Republican Leaders: Don’t Ignore Race Issues

I was in a Facebook discussion recently with a friend who wondered why Republicans are so quick to be labeled racist (by some in the media and Democratic leaders, especially) when they are simply trying to provide alternative solutions to difficulties faces by some minority communities.

One of the things I pointed out in my article for The Christian Post, “Is the Media Too Quick to Imply Republicans are Racist,” is that it partly has to do with the Republican’s “Southern strategy” in the 1960s in which they actively sought to include racists in their coalition.

My friend said she understood the poor judgment used by Republicans who embraced the Southern strategy, but asked if it is the “political equivalent of indefinite detention.” After all, Republican leaders today played no role in the Southern strategy.

It is a fair point. And, my friend’s frustration is felt by many, including myself. I have personally felt the sting of being called racist. It hurts, deeply.

I could use this time to go on complaining about how horrible Democrats and the media are for doing this, but I think the time would be better spent talking about what Republicans should do about it. Because, the honest truth is that Republican leaders often do a poor job speaking about issues of race and ethnicity, and explaining why they think their policies would benefit minority communities.

So, with that in mind, here are two pieces of advice to Republicans and one policy proposal.

1) Realize you are at a disadvantage. You have more to prove when it comes to offering solutions to minority communities, therefore, you have to work harder at it. This means spending more time in minority communities, listening to their concerns, and developing relationships.

2) Be sensitive to the concerns of minorities. Words can be just as important as policies. When Rick Santorum flubbed his words in a debate and said “Mexican” when he meant to say “illegal immigrant,” it probably went unnoticed by most gringos like myself. But, Mexican-Americans noticed it and they were hurt buy it. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but I believe that if Santorum were more sensitive to the frustrations Latinos feel about how they are often stereotyped, he would not have made that mistake.

3) Get rid of majority-minority districts. Since the 1990 census, states, with the approval of the Supreme court, have been creating majority-minority districts — congressional and state legislature districts in which a majority, or a plurality, of residents are racial or ethnic minorities. The goal was to increase the number of minorities in legislatures. It worked. These districts have been represented by minorities and more minorities have served in Congress and state legislatures.

There were, though, two other consequences. First, majority-minority districts helped Republicans get elected in districts surrounding majority-minority districts. While majority-minority districts have been represented by Democrats, they also served to decrease the proportion of Democrats in all the surrounding districts. (This is a gerrymandering technique known as “packing.”)

Second, and this is the main point for the purposes of this article, majority-minority districts made all the surrounding Republican districts more white. This means that for two decades the Republican Party has had leaders rising through its ranks that never needed to appeal to minority communities to get elected. I strongly suspect this is one reason that the Republican Party today seems so inept at speaking to the concerns of racial and ethnic minorities.

Since both political parties have been harmed in some way by majority-minority districts, can we, therefore, agree to a bipartisan effort to get rid of them?

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