Token

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.
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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.”
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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.

—Kenrya

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