsen by $87 billion to $1.3 trillion. The deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps. But in the Oval Office of the White House none of this is a problem. This is the objective. The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation’s wealth and return to it to the nation’s quote, “rightful owners.” Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on.

Its race baiting. Its intentional and deliberate pitting of a white political base against blacks to advance a political point. From the rank and file up to leadership, few will even bother to distance themselves from a comment like this. This kind of commentary is threatening both because its being put forward in political speech in this way and because its being eagerly lapped up by its audience. Will Michael Steele even have the guts to repudiate a comment like this? Just recently, he’s gutsy enough to call Obama an affirmative action President, but is he willing to call out Rush on crap messaging like this to blacks, a political constituency he claims he wants the GOP to do a better job with? Probably not. The funky messaging continues.

Vanessa William, writing at the opens a conversation on how Michelle is elevating the profile of black women.

“I won’t apologize for taking note of Michelle Obama’s physical appearance. Plenty has already been said about how she, with her double Ivy degrees, six-figure salaries and two adorable daughters, is crushing the image of the struggling black single mother. She is a real life Clair Huxtable! But the true breakthrough here is that sisters who look like Michelle Obama seldom become cultural icons, aesthetic trendsetters—a proxy for the all-American woman.

And don’t roll your eyes and ask why we have to go there; we haven’t completely gotten over our prejudices about skin tone and hair texture. Despite years of scholarly, literary and popular debate—from Dr. Kenneth Clark’s baby-doll tests, to Toni Morrison’s tragic characters in The Bluest Eye, to the showdown between jiggaboos and wannabes in Spike Lee’s School Daze—too many of us continue to accept a standard of beauty that does not favor ebony-hued skin, woolly hair and full lips (and not those surgically enhanced smackers, either).”

She continues:

But consider the complexions of most of the black women who smile or stare seductively at the world from the covers of celebrity and beauty magazines—cream, café au lait, golden honey. Gorgeous sisters, yes, but we come in other good flavors, too. The failure to showcase dark-skinned beauties feeds the notion that pretty black girls are an exception. Not so much dark and lovely as dark but lovely.

APS’s Response: I am pleased to see a black First Family of the United States. It is heartwarming to observe the obvious love and affection between the President and the First Lady. I enjoy seeing a black “everywoman” be honored at home and abroad as the First Lady.
I enjoy the way the First Lady handles her responsibility and role. I take immense pleasure in the fact that my nine year old daughter is highly attuned to the words, actions and travels of the First Lady and that she considers her a model to emulate on a variety of levels – mother, wife, Harvard educated professional and intelligent woman, well spoken, well dressed, clearly home trained, in married partnership with a man who loves, respects and affirms her.

At the same time, it is somewhat ironic, sad and bittersweet that for so many black men and women (but particularly women) of various complexions, that Michelle’s elevation as the First Lady is affirming because she is a dark skinned woman and we perceive her as more “representative” of “blackness” and black women than if she were a fairer skinned woman. I have this reaction to Michelle Obama myself. My wife is fair and she takes great pride in Michelle in part because she is a dark skinned black woman. That reaction is one of the psycho social legacies of America’s past on race, a kind of emotional and psychological detritus that has not been completely flushed from our emotional system.

This curious in its own way reaction perhaps speaks to the resentment that fair skinned black men and women feel towards a culture that rewards a fair skinned appearance and is more negative towards a dark skin appearance. My wife is also the daughter of a dark skinned black woman who experienced prejudice intra racially as well as across races , so there is an affirmation there because Michelle is a mirror to that experience.

So Michelle’s role as the First Lady provokes many positive emotions of pride and joy and admiration among blacks. But those emotions are partly wrapped up and intertwined with our own complicated relationship to our racial identities. Michelle’s tenure as the First Lady will continue to affirm us on the one hand and confront us with this complex inner dialogue about ourselves.

I have no idea what its doing to white folks, though I suspect it might be something equally complex.

Hat tip to Daily Kos

Kos’s regular abbreviated pundit roundup wrangles up an interesting piece about the place of Latinos in America’s racial discourse. When we talk about the racial divide, its often in black and white. Latinos don’t appear to be a part of the conversation and it strikes me that their seeming invisibility or low profile in the discussion about race and policy is in part because they don’t have the same coherence of shared experience that blacks do.

I spent time in Europe and when I was there, I was struck by what seemed to me the lack of a shared political mindset among blacks in Britain. They did not seem to me to have a sense of shared identity in the way black Americans do. In general, most blacks in America know where other blacks are coming from. We have, broadly speaking, a common frame of reference culturally and politically. This did not seem to be the case for UK’s blacks in the 80’s.

After some thought, I chalked this up to the fact that blacks in Britain are immigrants from a variety of different places, each with its own “black” experience. Some were from Haiti, some from Jamaica, others from different countries in the Motherland itself and so they did not necessarily have widely shared attitudes and thinking among each other. Consequently, I did not get the sense of any great political commonality among them.

America’s latino community strikes me the same way. Because they hail from many different parts of South America, they don’t have a common political identity around which they easily cohere. As a consequence, they don’t seem to have mobilized themselves in the same way blacks have for many years. Within that community, I suspect they have a variety of issues upon which the diversity within the community mitigates against consensus

I read Michael Steele’s GQ interview finally. It pretty much left me with my jaw on the floor. I have a hard time believing that Steele will remain RNC chair after reading it and wondering very seriously if Steele should have this job at all. Right off the top, I was very disappointed with his tone :

I was kinda expecting hip-hop to be playing in here today. Aw, sh—. It’s on my, uh, computer there. I haven’t pulled it up yet, but I’ll get a little bit goin’ in a second or two.

Answering a question about other artists he liked to listen to: Love Dean Martin. He was one of these guys who just didn’t give an F.

How do you deal with the criticism?
I just pray on it.

You do?
Oh yeah. And I ask God, “Hey, let me show just a little bit of love, so I absolutely don’t go out and kick this person’s ass.”

First off, the slang references, the profanity and the really casual language were all turn offs. If I compare this performance along with his other media forays to prominent black republicans like Condi Rice or Colin Powell or J.C. Watts, this is below that standard. This is a guy who is supposed to be articulate and a communicator, but you would not know it from the quality of his conversation in this interview. I also thought he managed a series of silly questions ineffectively. If you’re trying to expand the tent, all of those questions need to be turned to getting the GOP view across to the people you want to entice in. I thought it was a very ineffective interview on that score. When the subject turned to abortion, it got worse.

The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice. You do? Yeah. Absolutely.
Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

This answer was incoherent mush delivered on a garbage can lid. Not to mention the fact that at the time he was born, abortion was illegal, so his mother’s choice would have been an illegal procedure in the shadows, something he ought to have an awareness of before somebody hands it to him in a rhetorical knuckle sandwich. He sounded like he was dodging giving a straight answer and in the process gave what sounded like a dishonest answer. A pro life stance means you would make it illegal to have an abortion. It would no longer be a legal choice women are permitted to make. Don’t try to BS that. It makes you sound sinister. Really poor articulation of the issues and as an aside, too much about his position, not enough about the GOP’s position.

The other thing going on here that is really blowing my mind is the HUGE racial chip Steele has on his shoulder. He is ticked off about the way the GOP handles black voters as a constituency and his anger is patently apparent in his comments.

Well, would you have this job if you were white?
Would I have this job? Now, that’s the reverse of the question I typically get. I usually get, would I have this job if the president were white? And my answer to that is yes. But would I have this job if I were white? [long pause] The answer to that is I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s a very good question. And it says a lot about, I think, where the party is right now that I can’t answer it.

Whoa, Whoa, WHOA!!! Let me get this straight. In the first example, if the president were white, you would have been elected to this job on your merits. But if the question, asked in the reverse is did you get this job not because you were the best, but because you were black, your answer is I don’t know?!! This response was horrible, just really poorly delivered by a guy who has the job of RNC chair. I am the first to argue that the GOP has a problem with blacks. Its a fundamental problem that goes right to the issue of what the identity of the GOP is going to be. Steele clearly believes that too, but as the chairman of the GOP, he ought to articulate the concern and issue much better than this. Because if you want to address that, you are going to have to raise the issue in a way that is accessible within the party and the way he did it was not, at all.

You mean your Starbucks hasn’t closed yet?
No, my Starbucks has not closed. And it better not! You cannot close a Starbucks in a black community. We’ll riot!

I found this comment about Starbucks in a black neighborhood to be tasteless and inappropriate to the moment and its one of a string of comments he’s made now where he routinely throws into the public’s face the self evident fact that he’s black. It is so unnecessary. Obama spent a campaign trying desperately to run away from race and Steele goes out of his way to remind us he’s black and for the life of me I cannot understand why the guy is doing that, which began with his Kool Mo Dee stylings upon election, continued with his if we rap it, they will come strategy and now this interview. Its beginning to feel like his way of shoving his blackness down the throat of the party. I’m not sure why he feels that it is necessary to do that. But he keeps doing it, and the reason seems clear. He is angry at the party on the subject of blacks.

Give Steele credit for not just dealing with this issue in a passive aggressive mode however. He unflinchingly and candidly excoriates the GOP’s dismal relationship management with blacks as a constituency.

You made the comment at the convention about the sea of white faces. And you got a little bit of heat for that.
I sure did. And I looked at the people who gave me the heat and said, “What’s your problem? You tell me I’m wrong. Look at the room. Thirty-six black folks in the room? What, are you kidding me? Out of 4,000 people? Come on!”

Why do you think so few nonwhite Americans support the Republican Party right now?
’Cause we have offered them nothing! And the impression we’ve created is that we don’t give a damn about them or we just outright don’t like them. And that’s not a healthy thing for a political party. I think the way we’ve talked about immigration, the way we’ve talked about some of the issues that are important to African-Americans, like affirmative action… I mean, you know, having an absolute holier-than-thou attitude about something that’s important to a particular community doesn’t engender confidence in your leadership by that community—or consideration of you for office or other things—because you’ve already given off the vibe that you don’t care. What I’m trying to do now is to say we do give a damn.

His sentiments are probably shared by the majority of blacks and that includes black republicans. I completely agree with him here. Steele is speaking directly to the cognitive dissonance between the GOP’s talk on race and the GOP’s walk. The GOP is fundamentally disinterested in black voters as a constituency. That’s not an accusation of racism. Its just the bald facts. The GOP does not believe that the black voter bloc is necessary or essential to their aspirations for governance. That is a sentiment held by both its leadership and by the rank and file.

While we’re on the subject of cognitive dissonance, Steele has a bit of his own to grapple with as well. Talking to fellow blogger Sophia Nelson of Political Intersection in Essence magazine:

NELSON: What is your first priority with regard to changing the image of the RNC?

STEELE: Yes, we do have an image problem and the first thing I am going to do is take the GOP’s message to Black community. We are going to show up, spend time, and spend money. And most importantly, if we want our message to be heard, we have to talk to the Black media.

Its not an image problem that the GOP has with black voters. The GOP has made conscious decisions to use wedge tactics and divisive rhetoric that positions its base in opposition to blacks. Those decisions make it clear that the calculus of the GOP has been that they do not require the support of the black community to win governance. In an America of changing demographics, a political practice that seeks to overpower and ignore minority political constituencies is not a winning formula. The GOP will have to squarely confront the issues of concern to black voters in an effective way (Latinos as well) to harness their political power. Conservative ideology is more than equal to the task, but what passes for GOP/conservative political practice is not. The remedy for that is much more than a PR overhaul.

Steele’s comments make me think one of two futures is possible. Future 1: Steele gets bounced from the chairman job, which I consider more likely if the fund raising numbers are not looking good. Future 2: Steele manages to stay on, but becomes marginalized and a token figure at the top of the party, and the real juice simply flows around him as the party avoids the funky atmospherics of dumping him. Because on the issue of race and the GOP’s relationship with blacks, Steele and the party’s powerful right wing are worlds apart.

When Barack Obama gave the speech on race, did you agree with what he said?
I did. I mean, some of it. But my concern throughout this campaign was, people were treating him like he was going to be the Second Coming on the question of race. And because you have a black man as president doesn’t mean that tomorrow morning a black business is not gonna get redlined or a black family’s gonna be able to get their house. Those issues still exist. So the reality of it is, electing Barack does not necessarily change the underlying concerns and issues related to race. On one level it does, but I’m still a black man; when I walk in a room, you have attitudes about black folks. I can’t change that. And I’ve gotta deal with that reality regardless of my title. There are people in this country right now who would look at Barack Obama and still refer to him as “boy.” Period. That’s the reality of America [emphasis mine]. So my point is, just recognize that while the election is historic, while it is important, while it is transformative, it does not absolve us of having to deal day in and day out, in my life and your life, with the question of race.

Racism is the reality of America? He alludes to the idea that racism is institutionally embedded in our society. Agree or disagree, but I can hardly believe I’m listening to an RNC chairman. The consistent manner in which Steele reminds us of race both directly and with his cultural shorthand buzz words and slang, says to me that his party’s stance relative to blacks really sticks in his craw and has done so for some time. Heck, look at his public statements about the issue of blacks and the GOP, its not like he is hiding it. The GOP remains in the grip of the sort of low brow conservatism represented by the Rush end of the spectrum and that sector of the party’s thinking on race and Steele’s views are like anti-matter to each other. Attorney General Holder caught flak for calling us a nation of cowards about race (from me included), but the GOP is looking cowardly right now, because everyone is savaging Steele for his abortion comments, but I have not seen anyone in the GOP say boo about his comments on race which are every bit as egregious. At Hot Air, look in the comments section on Steele related posts and you see repeated several times the idea that dumping the first black man to be RNC chair would make the GOP look bad.

He could finesse the issue by simply leaving it alone, but Steele is NOT doing that. He’s pushing it, but not in a smart way, and I’m not sure that will serve him well. He’s carrying his race on his shoulder and thats almost always not a good look.