By Patricia Wilson-Smith
There is an incredible dichotomy at work in the Republican Party these days.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has gone out and hired political strategist, and famed black female Conservative Tara Wall to head up its outreach efforts, in particular outreach to African American voters, in an attempt to…do something. Let’s save what for later.
It wouldn’t be particularly illuminating at this juncture to point out that the Republican Party and their “trickle-down-economics-‘til-we-die-fool” policies haven’t been exactly, well, good for the average black American. As deregulated financial institutions and barely taxed mega corporations gathered up their profits during the Bush years and shipped them off shore (that would be to the Cayman Islands I guess for Mr. Romney), our economy bled jobs in apocalyptic proportions, and the resulting financial carnage hit African Americans harder than any other ethnic group in the country.
But then – it always does.
In 2011, The Center for American Progress published an incredible study called The Black and White Labor Gap in America, which sought to use labor data to explain why unemployment for blacks in this country always rises first and highest during a recession, and recedes last and more slowly when that recession ends. Work with me for a moment. The Center gave three main reasons for this phenomenon, which it called “last hired, first fired.”
First, African Americans (especially African American men) are more likely to be employed in manufacturing sector jobs, which it doesn’t take a professional economist to know are first to take a hit when the economy falls into recession. American corporations have racked up record profits over the last several years by shipping jobs overseas and forcing the hand of unions that try to save jobs for the American worker, and blacks have been impacted by all this at twice the rate of whites.
Second – African Americans tend to seek employment in State and Federal agencies, which typically turn to budget cuts and layoffs during recessions. Does anyone, anyone at all believe that a Romney administration will help make this better for African Americans? Besides Tara Wall, that is?
And third – the study by the Center revealed that plain old, garden-variety discrimination was a contributing factor in the last hired, first fired phenomenon; after making adjustments in their data to control for education, gender, age, etc., the Center found that black unemployment numbers were still disproportionately higher. That’s right – if you eliminate all the variables that could possibly point to why African American unemployment would trend higher than that of our white counterparts, we still experience unemployment at higher rates than all other ethnic groups. Racial discrimination in hiring and firing practices is the only explanation for this.
So I guess to get to the actual point, if you’re an African American who believes that the GOP is likely to push the kind of legislation that would provide greater opportunities for blacks in less volatile job sectors, suppress their natural urge to slash government programs and departments (Mitt’s itching to do away with the entire Environmental Protection Agency as you may recall), or promote a new wave of Affirmative Action activity to fight the adverse effects of hiring discrimination then, you’re exactly who Tara Wall is looking for.
And so it was, back in 2004, long before Mitt had the opportunity to boldly declare that the government should “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” that a one Tara Wall was laboring away in Detroit, managing volunteer efforts for the African Americans for Bush coalition. That’s right – Detroit Michigan. The Motor City that almost wasn’t, if Mitt Romney had gotten his way. A city where one in five homes have been abandoned, and where at least one gentleman can be found shooting raccoons and selling them for meat out of his refrigerator to survive (true story). A city that has been slowly dying for decades as the U.S. auto industry has struggled to compete with foreign automakers, and that was dealt a death blow during the recession of 2007-2009, when the fruits of the financial deregulation so beloved by Conservatives reduced the housing market to a place where at one point hundreds of houses could be purchased for the price of a candy bar. That Detroit.
Now, just as the auto industry has gotten back on its feet, and Detroit is beginning to show signs of life again, Ms. Wall and her buddies in the Romney campaign want America to give them the reigns again so they can finish the job on Detroit and the nation? Not bloody likely – not if Black Women for Obama has anything to do with it.
Which leads us to what the Romney campaign is really trying to do, and why on God’s majestic green earth they would actually think Tara Wall has a snow ball’s chance of swaying African American voters to Romney. Could it be that they think they can carve away at the President’s most loyal constituency by introducing a solid platform of innovative ideas and a sound, nuanced legislative agenda that will ensure the fair and equitable treatment of minorities and the poor in this country, thereby inciting an avalanche of defections from the Democratic Party to their ranks? Yeah, right.
Okay – maybe they think they can make the case that the GOP has the best interests of African Americans at heart. Maybe they think that they can convince the blacks in this country that they understand and empathize with the fact that many of the socio-economic problems plaguing our communities, and especially our men, have their roots in the post-slavery prison industrial complex that ravaged our ability to gain any real financial footing after slavery ended, killed any real chances of providing stability for our families, or passing wealth on to our younger generations for decades – naaaahhhh.
Well perhaps they just want to show that the GOP is a party of inclusion and that all black people are welcomed – as long as they blend in, don’t sound too “black” during meetings, and are willing to brandish a microphone during rallies and speak any matter of outlandishness against our President on demand. Just ask the mystery lady at a recent Romney rally – she played nice and won a place on the very front row, where she implored federal authorities to arrest President Obama for treason. Unbelievable.
If Mitt Romney and the GOP think that after three and a half years of Rev. Wright race-baiting, birtherism, Michelle Obama-trashing, finger waving in the President’s face, and random screaming during the State of the Union address they can trot out a black woman to suddenly make African Americans believe that the GOP suddenly cares about us, they’re even nuttier than I thought. Either you care about the issues plaguing black women, or Michelle Obama is Barack’s “baby mama”. Either you accept that a black man can be brilliant and yes, born in this country, or you let your birther friends continue to torture us all with their lunatic rants on the nightly news. You can’t have it both ways. Most members of the GOP including Mitt Romney have done nothing to slow the tide of racist crap that has washed over this country since the President was elected, and have jumped at the opportunity to disrespect the man who is arguably the most powerful African American who ever lived – it’s going to take a whole lot more than Tara Wall to make a dent in that reality.
So have at it, Ms. Wall. While you spin your wheels trying to perpetrate the Jedi-mind-trick of all Jedi-mind-tricks, Black Women for Obama will be right behind you, reaching out to African Americans in every state, making sure they understand what’s real and what’s not so real. Barack Obama and his record of fighting for ordinary Americans – real. The GOP and their desire to seem more inclusive to African Americans. Not so real. We may love the fact that President Obama can sing like Al Green, but we can still tell the difference.