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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT