Last month, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain created waves with his response to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer’s question about his ability to attract blacks to the Republican Party. Blitzer asked why the GOP is seen as “poison for African Americans.” Cain responded, “Many African Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded.” I believe that the problem is much deeper and more systemic than that. I believe that most Americans attach themselves to a particular party and lose sight of the fact that all political parties belong to the people.
That certainly appears to be the case in the District. For 40 years, since the District achieved home rule, its government has been led by Democrats. But what has a purely Democratic agenda delivered for the city and its African Americans?
African Americans in the District have made tremendous progress over the years. We have gained high-level positions in government and organizing, and we effectively manage nonprofits that have built communities. But with these achievements have come some enormous costs. The greed and corruption of legacy politics have become entrenched. We have allowed a privileged few to act as kingmakers, crowning as a result generations of lackluster politicians who seem not to have the District’s best interests at heart.
These politicians have consistently spent more money to educate our children but have consistently failed to provide a quality education. We’ve entrusted them with bringing jobs and businesses to the city, but they have continually neglected Wards 7 and 8, where unemployment rates have long been at inexcusable levels. They have declared war on poverty in our neighborhoods, introducing “new and improved” programs. But still Ward 8 has a poverty rate of 35 percent.
The question remains: Who is leading our residents on a path to prosperity?
A lack of political balance has created an alarming trend in our city. With only one cookie-cutter template from which to bring about change, we have created a local political class who all think, act and support the same platform. We seem to be afraid to change the status quo. We support corrupt leadership and blame the messengers who expose the truth, rather than facing facts and withdrawing our support.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I see real opportunity for the District and all of its residents to bring about the changes that have eluded us for so long. That is why I am running to become the next D.C. Council member to represent Ward 7. That is why I am running as a Civil Rights Republican.
Those who question my association with the Republican Party should look back on what it means to be a Civil Rights Republican. The fact is that African Americans have played a considerable role in shaping both major parties. Neither party has been perfect, but our involvement in each has brought about positive outcomes — for us as a people and for our country. Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass were Republicans. In 1870, when Thomas Mundy Peterson became the first African American to vote under the 15th Amendment, he did so as a Republican.