By Dr. Joy Martinez, Staff Writer
The Black Republican Trailblazer Award is an annual award given during Black History Month to celebrate outstanding achievements of Black Republican leaders and to recognize them for their leadership and commitment to paving the way.
This year’s honorees were Dr. Ben Carson, Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Jerome Adams, the 20th U.S. Surgeon General and VADM, U.S. Public Health Services.
Before the Annual Black Trailblazers’ event, the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) top official offered an exclusive conversation with The Carolinian.
Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is the second woman ever elected Chair of the RNC and has served since 2017. An amiable woman, she chose her words carefully but without hesitation as she shared her thoughts on Black engagement with the RNC in the past and the need for change moving forward.
“The RNC has made a dedicated effort to engage with the Black community year-round—not just a few weeks before a presidential election,” RNC Chairwoman McDaniel said in a recent statement.
“We are serious about minority voter engagement because we know the Republican Party has an empowering message and policies that work for all Americans and the Black community.”
She was more specific in her conversation with The Carolinian. “I think the Trump Administration opened the door for conversations that had not been had with Republicans and the Black Community for too long, and they came through policies like economic opportunity zones, loan forgiveness for the HBCUs, school choice, record low unemployment in the Black community driven by opportunities in the workplace and a growing and thriving economy and getting rid of things like Dodd Frank that allowed lending to go back to community banks and allowed minorities to be able to gain loans for their small businesses. Those types of conversations on top of the First Step Act gave us an ability to go into Black communities and say… what you think about the Republican Party is not true.”
McDaniel did not stop there, she acknowledged the party had “not done the best job of engaging in the past” and that the work of building relationship must continue long-term if there are to be lasting effects and increased Black representation in the GOP.
“We cannot just leave those communities and think that us being there for two months or three months during an election cycle is enough. We have to be there long term, and be part of that community, listen to the issues that the community is concerned about, and help [the community] make us a better party, and also show that we are invested in the Black community long-term.”
The RNC has committed to spending $2 million on Black Community Centers—outreach centers officials say they plan to begin opening as early as this spring in battleground states across the country.
“There will be people on the ground, staff on the ground earlier than ever heading into 2022.” McDaniel insists this is something she is passionate about because when she served as the Michigan party chair there was “an office open in Detroit and just being there and being a part of the community and [celebrating] June 19th or having breakfast with the pastors or talking about the issues that were facing the community” made a difference in how the party was received in the area.
McDaniel cites high insurance rates, access to public transit and school choice as issues that were discussed as part of the year-long dialogue. She is outspoken regarding her belief that school choice is critical to parents’ ability to demand quality education for their children and continued school closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool “Democrat special interest groups” are using to “hold education funding hostage.”
What does the working mother of two have to say to the Black mother who questions and says, “I’m not sure this is truth, I am not sure your message is something I can trust?”
“Mother to mother I think we can relate on a lot of issues especially when we talk about what we want to teach our kids and who we want our kids to be. Access to good education is key, and right now I don’t think it’s being discussed enough the disparity as to how COVID is treating kids in public school versus kids in private school… and these are conversations that need to be had.”
The RNC Chairwoman points to research that shows in-person learning being critical to student success and posits the continued pattern of virtual learning for public school students is detrimental to their forward social and academic progress.
It is this pattern and history of disparity across socioeconomic and racial lines that fuels Critical Race Theory; proponents point to these institutional arrangements that help create and maintain disparate racialized outcomes.
In her Black History Month Op-Ed, McDaniel wrote, “This year, I challenge other working Conservative moms, and all these so-called ‘woke’ parents to use Black History Month as a teachable moment for your children.
‘‘In a season where the popular thing to do is cancel the contributions of those on the Republican side of the aisle, push back against that and tell the complete story of the history of Blacks in America.”
In light of that charge, the Chairwoman was asked to respond to Critical Race Theorists who focus explicitly on the concept of White privilege to understand how racism influences white people and their relationship to Black America.
The RNC Chair responded that her charge is quite clear. “We can’t erase the contributions of Black Republicans to our history and when you look at Lincoln, the first Republican president who fought against slavery, when you look at the first 21 Black Americans who served in the House of Representatives they were all Republicans, the first 3 Black Americans to serve in the Senate were all Republicans, the deeper things that we don’t talk about… you see Clarence Thomas, Condeleezza Rice, other strong Black Republicans being removed from Black History Month.”
The Chairwoman points to this year’s television advertisements specifically celebrating Black History Month and expresses her disappointment that “no Republicans were identified, including our two new members of Congress… I think it’s important that we use this month to celebrate Black history but also tell the truth of Black history and the Republican Party.”