While growing up I was always told that the Democratic Party represented people of color and the poor, and the Republican Party represented the White and the rich. As I grew older I questioned these myths and changed my Democrat registration to Republican.
Often, many individuals approached me and shared this age-old tradition of registering to vote based on one's economic status, their family's party or the community's custom and background. My experience in politics has shown me that many of us rarely question that old concept that all people of color must be Democrats and all Whites must be Republican. If we examine the facts closely, many of us may find that, election after election, we continue to remain loyal to a party that no longer meets our ideas or beliefs as adults.
As adults we must let our wisdom lead our choices rather than making our choices based upon traditions. We should judge those who will lead us based upon patterns of behaviors that represent those that "we" value, rather than standards established for us by others. We must all continuously question whether it is logical to continue to believe that all people of color must register as Democrats and all people of the White race must register as Republicans.
In the March on Washington Speech given by Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963, King stated, "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred." King goes on to state, "The marvelous militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all White people for many of our White brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, to realize that their freedom is inextricably bounded to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."
As an elected Republican official, I feel a great since of responsibility to weigh in on the Senator Trent Lott (Republican-Mississippi) debate, as the issue of his downfall goes back to the issue of Democrats versus Republicans, and subsequently, Blacks versus Whites.
However, in reality the real issue is behavior. While Senator Lott placed the spotlight on his behavior as a result of his comments, I would venture to say that there are many other elected individuals (both Democrat and Republican) whose records are no better, and possibly worse than the record of the recently derailed Lott.
Although Senator Lott, under enormous pressure, has stepped down, my fear is that we may all well be victims of "bait and switch" if the call for Lott's blood ends only with a change in face, not in behavior. The "bait" was that Senator Lott was to be replaced by someone who could lead the Republican Party. The potential "switch" is if Senator Bill Frist's performance as it relates to Blacks and people of color is no better than Trent Lott's. If not, then we would have all been fooled that there would be a new day in the behaviors of the Republican Party towards those of color simply by a superficial change in leadership.
I worry that this may in fact be the case as Senator Frist has already turned his focus to other issues such as terrorism, prescription drugs, and the economy. While, of course, these issues are of great importance, we must not let Frist, escape from those issues that were the "so-called" reasons Senator Lott was driven from his post. Senator Lott, like many other Republicans, for years has been allowed to get away with symbolic gestures of unfair and unequal treatment for people of color, especially Blacks. For that reason, Senator Bill Frist, who was whisked in to fill Lotts shoes, should be urged to devise and publicize a credible plan that reflects sincere actions to be taken by the party that is not limited to just bringing in people of color into the party, but welcomes people of color as those that can help to shape the Republican Partys political agenda as it relates to how the party will best serve the country.
Four suggestions for Senator Frist are to:
1) hire a public relations firm owned and operated by individuals of color, specifically Blacks, as this is the group the Republicans state they have targeted to bring into the Party. By doing this, the Republicans would be better able to relate to Blacks from the perspective of those that understand the true concerns of Blacks;
2) increase the number of Blacks and people of color in decision-making staff positions within the offices of elected Republicans so that their thinking and behaviors can be constantly challenged;
3) confirm at least ten individuals of color to federal judgeships to work to change our legal system from the inside in order that our system lives up to its original idea that "justice is blind" so that criminals can be sentenced more fairly; and
4) begin a genuine campaign to recruit more people of color into the Republican Party who believe in the philosophy but are currently leery of its leadership.
While it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to have held Senator Lott hostage to change his behavior in exchange for holding onto his majority leader position, now that he has resigned, it will be up to Frist and those remaining Republicans, both federal and locals,, to offer more than lip service to their commitment to fairness and equal treatment to people of color.
Maybe what is necessary is to tell all Republican leaders that, if in fact they "all" are sincere in conducting themselves differently, then Frist and the Party take must this opportunity to not follow in the footsteps of Senator Lott by waiting until a misstatement or misdeed exposes the true self; but instead, they must immediately begin to demonstrate (through behavior) their position on the many issues facing Blacks and other individuals of color in this country.
As we all know, in the end it is the two clichés dealing with sincerity of the heart: 1) "Actions speak louder than words" and 2) "It's not what you say, but what you do that counts."
So, let us all keep watch on Senator Frist, as his actions will tell the true tale if anyone other than the Republican Party leadership will be the true beneficiaries of Senator Lotts demise.
Lawrence T. Boschulte
Editor's note: Mr. Boschulte states that he is the first Republican to be elected to the Board of Elections in the St. Thomas/St. John/Water Island District in 20 years.
The editors welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.