Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele says that the Republican Party lacks authentic representation of black Americans and the issues they care about. As he exited what’s been reported to be the whitest Republican National Convention in decades, Youth Radio’s Soraya Shockley asked Steele about the state of race in his Party.
Steele was the first black chairman of the RNC from 2009-11 and during his tenure, he was a voice for inclusion and expanding the demographics of the GOP. However, once out of office, Steele has been critical of the Republican Party’s lack of ethnic diversity, especially as this election year has seen divisive racially charged rhetoric and a dwindling number of black delegates at the RNC.
Steele told Youth Radio he sees the dearth of black delegates on the convention floor as a real problem–one that goes way beyond who showed up in Cleveland this year.
Donald Trump is strikingly unpopular among young black voters, with fewer than 2% saying they’d vote for him if the election were today, according to a national poll from the University of Chicago’s Black Youth Project and the AP.
Trump’s campaign has alienated communities of color. He’s gone after Black Lives Matter protesters, called for bans against Muslims entering the country, and announced plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico. So the presence of people of color speaking at the RNC podium begs the question: are these speakers being tokenized?
Reflecting on what he’s heard from the podium so far this week, Steele said, “We acknowledge the history, we love talking about the civil rights act, we love talking about Abraham Lincoln and emancipation. But we’re not talking about today…I was thinking about Janet Jackson: ‘What have you done for me lately?’ That was 1865. That was 1872, that was 1964. What have you done in 2016?”
A handful of black speakers have taken the stage at this year’s RNC, but Steele says he’s yet to hear a single authentic moment from them. “I want to see a black person stand up on that stage and speak authentically about our community and relate our republican ideals to that…When you seem to harangue and chastise the community for its condition… you’re losing folks, and you’re using [black voices] to do it.”
Will Steele cast his vote for Trump? “I haven’t decided,” he told Youth Radio.
Soraya Shockley is a reporter for Youth Radio.