Blacked Out: African Americans Near Invisible at the Republican Convention

According to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, only 1.5%(!) of the delegates to this week’s Republican National Convention are African American. As noted in the report, titled Blacks and the 2008 Republican National Convention:

The 36 black delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul is the lowest total in 40 years for a Republican National Convention. These delegates represent 1.5 percent of the total number of delegates, substantially below the record setting 6.7 percent in 2004. (Editor’s note: The United States is 13% African American.)

The 36 black delegates in 2008 represent an 78.4 percent decline over the 167 black delegates at the 2004 convention. There are 36 black alternates to the Republican Convention in 2008, down substantially from 124 in 2004 (71.0 percent decline), and 76 alternates in 2000. The following salient facts are worth special attention:

• There are 33 states plus D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands with fewer black delegates than in 2004, and only three states with more black delegates than in 2004. Several states had substantial declines. The states with the largest proportion of black delegates in 2008 are Mississippi (10.3 percent), Michigan (10.0 percent), and South Carolina (8.3 percent).

• In 2008, there are 24 states plus D.C. with no black delegates or alternates compared to seven states with no black delegates or alternates in 2004, and 16 states in 2000. (Editor’s note: Washington, D.C. is 60% African American.)

• The only African American with a prime speaking role at the 2008 Republican National Convention is former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steel. Joint Center tallies show one black member on the RNC Credentials Committee.

There is a possibility that the report numbers understate the count of black delegates. The report was issued before the Republican Party could provide black delegate information for New York and Virginia. So, instead of the black percentage being 1.5%, it could be 2.0% or 2.1%. Maybe.

As mentioned above, African Americans were 6.7% of the delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention. That compares to 4.1% in 2000 and only 2.6% in 1996. Meanwhile, at this year’s Democratic Convention, African Americans were 24.1% of all delegates. All of this is from other reports by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Meanwhile, Barb Davis White (see picture at left), a black Republican candidate for congress from Minnesota, is criticizing the party for failing to highlight African American candidates at the convention. As reported by the Minnesota Independent:

The campaign of Barb Davis White went after the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Minnesota on Tuesday, criticizing the RNC’s failure to invite any African-American congressional candidates to speak at the Republican National Convention and complaining that the Minnesota GOP has been lax in supporting Davis White’s campaign. Davis White is the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for the 5th Congressional District, which encompasses Minneapolis and several inner-ring suburbs.

In an email sent to the RNC and posted to the Independent Business News Network, Davis White’s press secretary, Don Allen, said that he had tried to get answers from the RNC numerous times as to why no African Americans are scheduled to speak at the RNC.

He wrote that he was stonewalled and, at least one time, threatened. He accused the party of discriminating: “This ’slave mentality thinking’ i.e.; ‘Be good you Black Republicans while our White friends are in town’ does not fly with me or the tools I have in place to distribute this message ‘top-of-mind’ to the general public and national news affiliates.”

I wonder how much the mass media will make of this?

PS: Not surprisingly, Neilson television ratings indicate that African American viewing of the GOP convention (2.1 million) is less than half what is was for the Democratic convention (4.6 million).

{See also Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.}

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One comment

  1. Black Political Analysis

    I’m not sure why Davis White is surprised. In ’00 the RNC had JC Watts and Colin Powell, both now gone. This is an unfair characterization but in the minds of the public a black Republican is either Alan Keyes or Clarence Thomas, not people the GOP wants to trot out in public.

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