Black Republicans: Black Faces, in Black Face

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Growing up, I remember my family saying two things about voting: that Black people always vote Democrat and that most Republicans were racist, or at very least anti-black. At the same time growing up, the only Black Republican I knew of was William Dent from the TV show “Girlfriends.”

William was a successful lawyer, not bad looking, tall but hella, hella corny. The type of corny that has brother Gianno Caldwell cashing Fox News checks. I’ve re-watched “Girlfriends” countless times and I know William’s character like I was a part of the show’s writer’s room. I never once thought that William was a racist or anti-black., however, he often had classist one-liners and took several opportunities to poke fun at poor folx.

When I think about William Dent and the rhetoric of some of today’s Black conservatives, like Gianno Caldwell, Candance Owens, and Polow Da Don, I don’t hear self-hate or a strong Uncle Tom vibe (although it may be there). I don’t hear cleverness or wit either. I interpret Black Republicans who support, protect and promote the Trump administration as crackerjack classists.

Black Republicans and Donald Trump share a bizarre view on reality. It’s almost like they both are putting on a performance of self-confidence and self-worth. That show can only go on if there is capital to keep the spotlight on their get-out faces.

The gotcha is that when a Black man or woman is put in a position to co-exist inside of a system built with racist ethics and racist motivations, they lose twice: once for themselves and again for everybody Black. I’m talking about Black police officers, Black prosecutors, Black Republicans and anyone else who works against equality for all Black people by promoting themselves as a sacrifice to keep the white supremacy fire burning.

In 1890, the Mississippi Constitutional Convention was called for the express purpose of disenfranchising Blacks. At the convention, former slave Isaiah Montgomery spoke in favor of the clause. The Mississippi Historical Society details the minutes of the convention,

Once assembled, the convention’s overriding purpose was plain to see. “We came here to exclude the Negro,” S. S. Calhoon, the body’s president, announced. “Nothing short of this will answer.” Montgomery was assigned to the Committee on Elective Franchise and he spoke eloquently in favor of, and voted for, a measure to “purify the ballot” by restricting it to literate adult males, those he called the “stable, thoughtful, and prudent element of our citizens.” The burden of a literacy restriction, as he well knew, would fall most heavily on a people so recently freed from slavery.

  • Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

A portrait of Isaiah T. Montgomery, and a photo of the Session of Mississippi Legislature, 1890. Isaiah T. Montgomery is standing in the far left corner.

There is a long history of Black Republicans that I won’t go into in this article. Still, the common denominator that distinguishes Black Republicans is the party’s unwavering views on class. Black Republicans throughout history have almost always shown very little empathy towards poor black folks.

The most recent example exists in brother Ja’Ron Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President, who on Oct. 27, sat with Attorney General William P. Barr to breakdown the Standards of Certification. Watching it is like sixteen minutes in hell. Barr’s body language makes it clear that he does not want to be there. His tone just screams, ‘I’m doing this because I have to but I’m backing the blue no matter what.’ Right next to him is Ja’Ron Smith, black as an ace of spade, nodding and excitedly agreeing to the details of the Standards of Certification, the justice system’s response to Executive Order 13929 on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. The Black Republican will only serve as a political prop when a Black face is needed.

Ja'ron Smith, Deputy Assistant To The President, Interviews Attorney General William P. Barr

In this election, it’s hard to tell if the status of the Black Republican is a myth or not. On the one hand, there is an Instagram account, @blackvoicesfortrump, that showcases the magnitude of Black MAGA support to its 300k+ followers. On the other hand, there are reports that in August, Facebook had to ban a troll network pretending to be a group of Black Trump Supporters. On Oct. 26, Trump advisor Jared Krusher claimed that throughout the country, there was a “groundswell of support in the Black community” for Trump. However, earlier this month, Black Republican Candace Owens allegedly paid for Black people to attend a Trump rally at the White House.

What is so seductive about the Republican party that turned early 2000s George-Bush-doesn't-care-about-Black-people Kanye West into MAGA Red Hat Kanye West?

What deal was so hard to turn down that Eldridge Cleaver, the most militant Black Panther, fell in love with Ronald Reagan?

What type of witchcraft hypnosis put Daniel Cameron under a coon-like trance?

Eldridge Cleaver, once a magnetic leader of the Black Panther Party, died a Republican after he renounced his revolutionary rhetoric and endorsed Ronald Reagan.

Last night, searching for answers to these questions, I watched a live stream of a barbershop talk between five brilliant Black brothers. They shared their views on the comments made to them by Black men who support Donald Trump. One man said something that was so profound to me. He talked about the absence of fathers in Black households coupled with a desire to escape poverty and how the two breed conservatism in some Black men.

He talked about how Trump’s unforgivably callous heart and billionaire status makes him a father-figure to the fatherless. He made me think that the noise made by laying toxic masculinity on top of a commitment to capitalism creates the language of Black Republicans.