Next week Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will be delivering remarks to Howard University. Howard University is located in Washington, D.C. and is one of the oldest and most renowned historically black colleges in America. Obviously, Paul is taking the suggestions of the RNC’s "Growth and Opportunity" autopsy report to heart. He is taking the bull by the horn and will be taking his message directly to African-American people in an African-American venue. Senator Paul is doing his part to help the Republican Party reclaim its history of inclusion.
Paul is doing something that very few Republican officials do; demonstrating a good faith attempt to win the hearts and minds of the African-American community by speaking to them in their own backyard. The announcement of Paul's scheduled appearance harkens back to former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s speech to the NACCP. Romney knew that he was going into a hostile environment but, he accepted the challenge because he knew that the best way to talk to African-Americans is to go where they live.
Paul’s speech is expected to cover a number of topics including school choice, civil liberties, reforming federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and the historical relationship between the Republican Party and the African-American community. Each of these topics will resonate with an audience that understands the disparate and discriminatory practices of the American penal system towards minorities, the devastating impact of the lack of quality education options in African-American communities, and the continuing fight to secure full and equal civil liberties for all Americans.
Paul should know it will take more than an appearance at Howard University to reverse the trend that consistently has African-Americans voting for Democratic officials. He should know that the African-American community will look on with legitimate skepticism as he explains how the same party that led the civil rights movement in America can now vigorously try to implement practices that make it harder for African-American communities to exercise their vote. He should know that while he will be welcomed to present his ideas, he may have to explain how the party of civil liberties can't seem to get more than one African-American elected to Congress. And he may have to explain how a party that preaches inclusion has a management structure that doesn’t have "a single racial minority among the 20 most senior officials who run the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee." As former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said, "If you're trying to court African-American voters, it's much better to have an African-American in the room talking about how these outreach policies are going to be implemented."
Howard University is not the only place you can find Paul contributing to building inroads to the minority community. He is prominently quoted on the homepage of the new Conservative Melting Pot Pac. The new organization was created by Crystal Wright a PolicyMic pundit and the founder of the blog conservativeblackchick.com. The organization aims to "bring the Grand Old Party (GOP) back to its roots as the party promoting equality and economic opportunity for all."
Wright is one of many African-American conservatives that stressed the need for the Republican Party minority outreach program to include "activities like town halls on historically black colleges and universities." Like Steele, she was frustrated to find that the party infrastructure had little or no African-American presence. Last year she asked RNC Communication Director Sean Spicer "how many blacks he had working in the communications department?" Spicer unapologetically responded "none."
Clearly Romney, Paul, and Wright have the right approach to reaching the untapped African-American community. Be direct, open, and honest, but most importantly do it live and in person in their backyard.