It appears that Bill Allen, our great teacher and friend, has borrowed back his Civil Rights Commissioner cap to present the lesson of the hour for the Republican Party. In his Ashbrook Center essay, "Why Race Atheism Fails," Bill, as usual, hits his target with profound and provocative verve.
I’ll note just a few highlights, but be sure and read it for yourself. Let me add that if you haven’t discovered Bill Allen’s website at Michigan State University, do so.
His website contains a plethora of speeches and articles from the past decade or two. Quite a gold mine. One teaser: check out the interview of him and Clarence Thomas when they were heading up their respective federal agencies dealing with race in America.
Re: "race atheism," I’ll let Bill Allen define that term for you. Suffice it to say, he does not believe that the spectre of race haunts America because of Democratic sins of commission (e.g., the rhetoric of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or the notorious NAACP ad associating James Byrd’s lynching with George Bush). Rather, Republican sins of omission are to blame. The GOP can no longer pretend that race is not an issue in America by simply ignoring the racial demagoguery of the Jesse Jacksons of the world.
His solution? Have President Bush say it loud and say it proud, "I am a Black Republican, and my Party is the Party of Black Republicans." Practically, this would entail "an aggressive strategy" of recruiting black Americans for positions of high profile and high responsibility (a process begun with Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and which Bill Allen traces back to Reagan’s presidency).
In this way, Bush and the Party he leads would invite blacks--perhaps for the first time in American history--to assume their full and rightful place at the American table. This is no sham diversity mandate, no attempt to make the party or the nation’s government merely "look like America." (Witness J.C. Watts’s departure from Congress along these lines.) Rather, it is an invitation to black Americans to fulfill their "claim to full citizenship" by "being ready and willing to contribute to the country’s salvation."
Bill closes his stirring essay by observing that bloc voting by blacks in the last presidential election "reached its apogee," and hence the limits of its detriment to the GOP. But unless black Americans want to go the way of the Jewish American vote, which is solidly Democratic but negligible in its impact on national policy, they should consider which party offers them a genuine opportunity to contribute to the land of their birth--and therewith receive the full blessings of its prosperity. Rest content with the paternalistic handouts of an affirmative action regime they have only recently believed to be their political hope, or step up to real participation as full citizens of America? Polls from the mditerm election already show a waning of Democratic identification by blacks; they may now recognize how little influence they wield within, and how little respect they truly receive from, the Democratic Party.
Frederick Douglass once wrote, "The Republican Party is the ship; all else the sea." This slogan was cited long after Douglass passed this earth. May Black Republicans of all colors see the wisdom in it.