During the 2012 Republican Convention, diversity window dressing and collective amnesia about the systemic racial discrimination in this country was in full regalia.
Throughout the convention, a parade of new minority faces crossed the stage. There was Mia Love, a black, Mormon mayor of a small town in Utah who is currently running for Congress. Are we to believe that she is just one of many black Republicans, of many black Mormons? Or many such combinations thereof? Hardly!
Then there was Artur Davis, a former black Democratic Congressman from Alabama recently turned Republican. The parade of diversity did not stop there. Nikki Haley, the first Indian-American woman governor of South Carolina addressed the convention, along with Susana Martinez, the first woman Latino governor of New Mexico. And, of course, there were others peppered here and there.
They all came to tell their story of personal success despite their origin, their race, their challenges. They came to tout how they are living examples of the American dream of equal opportunity for all.
But when you step into the halls of the Republican convention and move out into the countryside, how many minorities do you really see? When you look at the policies, the practices, the words and actions of Republican elected officials, leaders, pundits, and talking heads, do you believe they are a party of inclusiveness, equality, and respect across race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status?
If you were just visiting America for the first time, or had no knowledge of its history, one might easily buy into the Republican mantra of everyone is free to become whatever they want to become, whatever they work hard at becoming. That we all, in fact, have the same great American opportunity when it comes to getting a high quality education, when it comes to getting a job that pays a decent wage, when it comes to being able to live in a good neighborhood free of blight and crime.
If you were uninformed and walked around with blinders, “Republican Speak” would sound quite appealing and make all the sense in the world.
But where have all of those Republicans been? What America did they grow-up in? Do they have a clue about the institution of slavery and the destruction it waged on the black family unit? Do they have a clue about the century of racial inequality and discrimination when it comes to education, jobs, housing — the critical components that determine not only quality of life, but ultimately the health of a nation?
Are they confused or unaware of the twelve million undocumented immigrants that work for less than minimum wage, undergirding the American economy? Yet they live and hide every day under the cloak of fear because the Republican Congress refuses to act on any policy that will bring some kind of solution to enable them to become productive American citizens. Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney’s solution is that they — all twelve million of them — should self deport.
Truly, where is the Grand Ole Party, the party of Lincoln, the party of the post-Reconstruction era? Once, there was a Republican Party that sought to live out the creed of this nation’s most sacred documents. The true meaning of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and The Constitution seemed to have guided their policies and actions to make this a better America for all.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, and one has to ask; on what American creed do they base their worldview, philosophy, policies, and practices? Unlike our forefathers, the realities of the day seem to have little sway in the solutions put forward.
Any truly informed American, who is honest, can look into the mirror, and speak the truth, knows that those minorities paraded across the stage at the Republican Convention represent the exception not the rule, in not only the Republican Party, but all across this land. They are not examples of the life experiences of most minorities in this country.
So until the Republican Party and communities across the nation can get beyond the window dressing, accepting a minority here and a minority there; and until the Republican Party and communities across the nation stop having collective amnesia when it comes to race, and the systemic discriminatory practices in every quadrant of our society — business, education, housing, jobs — many of America’s sustaining values, and guiding principles of our most sacred creeds will remain only skin deep.
That is the real danger that threatens the short and long-term health of America more than any other external force. We are failing to live out the very principles that will sustain us, and continue to make us great, as a nation.
Window dressing and collective amnesia are not a winning formula for sustaining a society no matter how great it has become. Let Rome be our lesson.