Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

GOP, confront your racism problem

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 5:16 PM EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
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
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT