Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

GOP, confront your racism problem

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
March 19, 2013 -- Updated 2116 GMT (0516 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Republican National Committee released a report on how to connect with minorities
  • LZ Granderson: The GOP is saddled with the perception of having a diversity problem
  • He says if GOP leaders refuse to acknowledge racism in their party, minorities will stay away
  • Granderson: It seems Reince Priebus still doesn't know how to address the issue

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs. This article contains language that some readers may consider offensive.

(CNN) -- When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly said Democrats would lose the South for a generation. At the time, 115 of the 128 senators and representatives from the 11 former Confederate states were white Democrats.

Today, all Democratic congressmen from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia are black, except for John Barrow of Georgia; and all Republican congressmen from these states are white, except for Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Part of that has to do with policy. And a lot of that has to do with the white backlash Johnson correctly predicted.

So if Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and his cohorts are really serious about bringing minorities into their big tent, they need to do more than massage the party's message. They need to do more than rethink its policies. They have to be honest about who is in their tent already.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson
Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



I applaud the effort of the RNC's 98-page Growth and Opportunity Project report. But it's hard to characterize it as an honest assessment of the party when it doesn't include the words "racism," "racists" or "racist" in it. How can this so-called "autopsy" be accurate when it doesn't include the cause of death?

I'm not saying the Republican Party is full of bigots.

I'm saying history teaches us that the Republican Party is where white racists in the South turned for shelter in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the remnants of that migration is still impacting its image today.

To characterize the Republican Party's difficulties to grasp the country's new demographics as "they're too old and white" oversimplifies a conversation that is much more nuanced than that. The reason why some minorities -- particularly blacks -- have a distaste for the Republican Party is because any policy that negatively impacts minorities disproportionately is being viewed through the electoral dynamic that was created in 1964.

Opinion: Want black votes, GOP? Listen to black voters

If Priebus and company can't see and admit that, their new plan is not going to solve much of anything.

RNC 'autopsy' reviews 2012 election

I agree with Eric Cantor, Chris Christie and Jon Huntsman on a lot of issues. As an independent, it really pains me to know much of their messages get tainted nationally because their party has this lingering image problem.

As the glaring omissions in the Growth and Opportunity Project report suggests, this wound is self-inflicted. For as long as GOP leaders refuse to acknowledge and confront racism in their party, they will continue to have a hard time convincing minorities they have their best interests in mind.

Now, I'm sure spending $10 million to pay people to hang out with minorities and talk about how great the Republican Party is seems like a good idea.

But when there is footage of a black man being beaten and run over by a group of white teenagers who reportedly wanted to "go fuck with some niggers" nearly 50 years after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, trust me, minorities are not looking for rent-a-friend to come talk to us about the Grand Old Party.

We're looking for advocates who will listen.

Who can see the South is not the South of bus boycotts and burning crosses -- but it is still the South.

Who will see that Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act, won 87.1% of Mississippi's votes in the 1964 general election and that lawmakers in Mississippi just got around to ratifying the 13th Amendment in 2013.

Ruby Burdette, whose son was found dead along a rural Mississippi road in 2009, didn't receive her first visit from the Sheriff's Office until CNN reporters called asking about the progress of the investigation this year.

"He came in and said he was the investigator," Burdette said. "He told me he apologized for no one coming out before now. And he told me that the first investigators they had didn't do anything."

More than three years had gone by, and the authorities didn't bother to look for who had killed her son. If Republican leaders really want to appeal to minorities --put that in the report. And do it not as a way to pander for votes, but to acknowledge the problem.

There is definitely a fair share of bigots in the Democrat Party, and liberals can be quick to attribute problems impacting minorities to racism. But far too often, the GOP is quick to dismiss racism as a factor in anything, which draws attention to the party's lack of self-awareness.

The Republican Party as a whole is saddled with the perception of having a diversity problem, and its recent political history justifies that perception. From what I know of Priebus, he is smart enough to know all of this.

The fact this issue is not addressed in the report suggests he still isn't sure what to do about it.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT