Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, in his new article, “Lessons from the Republican Leadership Conference” talks about how few people of color there were at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Mr. Fineman says:
Other than former Oklahoma congressman J. C. Watts and RNC chairman Michael Steele, who spoke to the gathering, I don’t think I saw a single African-American at the event. I’m not sure I saw a Latino or Asian person there, either—except for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. I shouldn’t have expected anything else, of course: “Southern, white, Republican, conservative” is a quadruple redundancy. They have as much right to hold a meeting as any other group. But I couldn’t escape the feeling that, as amped up and potent as this crowd felt inside the ballroom, there is another, larger world—and another generation—rising elsewhere.
Whether intentional or not, it sounds like Mr. Fineman is raising the ugly spector of racism. This is a criticism that is often heaped upon conservative Republicans. Just look at recent reports of the tea partiers. You can find any number of articles accusing them of being racist rednecks.
I was there in New Orleans. Here’s what I can report. We spoke to a gentleman from Massachusetts who had fled Cuba and who wanted to tell as many people as possible about the dangers of socialism. He wasn’t a white, southern person; but he was conservative and Republican.
We also watched Herman Cain speak to the crowd. If you don’t know Mr. Cain, he’s an African-American. When he was through, the crowd was on their feet applauding wildly. That response didn’t look like the response of a racist crowd.
I do know that it’s pretty hard these days to be a person of color who “comes out” and tells people that they are conservative. They are called oreos and Uncle Toms by those who consider them to be a traitor to their race.
So, why were there not more people of color at the conference in New Orleans? Was it that they were discouraged from coming? If so, then by whom? I know that the GOP would love to attract more people from all walks of life because that’s how you win elections. So, I don’t think it’s the GOP doing the discouraging. I believe that there weren’t more people of color in the crowd because of the perceived notions about the Republican party by those in the main stream media. I think that there weren’t more people of color in the crowd because the Democratic party and the main stream media have been so successful in unfairly portraying the Republican party as a party of unfeeling, rich, racists.
If we are going to get beyond racism in this country, then we need to stop portraying an entire movement, whether it’s the tea party movement or the Republican party with the broad brush strokes of racism. I didn’t see racism in New Orleans. I saw people who have a different idea than President Obama about the way things should be done in this country. Last time I looked, having a different idea didn’t make you a racist.