As a Black woman working in media, I’m used to being the only dark face in the room, whether I’m walking the halls of your favorite magazine or working the room at an industry event. But oddly enough, I never really felt like a token. I guess that’s because I’ve always had the feeling that I was there in spite of my chocolate brown exterior, rather than because of it. So I’m having trouble jumping into the bald, shiny head of Michael Steele, the Black dude who was just elected chair of the Republican National Committee.
Now I’m not saying he’s not qualified for the gig (he is a former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and current chairman of GOPAC, which recruits and trains Republican candidates); I’m just saying that by all reports, that’s not why he was chosen for this job. In a nation where “change” has become a near meaningless catchword, it seems the new shorthand for “change” is now “Black.”
Despite concerns of the party’s core that Steele’s politics are not in line with their brand of “social conservatism,” (which in the U.S. is defined as using the government to enforce traditional values and behaviors on the masses, ie: discouraging homosexuality, abortion and heathenism) they still managed to elect him to lead the party of Sarah Palin. When it came time to pick the new face of said party, it didn’t seem to matter that he was considered by many to be the most moderate of the five candidates running, and no one seemed to think it was a problem that he wasn’t even a member of the RNC before he ran for the post.

So how did this cat make it into the top spot? For one thing, the Republican party needed their own “first” to mirror Obama, and they got that in Steele, who has described his own historic election as the “dawn of a new party.” It seems that after seeing the tremendous power that Black folks had on the outcome of the presidential election, the Republicans see Steele as their “in” into the Black community. And Steele has vowed to carry out that mission, saying, not so obliquely: “We’re going to say to friend and foe alike: ‘We want you to be a part of us, we want you to be with us.’ ” What’s interesting is that the role African Americans played in the passage of Proposition 8 in California last year clearly illustrates the fact that many church-going Black folks are actually social conservatives at heart, working hard to hammer in the very pegs that the core of the Republican party has long hung its hats on.

Do you think his election is an attempt to pander to the newly-stylish African Americans, or a genuine attempt to be more inclusive of all Americans? As Petey Green would say, talk to me.


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Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Ak

    thanks for this column. weirdly, i couldn’t figure out the right word or phrase to describe Michael Steele. Nonsensical, aesthetic ish like, “middle age Ken doll dipped in Nestle Quik,” and “Ebony bachelor, circa 1982″came to mind. Meanwhile, “token” was sitting here all along just waiting for the right person to use it. the GOP is really shameless. thanks for calling them out.

  • mclovin

    Two words — Uncle Tom

  • bkili

    I concur with Ak. Another lame attempt. Should be interesting to see how this one plays out.

  • julie

    great post!
    Unfortunately, i think you are right, and this is the case, he’s just a product of a “popular” movement. Bec otherwise, its just doesn’t make sense! Hope he’ll do something positive though – i am an optimist!

  • Yahaira

    Total Token…. The republican party is always reacting to what is “cool” or “in”. It’s fake…not genuine at all!
    You have Hilary…they give you Palin.. Now this!

  • Vivian

    I don’t think he was chosen solely based on his qualifications, more on his race. So the Republicans have done exactly what they accuse others of doing. Using race as a qualifier. Bless their hearts. I would love to be a fly on the wall when he and Sarah Palin are trying to find common ground. Or Rush Limbaugh.

  • Lanie

    Believe this, his job description is to cut up Pres. Obama and now the people are not supposed to see it as color. Again, Uncle Tom!

  • Van

    Token, yes. Not surprising.

    In Maryland as Lt. Governor Steele was not very effective. In the last election before O’Malley won over Erlich for the position as Governor, Steele was basically the token then. However, he is definitely intelligent and fit for the position. I hope he can do some good things.

    We have historically been “pitted” against each other and I hope that is not the case now. We were also Republicans at one time in history as well, so I want to give him the benefit and us what was intended bad and turn it into something good.

  • Van

    Great article Kenrya!

    I do not think his nomination is an attempt to include all Americans in this political process. Not to say Steele is not qualified to be Chair of the RNC, but he is definitely being played. I think it is alright with him too. Here they go again, picking a person just when the time is right.

    There are discussions going on in Maryland regarding this choice. I thought it was very interesting when someone pointed out that there were SIX rounds of meetings before Steele was actually elected by the Committee and that has never happened before.

    Historically, we have been “pitted” against each other and caused our own demise. I truly hope this is not the case and some good comes out of his nomination besides being the token for the RNC.

  • Great article Kenrya! I love your writing. I have to say Ak’s use of the line, “middle age Ken doll dipped in Nestle Quik,” made me laugh because it’s sad but true. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Thanks, as always, for this thought-provoking piece.

  • Tahad

    Welcome to the first phase of the new world order. Wake up! All this judgment about who is what, and what will they do for us crap is an illusion. Black suddenly back; please, again wake up! America has never prepared a better place for our destruction. Crazy people are always the ones that look at the same situation expecting a different outcome. Can you see it don’t matter who’s in office. The New World Agenda is always at the center. It will only get worse. Of course you’ll play in the end-game by requesting the GOV. do something about it, they will eventually get rid of the complaints. YOU! America plays the death dealer, He is the father of deceit, manipulation and death.