Skip to comments.Open Letter to the Board of the California Republican Party
Posted on 01/09/2003 11:57:38 PM PST by dwills
Open Letter to the Board of the California Republican Party
By Shannon Reeves Thursday, January 09, 2003
To: Members of the Board of Directors of the California Republican Party
Dear Colleagues: As many of us have learned in recent media reports, Vice Chairman Bill Back distributed an article entitled, ''What if the South had Won the Civil War?'' -- an article that concludes that problems with race relations in America are the result of slaves being freed through Reconstruction, and black migration out of the south as a result of desegregation. This article trivialized slavery and it trivialized the impacts of slavery on my ancestors and people of African decent. The notion that this country would be better off if my ancestors had remained enslaved, and considered less than whole people, is personally offensive, abhorrent, and vile.
It is particularly offensive because my own party's vice chairman distributed this bigoted propaganda in an official CRP newsletter. Those of us in leadership positions have a responsibility to teach, raise awareness, and encourage thoughtful debate. We also have a responsibility to do so in an honest and ethical manner. Had distribution of the article in question been prefaced by a disclaimer that the editors didn't necessarily agree with the author's views, however, and felt the article had value for the debate it might create on federalism, I might have accepted the vice chairman's position in his January 4 statement that his ''newsletter is a forum for varying political discussion.'' As reported in the same day's Contra Costa Times, when asked several different times if he was offended by the article, Bill Back sidestepped the question and refused to answer. The lack of any such disclaimer or direct and honest response to the reporter can only lead me to one conclusion that Bill Back is sympathetic to the author's views. Why else would he distribute an obscure article that has absolutely no relevance to California, nor to Republican politics in his official California Republican Party newsletter?
I am sick and tired of being embarrassed by elected Republican officials who have no sensitivity for issues that alienate whole segments of our population. Republican leaders who consort with the Council of Conservative Citizens, highlight stump speeches at Bob Jones University, reminisce about segregationist campaigns, and sympathize with the bigoted views - and the very real possibility that others in our party affiliate with the Free Congress Foundation and groups with similar offensive ideology - perpetuate broad public opinion that Republicans harbor racist and bigoted ideals. Bill Back's conduct is the most current embarrassment to our party. His decision to distribute bigoted information demonstrates a lack of judgment and political acumen that's not appropriate for someone in a leadership position, especially as vice chairman of the California Republican Party.
This embarrassment is different for a black Republican. Not only do I have to sit in rooms and behave professionally towards Republicans who share this heinous ideology, I have to go home to a hostile environment where I'm called an ''Uncle Tom'' and maligned as a sell-out to my community because I'm a member of the Republican Party. When I go to the barbershop on Friday or my church on Sunday--wherever I go in the black community--I have to explain that Trent Lott's affiliation with the Council of Conservative Citizens doesn't represent all Republicans, that it was just an isolated incident. When they then question me about the scores of Republicans who visit Bob Jones University, I tell them that Republicans visit black universities, too. When they ask how I can serve in a party where the second in command, the man seeking our top spot distributes bigoted literature, I tell them that Bill Back doesn't represent the grassroots of this party--he's just one man. Black Republicans are expected to provide window dressing and cover to prove that this is not a racist party, yet our own leadership continues to act otherwise. People judge people by their experience of them, and by their actions, and when those actions do not match their words, actions become the more honest means by which to measure a person.
I don't talk about what it's like for me to be a black Republican, and what I live through day to day because I've made a choice to be true to and fight for my beliefs. But I think the time has come for those of you in this party to understand what I encounter from other Republicans. Maybe it will help you understand how hard this fight really is--and how insurmountable the ill-conceived actions of Republican leaders like Bill Back make it.
When I travel to speak at Republican conferences and events around the country, wandering through hotels, convention centers and social clubs, as I approach the rooms where I'm scheduled to speak, I am often told by Republicans that I must be in the wrong place. While boarding a shuttle bus to a national convention a few years ago, an attendee who was already on the bus introduced himself to another white guest who was boarding, took one look at me and, in an attempt to be helpful, told me I was on the wrong bus. As a Bush delegate at the 2000 convention in Philadelphia, I proudly wore my delegate's badge and RNC lapel pin as I worked the convention. Regardless of the fact that I was obviously a delegate prominently displaying my credentials, no less than six times did white delegates dismissively tell me to fetch them a taxi or carry their luggage.
Imagine how our Republican women would have felt if they had been mistaken for hotel maids. These people didn't see that I wasn't wearing a uniform; all they saw was a black face and they made an assumption. I am a proud Republican, one who has traveled this great country from Harlem to Honolulu to promote the Republican message. I've campaigned from Inyo to Siskiyou. Wherever I've been asked to go, I've shown up for this party, speaking to literally thousands of groups. And through it all, I've met thousands upon thousands of grassroots volunteers who have welcomed me, given me good advice, prayers, love, and support. They've taught me a lot, and I've always been grateful for their support. No one has treated me better than Thaddeus Taylor, Inyo County's chairman, who opened his home and treated me with such love. This is not another inter-party squabble of moderates versus conservatives, or rural versus urban. These are grassroots Republicans for whom the principles of inclusion and the big tent are an intrinsic part of their very fiber.
All is not lost in this party, but leadership is the problem. There is a prevalent insensitivity within this party's leadership regarding issues that are important or hurtful to the African American community in general. We cannot continue to elect leaders who have no regard for all of the people. President George W. Bush is the leader of this party and upon his election, he sent out a call for the best and the brightest talent to fill his administration. Through his efforts--in word and in deed--he now has the most diverse administration in American history. President Bush has set the example; it is up to the California Republican Party to follow.
Of the more than five hundred CRP recipients of the newsletter in question, not one party member was sensitive enough to recognize and question the offensive nature of the material, much less to do what should have been done: call for his censure. Subsequently, Bill Back was elevated by the membership from regional vice chairman to statewide vice chairman in the next CRP election, and he currently seeks the chairmanship. I have never called Bill Back a bigot or racist, but I condemn his distribution of bigoted propaganda in his official CRP newsletter. Bill Back cannot under any circumstances be bestowed with the honor of serving as chairman of the California Republican Party. I have not and will not endorse any candidate for chairman in this race, eliminating any perceived political motivation for this letter. If anointed CRP chairman, Bill Back's actions give the Democrats a two-year run in defining our party as one led by someone who sympathizes with bigoted views, which will be damaging to our president as we approach the 2004 election. It would further compromise California's elected Republicans in any matter where race is relevant, and hang like an albatross around the necks of future Republican candidates, a burden they don't deserve to bear. If the CRP elects Bill Back as chairman, then the party in effect endorses his actions of distributing bigoted propaganda. Such an endorsement would take the CRP beyond the point of repair with voters in a pluralistic state--where ethnic populations comprise our majority--and doom us to irrelevance.
As secretary of the California Republican Party and a fourteen-year conservative Republican activist, I call upon Bill Back to withdraw his candidacy from this and any future leadership race of the California Republican Party, and call upon you, my fellow members of the California Republican Party, to contact Bill Back immediately and urge him to withdraw his candidacy.
Yours truly, Shannon F. Reeves Secretary of the Board
cc: Ryan Erwin, Executive Director, California Republican Party Membership of the California Republican Party
we don't need no yuba yokels smearing our good name with his racist literature
Steel's handpicked successor, Duf Sondheim, is a moderate. Bill Back is much more conservative, but has the backing of Gerry Parsky which makes him an automatic enemy of Steel.
The problem with the CRP is that the leadership seems to thrive on personal power trips and personal power battles, with total disregard for the interest of the stalwart but frustrated republican voters in the state. Steel is largely responsible for the atrocious republican performance in the 2002 elections in California, due to his continued fostering of division in the party rather than trying to unify it to battle the democrats effectively.
He isn't a RINO. The way he has been treated is ridiculous. To assume every non-white face is the hired help will never help the GOP.
What makes you say that - because he has a problem with having to justify his blackness to blacks and his conservative-ness to right wingers? Or is it because he feels that a solid way to permeate the black community with a conservative message is from within (which lead him to the chair of the Oakland NAACP?).
So does this mean that any Republican who doesn't agree with you 100% on each and every issue is a RINO? Who made you final arbitor of who is or is not a conservative?
I happen to agree with him. While Back may not be a racist, his statements could lead individuals to believe that he is. And when a black man like Reeves, or myself for that matter, discusses the GOP or conservatism with a black audience, we have to deal with that obstacle. That's simply a statement of fact.
Just as it was wrong for Trent Lott to insert his Johnston & Murphy's into his throat, Back was just as wrong to indulge in shoe leather.
Is there any wonder as to why conservatives find it difficult to encourage minorities to even look at the GOP when there are people like this running around? Back's letter reenforces the lies and innuendo that left-wingers spout all day long, day in and day out. When they accuse us on the right as being hate-mongers, they have but to point to crap like that. And then any credibility that I have been able to gain goes straight down the drain. I'm left in a perpetual state of rebuilding credibility and trust.
So by your definition, anyone who dissents with Bush or Reagan or Dole or Keyes is a "moderate" and "needs to go?"
Is there no room for dissent and debate and conversation? From those comes growth. Are you against growth?
So do you. So you're a RINO?
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