barbarahowardweb.gif“I hate Republicans.”

“Some of my best friends are Republicans. Ha! Ha!”

“How could you?’’ 

These are the kinds of comments I get from “friends” when they discover I’m a Republican. As if black and Democrat were synonymous.

It’s funny how people see what they want to see and ignore the rest. 

Even funnier is how the same black folk who want to vilify white folk for treating us as if we were all alike want to vilify those of us who dare to be different.

Last year, I received a Pioneer Award from the National Black Republican Association at the Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. I stayed with a friend in Maryland for the weekend.

We had been friends for over 30 years. Yet she couldn’t resist ridiculing me in front of her friends each chance she got. Instead of praising me for the award, they wanted to demonize me.

One was even a soror. Yet being in the same sorority didn’t shield me from her venom about Republicans. 

“How could you?’’ she asked, as if our sisterhood was subservient to our belonging to the same political party.

Being a Delta was not like being a Democrat.  How sad.

I listened to them talk about how being a Democrat was even more important than being black.  How they wouldn’t vote for Michael Steele, then the lieutenant governor for the state of Maryland. 

He was great: intelligent, politically savvy, articulate, good looking, etc.  He would have been the first black congressman from Maryland.  His only problem?  He was a Republican. 
And there was no way they would vote for a Republican. 

That’s not only sad, it borders on prejudice.

So I asked, “What’s so bad about being a Republican?”

One answer was, “Republicans don’t like black folk.” 

Well, I guess the fact that the Republican Party was founded by anti-slavery activists in the early 1850s disproves that, huh?

How about President Abraham Lincoln, the Republican who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves? 

Or that the Republicans passed the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection under the laws, and the Fifteenth Amendment, which helped secure voting rights for African Americans?

Another person said, “The Republicans have done nothing for black folk in my lifetime (of approximately 60 years).”

Well, it took the Republicans (in a Democratic-controlled Congress) to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which struck down the restrictions that ten Southern (Democratic-controlled) states had written in their constitutions to disenfranchise blacks.  But I guess that’s nothing.

Arthur Fletcher, the black Republican serving under presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, coined the phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” as head of the United Negro College Fund.

In 1969 under Nixon, he wrote the “revised Philadelphia plan,” which “set and enforced equal opportunity employment standards for companies with federal contracts and their labor unions,” earning him the title of “Father of Affirmative Action.”   

When Nixon saw Southern white Democrats stalling compliance with the 1954 Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education ruling integrating public schools in the South, he set up local biracial committees on school desegregation ensuring compliance without violence. These committees helped more than two million black children enroll in fully integrated schools by 1970, earning Nixon the title of “the greatest school desegregator in American history.” 

President George W. Bush has appointed more blacks to his cabinet and in major administrative positions than the last two Democratic presidents combined.

And those are just a few things.  But I guess those things mean nothing.  Let’s not let the facts get in the way.

People see what they want to see and ignore the rest.  I know.  I used to be one of them.

So to my Democratic “friends,” I may not be what I want to be, but thank God, I’m not what I used to be.

I used to be a confused Democrat. Now I am a proud Republican.  Take me as I am or leave me where you found me.

And be careful how you talk about Republicans, one of them may just be your business partner.

Barbara Howard is president of Barbara Howard & Associates and the Florida state chair for C.O.R.E. (the Congress of Racial Equality).