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The Republican Party's "Racism Problem"

Then-Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele arrives for a news conference at the committee's headquarters on Capitol Hill November 4, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Then-Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele arrives for a news conference at the committee's headquarters on Capitol Hill November 4, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Michael Steele made history when he became the first African-American chair of the Republican National Convention in 2009. Steele served in that role until 2011 and he likely wasn’t expecting to make headlines while in attendance at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C.

Then, this happened at the event’s annual Ronald Reagan dinner.

“We were somewhat lost as a group, we had just elected the first African-American president, and that was a big deal and that was a hill that we got over and it was something that we were all proud of and we weren’t sure what to do, and in a little bit of cynicism what did we do? This is a terrible thing. We elected Mike Steele to be the RNC chair because he’s a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do.”

—Ian Walters, CPAC Communications Director

Steele’s response to the remarks have ranged from refusing to accept an apology from CPAC officials to agreeing that the Republican Party has a “racism problem.”

A 2016 Pew Research survey reveals that only about 7 percent of African-Americans identify as or lean Republican, even after the GOP’s efforts (including the selection of Steele as RNC head) to appeal to more black voters.

For conservatives of color, it’s a moment to address the challenge of contending with the GOP’s record on race and ask: Is the Republican Party truly a party for all?

GUESTS

Jill Upson, West Virginia State Delegate, the first black Republican woman elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in the state’s history; @Upson4WV

Leah Wright Rigueur, Professor, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; author, “The Loneliness of the Black Republican” @LeahRigueur

Gianno Caldwell, Republican strategist; Principal at Caldwell Strategic Consulting; news analyst, Fox News; @giannocaldwell

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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