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Exclusion in Tampa

Blacking Out GOP Racism

by LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.

The news media have failed once again to report a significant story about an example of the racism always so obvious at Republican National Conventions.

That story this time is not about the usual paucity of black delegates participating in the GOP’s quadrennial presidential candidate nominating confab (evident to anyone viewing video of the convention floor) or about Republican leaders lamely decrying Democrats for “falsely” claiming the GOP exploits racial prejudice.

Rather, the story persistently missed by mainstream news media this time concerns the failure of the GOP to include black-owned businesses in the economic opportunities arising from its nominating convention.

This exclusion belies the GOP proclamations that it is a champion of both business opportunity and of even-handedness.

The recently concluded Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay pumped an estimated $153-million into that region’s economy.

However, very few black businesses around Tampa received any revenue from RNC-related expenditures.

The presidents of the Tampa Bay Black Chamber of Commerce and the Sun Coast African American Chamber of Commerce both said economic exclusion ruled at Tampa’s RNC event.

“There was no big tent of inclusion,” said Tampa Bay Black Chamber head Willis Bowick. “The RNC had no real outreach to black businesses here.”

David Venson, president of the Sun Coast African American Chamber of Commerce, said a few blacks businesses received contracts, mainly food service, but it was very minor.

“The RNC provided opportunities to white-owned businesses first. There were very limited opportunities for blacks, and those opportunities were not even made available until the last minute,” Venson said.

Bowick and Venson were interviewed a few hours before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, esponding to a question about charges of racism consistently leveled agaiinst the Republican Party, told CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley that he supported “civil rights and equal opportunity.”

Tampa Black Chamber head Bowick voiced a belief held by many blacks that both the Republican and Democratic parties “take advantage of the African American community…”

The exclusion of black owned Tampa Bay businesses from that recent RNC paralleled the black business exclusion that was evident during the 2008 RNC in Minnesota –- exclusion which was also overlooked by the mainstream media at the time.

Only the black-owned Minnesota Spokesman-Reporter newspaper reported on that 2008 black business exclusion.

“None of that convention money trickled down. We have significant businesses that could have benefited that didn’t,” Spokesman reporter Charles Hallman said in an August 2008 interview about his coverage headlined: “Republican Convention Host Committee overlooks Black businesses.”

When the GOP held its 2000 nominating convention in Philadelphia, which was extravagantly themed around racial inclusiveness, the mainstream media failed to find the festering story about the exclusion of black-owned businesses in the Delaware Valley. Only Philadelphia’s black-owned media reported this economic apartheid.

Months before that August 2000 RNC in Philadelphia, the then vice-chairwoman of the GOP’s minority outreach/recruitment initiative, Faye M. Anderson, resigned publicly from her post, expressing her frustration at that party’s “pattern of racial blunders.”

Anderson, in an August 2000 New York Times commentary, stated it was “past time for the party to move beyond the oratory of inclusion.”

Days before the August 2012 RNC in Tampa Bay, one of that city’s most prominent Republican Party activists, W.J. Robinson, similarly resigned from the GOP, citing his frustration with the GOP’s lack of response to African American issues including the lack of black business inclusion at the RNC.

Robinson, like Anderson in 2000, said his resignation arose largely from his seeing so many instances of GOP officials (locally, across Florida and nationally) putting their feet in their mouths around issues involving race and racism.

“I started getting [snubbed] by the Party for speaking out for black concerns. My thing with the GOP was always getting opportunities for black businesses,” Robinson said. “We tried to help everybody instead of operating on a partisan basis.”

Robinson, who owns an engineering consulting company, said he couldn’t even generate GOP support for publishing a small directory of African American-owned Tampa Bay businesses for distribution at the RNC –- a project that Robinson envisioned as showing that the “Republican Party is concerned with black people.”

Robinson, a GOP activist since 1999, said he witnessed things for blacks increasingly worsen within the GOP during the past few years paralleling the ascendancy of Tea Party influence.

“The new crew changed the landscape,” Robinson said. “There is nothing for black folks in this Tea Party mentality. With the GOP they do not even give us trickle-down crumbs.”

The mainstream media presented dozens of stories from the Tampa RNC concerning on the defection of former black Democratic Congressman Artur Davis to the Republican Party.

Yet there were no Tampa convention-generated mainstream media articles listed in the LexisNexis database about W.J. Robinson’s resignation from the GOP. That high-profile defection made front-page news only in the black-owned Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper.

In contrast to the black business exclusion at the Tampa RNC, black businesses apparently are receiving more equitable access to economic opportunities generated by the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.

Herb White, Editor of the black-owned Charlotte Post newspaper, said, “The Democrats did have a goal to work with people or color, veteran-owned businesses, women-owned business and businesses owned by gays and lesbians.”

White added, “There has been some tangible proof of minorities getting contracts from the DNC.”

A front-page article in the August 30th edition of Canada’s National Post newspaper provided compelling evidence of the unwillingness of mainstream media in North America to present probing coverage on the topic of Republican Party racim.

The central thrust of that article was the quoting of Republican Party leaders bashing the Obama administration, the Democrats and the liberal media for constantly playing the “race card” to make the GOP “seem racist.”

The National Post’s article omitted important context such as referencing the ugly race-baiting resorted to during the Republican presidential primary campaign by candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

When referencing criticisms of “Republican-led” Voter ID laws, the article in the conservative-leaningNational Post blacked-out facts documenting that in-person voter fraud is extraordinarily rare and that such ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise non-whites.

That article also ignored the GOP’s history of assaults on affirmative-action, a governmental and court initiative ironically initiated by Republican President Richard Nixon who wanted to provide economic opportunities to black businesses disadvantaged by decades of America’s legalized segregation.

That National Post article, while quoting GOP leaders like Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor and Republican Party chair, did not quote black Republican critics like Raynard Jackson who’s insightfully examined GOP prejudicial practices this year.

For example, Jackson, in a Washington Post commentary published two days before that Canadian newspaper article, again criticized the lack of top black staff in the Mitt Romney campaign.

Curiously, that August 30th Canadian article did refer to an August 28th Washington Post article criticizing Republican Party racism published on the same day as Jackson’s WP commentary. Jackson’s article clashed with that Canadian article’s slant asserting that the liberal media was maliciously assailing the GOP.

Critiques of Raynard Jackson are similar to 2000 when Faye M. Anderson decried the GOP’s illusion-of-inclusion involving blacks and Hispanics, where that party seeks support from persons of color without supporting issues important of to those groups.

In 2000, Anderson criticized Republican candidate George W. Bush for addressing the NAACP’s convention that year without addressing “issues of concern to the group’s members” -– the same criticism Jackson raised about Romney’s 2012 NAACP convention address.

Jackson, in a July 12th commentary, faulted the mainstream media for downplaying the real “leaders” in the black community: businessmen and businesswomen.

“Black business leaders are the most important entry point to the Black community and Republicans, of all people, are totally ignorant of this fact,” Jackson wrote.

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia. 


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