September 21, 2006– Vol. 42, No. 6
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Melvin B. Miller
Editor & Publisher

More Republican disinformation

Winning politics is often a matter of mathematics: you have to count the votes. Republicans believe that the almost solid black vote for Democrats, which can give African Americans the power to decide the outcome of close races, just doesn’t add up. Therefore, Republicans have made a concerted effort to convert black Democrats and change the numbers.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that since 1997, 64 percent of African Americans have declared themselves to be Democrats, compared to only seven percent describing themselves as Republicans. In addition, another 21 percent have said they lean toward the Democratic Party with only three percent leaning Republican. That constitutes a margin of 85 to 10 in favor of the Democrats.

Despite those grim statistics, Republicans were encouraged when the black vote for President Bush rose from 8 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2004. They were even more encouraged by a substantial shift in certain states — in the 2004 election, the Republican black vote was 15, 16 and 18 percent in Texas, Ohio and California, respectively.

One of the most bizarre efforts to convert blacks to the Republican Party is a campaign led by the National Black Republican Association. It recently released a 60-second radio ad that, according to NBRA Chairman Frances Rice, “… sets the record straight, demonstrating that it was Republicans, not Democrats, who championed civil rights for blacks over the past 150 years.”

The ad opens with the claim that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, an assertion supported solely by the statement that, “In that era, almost all black Americans were Republicans.” No one can believe that in the last decade of his life until his death in 1968, Dr. King was a Republican. From that point on, the ad is a series of historical distortions.

Yes, there was once a time when most blacks were Republicans. It was, after all, the part of Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves. Conversely, those who supported slavery and opposed Reconstruction were Democrats. When Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, was elected to his first presidential term in 1884, he won all the Southern states and established the tradition of the solid Democratic South.

That changed when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Northern Democrat, inaugurated the New Deal, which stated that federal power should be deployed over a range of issues to relieve the human suffering of the Great Depression. While this concept was unacceptable to the “states rights” South, it rang true with African Americans, who began to support the Roosevelt Democrats after seven decades of loyalty to the Republicans.

The Southern Democrats, however, continued their efforts to suppress blacks. When they lost more ground under President Harry S. Truman, they bolted the Democrats and formed the Dixiecrat Party. But third party politics has never been successful in America, and the Dixiecrats disbanded. Following the lead of Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Southern Democrats who supported racial segregation and states rights left the Democratic Party for the more congenial political home among the Republicans.

The NBRA ad is correct when it says, “Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan.” But when Southern Democrats who supported such policies were repudiated by the Northern wing of the party, they became Republicans. This historical fact was conveniently omitted.

Given the Republican political skullduggery in Florida and Ohio in recent presidential elections, the NBRA ad is par for the course.

A foolish fuss

Boys and girls in Roxbury now have an expanded and renovated club for after-school activities. The Boys & Girls Club has completed an $8 million renovation that provides accommodations for 30 percent more than the 2,600 youths it currently serves. The newly designed facility includes a teen education center, a conference room, a fitness center, a computer room, an auditorium and a number of other amenities.

In any bricks and mortar project undertaken by a nonprofit organization, the most difficult donation to land is for the naming rights, which will usually cover one-third or more of the cost. The Roxbury Boys & Girls Club project was made possible because of a $3 million naming gift from the Yawkey Foundation.

In a surprising, inappropriate and imprudent move, several elected officials have criticized the naming of the clubhouse for Tom Yawkey because the Red Sox were racially discriminatory during Yawkey’s tenure as owner. It is important to note that Yawkey died in 1976, so the grievances against him are now 30 years old.

There is no question that Major League Baseball absolutely barred the participation of blacks from 1920 to 1944 during the administration of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Only after Landis’ death in 1944 did teams begin signing black players. In 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player in the major leagues.

Other teams were slow to hire black players, but the Boston Red Sox was the last team to do so. In 1959, 12 years after Robinson broke the color barrier, the Red Sox brought up Pumpsie Green and Earl Wilson. It is also reported that the early atmosphere in the clubhouse was discriminatory against black players.

Tom Yawkey’s transgression was that he failed to provide equal employment opportunities for black players. However, this is relatively mild when compared with the sins of the late Gov. George S. Wallace of Alabama.

Wallace was a segregationist leader of the South. On July 11, 1963, he stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to physically bar blacks from entering. He continued to advocate racism until he was shot in an attempted assassination on May 15, 1974. While confined to a wheelchair due to his injuries, Wallace saw the error of his ways.

Contrite for his past abuses, Wallace was forgiven by blacks in Alabama. In successive campaigns for governor, he was able to tally 90 percent of the black vote. When one compares Tom Yawkey’s offenses with those of George Wallace, it should be relatively easy for blacks in Boston to acknowledge with grace the efforts of Jean Yawkey, Tom’s widow, to benefit all the residents of Boston.

On a practical level, the complaining public officials have served notice to anyone with the temerity to offer a naming gift in the future that their largesse may be subject to attack because of any past perceived racial slight, no matter how minor or how long ago.


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