By Ivan Fernando
Today, Rience Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, gave a speech at the National Press Club in Washington DC. In his speech, which went on for over an hour, he noted that “for decades my party has opposed equal rights and progress. Many of our members have been racists. There were Republicans who opposed the equal rights amendment. Many Republicans opposed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his campaign for equal rights. We are ashamed and humbled by this legacy of racism. I am personally deeply ashamed of our past. I am profoundly sorry for both our past racism and for the racism that so many of our members continue to exhibit. They oppose things like immigration reform and social welfare programs largely benefitting minorities. I would like to offer my deepest and most heartfelt apology to African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and to all Americans, I ask your forgiveness.”
Tearing up as he read his speech, Priebus paused, doing an outstanding job feigning tears and displaying phoney contrition. It was an obscene and pitiful act, watching a well-known racist hate-monger pretend to be an opponent of racism, and even a champion of civil rights and diversity. As a progressive journalist it literally turned my stomach. The insincerity, the lack of empathy for, and indeed the hostility to African-Americans, Hispanics, the LGBT, and women, hung heavy in the air during his talk.
As the audience rose to give him a standing ovation, Priebus continued speaking. “Historically, African-Americans and Latinos have shunned the Republican Party, and who can blame them? We opposed social and welfare programs. It wasn’t until Richard Nixon that a Republican president finally got serious about desegregating Southern schools. It wasn’t until George W. Bush that a Republican President finally appointed an African-American Secretary of State. Mitt Romney was the first Republican presidential nominee to condemn the Confederate flag. Republicans chose Mitt Romney over Herman Cain, a fine African-American gentleman, who was far more articulate. Abe Lincoln didn’t even issue the emancipation proclamation until the Civil War was already well underway. It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan that a Republican president finally supported Martin Luther King Day, as a national holiday, and amnesty for the undocumented.”
Pausing his speech again, owing to the interruption of hecklers, Priebus stated “I want everyone here to know that I am not a racist! The proudest moment of my life was when my young fourteen year old daughter came home with a wonderful African-American boy and told me that he was her boyfriend. I felt privileged to have him in our home, at our dinner table, and for him to sleep in our guest room on many occasions. I told my wife afterwards, don’t wash the sheets, I want to remember our first African-American guest forever. My second proudest moment came when I found out that my thirteen year old grandson is gay and was going to the school prom with another boy, who is Latino. He looked lovely in his pink prom dress. I have never felt prouder of anything in my entire life! God loves all of his children equally, regardless of their color, national origin, or sexual orientation. That is what my faith tells me. It is what I believe in my heart.”
Priebus paused again, his voice strained by emotion, as an African-American in the audience yelled out, “You still are racist! Your party is racist! Why don’t you support the President!” Priebus replied “Yes, and that racism disgusts me. We can, and will change. I do support our president! Some Republicans still oppose immigration reform, and seem to believe that the United States should isolate itself from the world. They fail to recognize that diversity is our greatest strength. What makes America great is the color of our skin! What I mean by that, is the fact that so many different skin tones and hues make up the beautiful and rich tapestry that is America. Together, we can pass comprehensive immigration reform, providing a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. We are proud to welcome them as equals, and as Americans, and we know that they will add strength, vitality and beauty to our nation as well as do jobs whites won’t do.”
As he concluded his speech, Priebus announced that the Republican Party would be adopting a special outreach program to minorities. Republican Party strategists will go into Harlem, Watts and other largely African-American cities, to begin a dialogue with African-Americans, in order to find out what their problems, concerns and views are on the issues. A special committee has been set up to redraft the Republican Party’s National Platform, in order to incorporate the views and heartfelt concerns of people of color. Existing platform planks, which may be construed as racist, will be removed or modified. Placing political survival above ideology, Priebus observed that it would be better for Republicans to “adopt all the positions of the Democratic Party” than to cease to exist.
“I know we don’t deserve it. I wouldn’t blame you if you never voted for a Republican in your life. All I can do is tell you how much racism sickens and disgusts me, and how profoundly sorry I am for our ugly past. If you will give us just one more chance, I promise you we will show you that we are the party that truly cares about the issues of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native-Americans, Muslim-Americans, as well as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Americans. We desperately want to be seen as the party of inclusion and diversity. However, we cannot do it alone. We are counting on your help. Our party cannot survive unless we win the support of minorities. We are tired of being a white party. We want to be diverse and vibrant, cool and hip. We want a rapper to perform at our next national conference.”
Progressives have universally dismissed Priebus’ speech as too little, too late. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC noted that “Republicans are a racist and an extreme right party. They did nothing when Trayvon Martin was murdered by a white racist in cold blood. They stand by as racist white cops brutalize and murder innocent youths of color across this nation. Nothing has changed.” Dr. Mustafa Kumal, a professor at Harvard University, observed that “Republicans need to stop patronizing Black people and Hispanics. We don’t need them. They need our votes to win, so I say, don’t vote for them. Let’s drive a stake through the hearts of these evil white vampires. They will never have our votes!”
Some racist far-right Republicans have refused to apologize for their ugly past. Patrick Buchanan, a prominent racist, stated, in response to Priebus’ speech, that “This is crazy. We’ve got people apologizing for things they themselves had nothing to do with. The Republican Party is chasing votes from people who frankly, aren’t going to vote for them. Amnesty for illegal aliens will be the death knell of the Republican Party. Liberals keep saying Republicans need to get the Black and Hispanic vote, and Republican leaders parrot the meme. Do these liberals really want Republicans to win? Why are they taking advice from them? My friend, the late Sam Francis, called them the stupid party. I am forced to agree. The truth is, the party lost a long time ago. This idiotic pandering disgusts me.”
In this writers opinion, Priebus’ apology lacked sincerity and it lacked substance. The Republican Party has proven once again, that it is afraid to confront the issue of race and to take meaningful steps to even attempt to atone for its past. Changes to the party platform, promises for support for welfare programs and amnesty ring hollow. When will Republicans have done enough? The answer is, when the party dissolves, for nothing short of that can be taken as a real sign of contrition. If these racists are sorry, if they really want to embrace progress and change, let them become Democrats. Let them truly disavow their past.
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