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The History Of Black Party Affiliation


Historically, a majority of African Americans in the U.S. have voted Democrat. On Think, Krys Boyd talked with Corey D. Fields of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford aboutAfrican Americans who lean Republican.

He’s the author of “Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans.”

The KERA Interview

Corey D. Fields on:

… the challenges of being a black Republican:  

“The people I spoke with, they ground their participation, a lot of them, in concerns about African Americans and the black community. So, they see themselves as engaging in a politics that’s committed to uplift blacks as a collective. So, the notion that somehow they’ve like sold out other black people is particularly frustrating. … What’s particularly frustrating is the individual lived experience. Having to go home and over Thanksgiving dinner have your relative, your cousin say, ‘Dude, what are you doing? You’re a sellout.’ That really evokes a sense of frustration and a struggle.”   

… the history of black Republicans:

“We tend to focus on this sort of current moment where less than 10 percent of African Americans are voting for the Republican Party, but this shift has been happening for a while. You sort of begin to see a flip in the 1930s around New Deal economic policies where African Americans who had been overwhelmingly Republican are voting to support policies out of the New Deal coming out of the Great Depression. … Black engagement in the Republican Party has been a long standing thing. It’s not anything particularly new. I think what’s shifted is the idea that it’s unreasonable to be black and Republican.”

the two types of black Republicans:

“One group took up an approach of linking blackness to Republicaness in this color blind way. There was this notion that being black is culturally important, but not politically important. So, it’s like I care about going to a black church, or I don’t want my kid to be the only black kid in school, or I want to live in a black neighborhood, but when I think about tax policies I don’t see how my race is relevant. So, that was an approach that de-emphasizes blackness in regards to Republicaness without abandoning the identity, just depoliticizing the identity. You can contrast that with an approach that I call race consciousness in the book that was centered around blackness. So, being black was important culturally, but also politically. Being black shaped how these African American Republicans understood the world and their experiences in it. It saw racism and discrimination as being central problems for African Americans. It’s just that the best thing in responding to those issues they felt were conservative social policies.”