In the U.S. Congress, there are dozens of internal issue-oriented caucuses where members can gather together, support positions, and advocate for their interests as a congressional coalition. The Congressional Black Caucus(CBC) is one of those caucuses, and last week, it was widely reported they were hesitant to accept a new member into the caucus. Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) seemed to meet all the criteria for membership as a Black American member of Congress. The only thing that separates him from the other members is that he is a Republican, and to the Democrats in the CBC, that is unacceptable.
Rep. Donalds said, “the media’s been covering Democrats for quite some time. So when they try to bring up President Trump and things he has said as justification I found it to be outrageous…last time I checked, I was born Black, I’ve grown up Black, I’ve made it in America as a Black man, I graduated college as a Black man, I raised my sons as a Black man, I came into the halls of Congress as a Black man.”
When Donalds was serving at the local level, as a Republican in the Florida State legislature, he was a member of the Black Legislative Caucus. That caucus had no issue with him joining and being able to give a different and more conservative perspective to the group. Why then, was there any hesitancy at all from the CBC?
According to their website, the CBC is “committed to using the full Constitutional power, statutory authority, and financial resources of the federal government to ensure that African Americans and other marginalized communities in the United States have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
The first paragraph in Rep. Donalds’ bio would indicate that he would be a prime candidate for membership because he would understand and appreciate their end goal even if they may differ on how to get there. “Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Byron Donalds is the product of a single-parent household. Throughout his life, his mother made every sacrifice possible to give him the best opportunity at the American Dream. That philosophy his mother taught him, striving to leave future generations better than the current, is what leads him in his work…”
We all know that the Black community is not monolithic in geography, economics, and thought, and that is okay. While we are different, we are united as being Black in America, the greatest country on earth. Our diverse opinions and backgrounds should not be used against us as if that is a problem. We should unite around common goals and ideas and strive to find common ground.
The Bipartisan Congressional Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Caucus is a prime example of how diverse people from both sides of the aisle can come together towards a common goal, supporting HBCUs. While you do not have to be Black, have an HBCU in your district or state, or have attended an HBCU, you should have to care about their survival and growth. To that end, there are dozens of Democrat and Republican Members of Congress of all races serving on the caucus in both chambers. That is a good thing because they are finding common ground to do good for HBCUs.
In fairness, Rep. Burgess Owens is a Black Republican Member of Congress who opted out of joining the CBC, as did former Rep. J.C. Watts. But other Black Republicans, including former Congressmen Mia Love and Allen West, did join. So even if they wanted to follow precedence, Rep. Byron Donalds should be a formal member.
As a nation we should look to leaders to set the standard for how they want the nation to be. If the Democrats talk about diversity and inclusion, tolerance and equity, but totally flip the script when it involves a Black Republican, we must ultimately ask: what is the CBC afraid of?
Are they afraid that Donalds will hold them accountable for not standing with Senator Tim Scott and his JUSTICE Act last year when we could have passed meaningful police reform after the death of George Floyd? Or being held accountable for not supporting the Trump tax cuts that led to tax relief for Black Americans, and created Opportunity Zones?
Are they afraid that Donalds will have a different approach on bills that seem to only throw money at failing schools and not drive out the negative influence of the teachers’ unions that do not support school choice and vouchers?
Are they afraid that Donalds will speak truth about how Liberal policies have failed the Black community and it might be high time to change course and consider more conservative policies like we saw in the Black Economic Empowerment Plan?
The CBC must know that there are millions of Black Americans who think like Byron Donalds all over the country. President Trump increased his support fromBlack men to 26% and more than doubled his support from Black women. All over the nation, when you look at the Republican victories they included Black voters. Additionally, there were over 50 Black Republicans that ran for Congress last cycle, and so far I know of over two dozen running in GOP primaries at all levels in 2022. In fact, Winsome Sears just made history in Virginia becoming the first Black woman to earn the GOP nomination for Lieutenant Governor.
Rep. Byron Donalds’ own words perfectly exemplify why his voice is needed in the CBC: “I have a perspective being a 42-year-old Black man who has come up in America after a lot of the battles through the civil rights movement that I think would be helpful and a helpful perspective to the CBC…whether they want to take advantage of that is really up to them but it’s something that I’ve actually expressed interest in joining. I think having a wider range of discussions from all sides of the political framework is important. Not just for Black America but all America.”
I thought Democrats always try to message to voters that they are inclusive, open minded, and tolerant…well apparently not if you have conservative values, supported the empowering agenda of President Trump, or are Republican. Democrats in Congress should not be this shortsighted and discriminatory. It has been over five months since the new Congress came into power and there is no legitimate reason why they have yet to extend Donalds a formal invitation after he expressed a sincere interest in joining months ago.
Paris Dennard is the National Spokesperson and Director of Black Media Affairs for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Follow him on Twitter: @PARISDENNARD.