You discourage Mr. Steele from reaching out to the Hip Hop community, saying that it amounts to a waste of time, money, and energy. You say that despite any efforts to build bridges of commonality between Black and urban people of diverse backgrounds, the younger generations in America (18-29 years of age and 30-45 years of age) will not be swayed by the Republican Party. Funny, because historically, this argument was made repeatedly for a period of time (roughly 80 years or so) by Black Republicans referring to the efforts of Democrats to get the Black vote; (of course, those efforts often incurred violence – however, we just want to talk to folks.)
A Letter in responce to critics of the urban movement Hip-Hop
Dear Ms. Brooklyne Gipson,
I’m not Michael Steele. You wrote a letter addressed to him, but due to some of the elements in it – particularly a tinge of discouragement and disgust on the part of Black Republicans and Hip Hop Republicans – I felt that it spoke to me, too. It compelled me to reply to some of the arguments you make. I hope that you understand this perspective instead of viewing my response as one made by some Republican lackey putting up for “the Man.”
I read your letter during “The State of the Black Union” weekend in Los Angeles. I read some of the statements you made about Mr. Steele’s apparent disingenuousness in expressing his Blackness and attempts to engage Black people with the Republican Party. Yet, there he sat alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson (two Democrats that ran for the presidency of the United States), speaking on a panel due to his concern for the Black community instead of being there Saturday for CPAC in Washington, DC.
I felt that rather than writing an article, perhaps I could talk to some of the points that I felt were off-mark by you.
As Tavis Smiley said throughout SOBU weekend, please know that I do this out of love.
You discourage Mr. Steele from reaching out to the Hip Hop community, saying that it amounts to a waste of time, money, and energy. You say that despite any efforts to build bridges of commonality between Black and urban people of diverse backgrounds, the younger generations in America (18-29 years of age and 30-45 years of age) will not be swayed by the Republican Party. Funny, because historically, this argument was made repeatedly for a period of time (roughly 80 years or so) by Black Republicans referring to the efforts of Democrats to get the Black vote; (of course, those efforts often incurred violence – however, we just want to talk to folks.) I know that times have changed, but by discouraging the GOP from being competitive and sincere enough to engage the Hip Hop community, you are asking a community facing despair, disillusionment, and death at alarming rates to fight a social Mike Tyson with one political arm tied behind its back. That is an irresponsible sentiment to express towards a community we love.
You say that the Hip Hop community is not up for grabs. I disagree. Every year brings with it accountability for all politicians. Chairman Steele’s efforts are more than about President Barack Obama. It’s about Baltimore and Boston, Oakland and Orlando. Each election matters. Without competitive elections, we stagnate the political responsiveness of our governments to us. For example, many of our urban centers have been void of meaning Republican local leadership for years now, yet they face epidemic situations nonetheless.
Further, if we lazily embrace the notion that a group of people thinks and acts in-step on 100% of the issues, are we not contravening the message of Dr. King to judge by the merits of character, not the color of one’s skin (or the age and address on one’s license)? In spite of the stereotyping, there is diversity even within the Hip Hop community – a diversity that should be celebrated and engaged by all, including one of the two most powerful political parties in the country. By encouraging exclusion, you limit political effectiveness. Isn’t that what the Klan did, in essence?
I know that you may see this outreach as rousing up trouble within the Black community. I know that history also shows that when folks rouse up the status quo to benefit the people, society and justice mature in power as a result. I remember older Black leaders telling folks such as Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali that they were rousing up trouble for everyone unnecessarily during the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, the folks saying that couldn’t initially envision Black people sitting in the front of public transportation during their lifetimes, either, probably in the same way that many today couldn’t imagine a Black president and Black chair of the RNC in our lifetimes just 24 months ago.
The Black community was not solidly behind President Obama the whole time, either. During SOBU 2009, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson eloquently pointed out several times that there was a rift in Black America between President Obama and the wife of “the first Black president” Mrs. Hillary Clinton. There was concern that a biracial man with an African father and an upbringing in Hawaii couldn’t be “Black enough” for urban America. Perhaps both of us never quite bought into that, but others did. It’s not a coincidence that support for Mr. Obama dovetailed with the sunset of Mrs. Clinton as a candidate and the introduction of Mrs. Palin as a nominee, although neither fact takes away from Mr. Obama’s brilliance as a campaigner or as a statesman.
Unfortunately, you state the Hip Hop slang “keep it real” without honoring that sentiment. You say that the Hip Hop community only respects originality and authenticity; (I could go into the repeated false images of misogyny and glamorized drug life coming from “Hip Hop leaders” in the media, but we can digress down that path another time.) Is it “keeping it real” for the Black community (or the Hip Hop community) to embrace Mr. Obama as a source of Black pride while lauding leaders such as Steele, Rice, and Powell based on political affiliation alone, turning a blind eye to racist caricatures of “Mammy Rice” and Oreo-tossing incidents that they endure? Is it right to assume that one Black man’s success is solely predicated on the desires of someone to bring another Black man down? Is it pandering down as a race-baiting token when a Black person breaks down walls to re-engage the Black community in a more relevant fashion, especially as demographics in America continue to become more urban and more ethnic? I can assure you that every time someone from the Hip Hop community calls Michael Steele a token, there are others that call him five times worse than that for trying to empower others with a voice within the GOP.
You’re right, Ms. Gipson: the Hip Hop and Black communities do not automatically mean that both are “cool” and “hip”, nor does being Black ensure someone that all Black people will embrace him. However, both communities are worthy of inclusion in all aspects of America, a reality that extends to the political spectrum as well. At this critical time in our nation’s history, it would be irresponsible not to re-engage all communities to get “all hands on deck” to bring about the best solutions possible. I know that it may seem strange to hear a Black attorney in Washington not named Obama actively and sincerely seek to engage a new type of American voter – one that is younger, hipper, and more urban. Just know that President Obama is not the only way of trying to bring “Change We Can Believe In,” even if the old school thinks that it’s just someone rousing up things unnecessarily.
Please take my call for openness into consideration.
Power to the people - TCNGB
~Lenny McAllister is a national political commentator and an occasional co-host of “Fox News Rising” in Charlotte, North Carolina. McAllister is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for New Politics and Policy at the University of Denver. His website can be found at www.lennymcallister.com