I have lived in several “red” states all of my life. Born and raised in the Magnolia State, lived for a stint in the swamp lands of Louisiana, and I am raising my kids in the volunteer state of Tennessee. I will always be the girl from Mississippi and I learned to love cultural diversity from Louisiana, but the great state of Tennessee has help shaped my world view more so than any of the other states. All have taught me that a Repub does not make a conservative and every conservative is not a Repub.
The Grand Ole Party not only has a visual image problem but it is in a place that we normally see Demos, absent of leadership, trying to figure out who they are and what group is their base. President Bush’s fall from grace made the Repubs’ reputation take a nosedive in the area of public trust and perception. Big government and outrageous spending that would feel right at home with the Demos, seemed to cloak the Bush Administration like a warm blanket. A message was sent in 2006 that the country was not happy with business as usual, but it took the elections of 2008 to really nail the casket shut. Many folks were buried alive politically. A few, however, managed to dig themselves out of their Rovian graveyard. But hanging out with the walking dead is only popular among morticians and grave diggers.
Senator McCain’s decision to pick Governor Palin was brilliant in strategy, but dumb in execution. Clinton supporters were yelling to the high heavens for a minute there. They would have voted Strawberry Short Cake in office immediately following Senator Clinton’s primary defeat because they wanted a woman so badly. A cartoon character would have sufficed as long as she was a female. Picking a woman was a good call for McCain but the plan lacked intelligence. Those 18 million cracks needed sealing. Picking Gov. Romney (IMHO) would have been a deal sealer and would have made those of us who were hurting in the pocket feel safe and secure (money wise). Many moderate Repubs would have spent more time analyzing the issues than wondering if Palin was sane or not.
Watching Palin come unglued right before American eyes was not how to win an election. It was at times too painful to watch. Palin and that hail Mary pass was a gimmick and it backfired on the Repub party. Senator Obama went on to become our forty-fourth president. Folks had enough of buffoonery and gimmicks.
Now, the RNC is trying the same gimmicky move with Michael Steel. Electing a black man to prove that the RNC is up for the challenge of becoming more diverse and inclusive will be tested earlier than later. Race, gender, faith, and sexual orientation will all be part of the diversity dialogue with the good folks at the RNC. Many of these conversations have not been had in my neck of the woods. As a matter of fact, some on my list are not even considered. I live in the land where the “Happy Negro” song originated. I socialize and do business with Repubs and Conservs daily. Michael Steele will not bring diversity to the RNC is my hunch based on my years of sitting at my grandfather’s feet listening to him discuss politics. Daddy believed strongly, “Never try to play tricks with folks, you will get burned every time!”
Diversity is a state of being, a mindset if you will, not all about color. Having a black man in charge does not rally the troops, especially if the troops tend to see things in black and white. Mainly white. Ask Senator Pelosi and she will confirm my assertion. Well, maybe not publicly.
It will take daily efforts of being totally intentional in reaching out to minorities, women, and everyone else from now until 2012 to make any headway in that area. It takes years to break down barriers and it is rarely done in one election cycle. I remember attending McCain/Palin rallies and personally hearing “terrorists,” “monkey,” “nigger,” and the like to the tunes of many of my beloved CMA songs. I was sent the Happy Negro CD for Christmas. Folks will not forget these enduring heart to heart monologues and shouts of love quickly.
I enjoy hearing both sides of any argument. I love to make my decisions based not on a party view but what is the greater good for my family, my business, my customers, and of course my country. I plan to visit Mr. Steele in DC when I make my annual trip for several legislative days that I will be attending regarding women and minorities in business, and an industry meeting. I am hoping that he will not give me lip service or talking points. I have shared with him in the past that forming a group to help speak to diversity issues does make an organization diverse or even open to diversity. Often diversity is only a side topic or regulated to a department in many non-minority organizations. I belong to several. Many of these organizations rarely sit in meetings and say, “Hey, we need more diversity.” They see me and believe “we are covered.” It only happens if pressure from the outside, and in rare cases from the inside, address the issues and then and only then a mad dash is made to pull a “token” somebody to fit the agenda of looking diverse. How many times I have seen this? Let me count the ways!
I am part of a group, at the moment, where everyone on our committee is coming to the same conclusion that the national organization is only giving the group lip service and has very little intention in becoming more diverse. The staff is non-color, the board is non-color, and the few of us trying to make a difference, have gotten tired of the step-children antics that are being played out right in front of us. At a time where diversity is very in, and folks are scrambling to at least pretend they see everybody; some folks are still slow to embrace diversity and inclusiveness. Even when it is presented as good business model versus it is the right to thing to do. Money usually can get
everyone’s every ones attention. Usually. Change has come to Washington, but not everyone is going to change.
Michael Steele has a huge task ahead of him, if he is to bring the RNC closer to the year 2002 by reaching out to embrace others (and by others, I do mean others) than where it is now, 1964. Mr. Steele’s success will be determined if the RNC see a need to be inclusive. He will be the toast of the town and not a piece of light bread. I do hope he is successful although I think the motives are suspect. But even good things can come from bad intentions. At least it will be a learning curve for participants as well as spectators. One thing about toast, it must be watched because it can easily burn.