Black leaders with no regard for the facts vilify GOP
By Alphonso Jackson
While speaking before the Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday night, John Kerry made the baseless, inflammatory claim that the Republican Party would try to suppress black votes in the coming elec[b]tion. Kerry is white, and he was applauded for his words.
Addressing the mostly black National Baptist Convention in New Orleans last week, I was booed for about 30 seconds. And I'm black.
Why the difference? Kerry is a Democrat, and I'm a Republican. And for far too long, the Democrats have had a monopoly on black votes in this country.
For the first half of my adult life, I was a Democrat. Today, I serve in the Cabinet of President Bush. The long road that brought me to the GOP began in March 1965, when I headed to Alabama to join Martin Luther King Jr. in registering voters and taking part in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
Despite our peaceful intentions, more than 200 state troopers met us at the Pettus Bridge with whips, nightsticks, tear gas, dogs and electric cattle prods, ordering us to leave. They successfully blocked our march and injured more than 50 of us. The day became known as Bloody Sunday, and I still carry a scar on my leg as a permanent reminder of it. I don't bring up this story to reopen the wounds of the civil rights era, but rather to recall the lessons from that time.
In 1965, I marched for equality. After all, King shared the vision of our nation's Founders that "all men are created equal." As I settled into adulthood, I took an honest look at the Democratic Party, and I came to believe that it had strayed from that ideal. I was soon drawn to the Republican Party because I realized that it truly, not just rhetorically, believed in equality.
Democrats' skewed ideology
For the past four decades, the Democratic Party has tried to convince us that being black and of modest means is a dead-end road. In that vein, America's "black political leaders" have built their careers on an ideology of black victimization. They tout the belief that if blacks want to succeed in this country, there is only one path: reliance on the government.
They're wrong. America is a place where you can be born into a low-income household but still lift yourself up, and it doesn't matter what color you are. I'm living proof.
The so-called black leaders of this nation have convinced a large portion of the black community that blacks aren't capable of self-advancement. And this "leadership" has brainwashed listeners into believing that the Republican Party is only for whites. That's why there was so little listening going on at the Baptist convention.
Diverse and qualified
The Bush administration is the most diverse in history because the president fills jobs on the basis of a person's capabilities and qualifications, not on the color of his or her skin.
Yet critics on the left find it incomprehensible that any black American could succeed on his or her own through hard work and determination. They say that Education Secretary Rod Paige, Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and myself were merely appointed to garner black votes. Such rhetoric does nothing to support the progress of black Americans, or recognize how far we have come.
The Republican Party is committed to the basic principle that everyone deserves a chance to achieve the American Dream. The dream doesn't lie in victimization or blame; it lies in hard work, determination and a good education.
Bush received only 9% of the black vote in 2000, but his policies have done more for the black community than those of any other modern-era president.
His plan for an "ownership society," for example, has translated into record home ownership in America "” and the highest level in history for blacks, too. For the first time, more than 50% of black Americans own a home.
Progress for black Americans depends on good schools because education is the last great equalizer. This administration guided No Child Left Behind into law, reversing the "soft bigotry of low expectations" that was pervasive before Bush came into office. Now, test scores are on the rise.
Republican policies are good for black Americans. With an honest look at our party, perhaps the facts can drown out the boos.
Alphonso Jackson is the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.