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Re: “State Republican Party Officials Come to the NCRM

Comments From Dr. Jean Howard-Hill, National Chair National Republican African American Caucus Submitted by: Dr. Jean Howard-Hill I found it both shocking and in some ways humorous to see Tennessee Republican State Chair Robin Smith venture to Memphis to make a speech regarding civil rights, when she has violated the civil rights of me, as well as others of color in Hamilton County and nationally through the NRAAC – National Republican African American Caucus. She has gone out of her way to viciously exclude members of the Hamilton County African American Caucus with 1276 members and me from being a part of the Hamilton County Republican Party (HCRAAC). [I shared some of this on another posting, but it is worth repeating.] Not only did she do this, but she also sent me on a wild goose chase to the RNC to get what she termed “legal status” from the general counsel of RNC in order for us to be Republicans. After making the trip to Washington and speaking with the RNC to find there was no such requirement, we still were barred from participation. Even with the help of former Congressman Van Hilleary, we never received recognition as a group. However, we watched other groups be recognized. You would think that with the Republican Party saying it wanted those of color in the party, that this would have been a welcoming reception. However, when it came to “Robin Smith politics”, she makes up the rules, and if you do not conform to her likings, make no mistake about it, you are blackballed or refused participation in the party. Trust me, Ms. Smith does not embrace those of color, unless they are among the selected “token few” of whom she can “use” and “control” to carry out her agenda. This is sad. Even sadder to see her perpetrate this image of being accepting, when she has done so much to not include those of color who have the intelligence not to conform and be controlled. Having taught American Government in the school system and at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I find it hard to believe that in America, anyone can be allowed to have this kind of power. This is America. Land of the Free. This is a democracy. So how on earth can the Republican Party continue to allow Smith and her congressional accompanist to bar out those they feel are a threat to them or do not fit into their mold is beyond understanding. But this is something in which has to be dealt with, because it goes to the heart of the survival of the party. No one should be able to say who or who cannot be affiliated with a political party. Nor should anyone be given this kind of power. Yet, the Republican Party in Hamilton County and in Tennessee does. I have tried to share some of the strange things that were done to the HCRAAC and to me personally, but few have wanted to listen. Wrote a book about it, but few will talk about it. But after seeing this, please allow me to share some of the HCRAAC’s experiences with Robin Smith and the local party. I also go into detail in my 2004 book, entitled, Black Eyes Shut White Lips Sealed. This happened back in 2001, when I returned to Chattanooga after the death of my husband, Attorney Bobby Lee Hill. Since the 80s, I had been involved on a national level, heading a national group which recruited African Americans into the GOP ranks. I continued this through the first year after the death of my husband in 1991. In fact, he headed the national men’s group and I headed the women’s group. After his death, I slowed the pace, but managed to still keep the group alive. So when I returned in 2000, I created another national group out of the two prior ones called the National Republican African American Republican Caucus (NRAAC). The group was very successful throughout the country in recruiting. Was even invited to the White House. In fact, on our national board, we had members from California to Tennessee to New York, many of whom were bishops, pastors and members of the clergy. From this, we quickly established grass roots caucuses all across the United States. This included Hamilton County. As one of the grass roots caucuses of the National Republican African American Caucus, members of the Hamilton County Republican African American Caucus (HCRAAC) were excited to be Republicans. Many of them were former Democrats turned Republicans because they believed the Republican Party best fit their moral position on certain issues. But very quickly we learned that everyone in the Republican Party who preached God, did not always practice what they preached! After Robin Smith refused to recognize us as a Republican group, she went out of her way to track my every recruitment move to make sure we were not recognized or welcomed where every we went. On one occasion she called the Hamilton County Election Commissioner to spy out my party loyalty. Fortunately for me, one of my white Republican friends, who did not agree with what she was doing let me know what she had done. When I approached her about this, at first she lied and pretended not to know anything about it, until I told her that someone at the election commission was able to verify it. Not only were we not welcomed, but we were downright treated like we were less than human. Many times, even our overwhelming and very obvious presence was ignored. Like the Wamp picnic, where 65 of us showed up and were completely ignored. Congressman Wamp acknowledged the presence of everyone in this long list of people present, except us. This was humorous to us because for the first time probably in the history of the Hamilton County Party, there was more than one or two flies in the bowl of buttermilk; 65 to be exact, which made our presence quite obvious. There also was another time some of our ladies went to the Republican Women’s annual picnic, brining with us several dishes of food. One HCRAAC member whose husband was a pastor, came but had to leave before the food was served because they had to get to Wednesday night services. So she fixed a plate for herself and her husband. This was not anything uncommon. There were other whites who at the end fixed plates and took food home with them. But the next day, I got a call from one of my loyal white Republican friends who was furious because she had gotten a call from another white Republican Women’s club member that the “colored folks were at the picnic fixing plates and sneaking them out the door”. From that same event, it also was said that I stole items from the Auction and did not pay for them. Thank God, my white Republican friend was collecting the money and had my check to show I paid for the items. To keep them from getting furious, I urged the HCRAAC membership to just chalk it up to ignorance. So the next event we attended, which was Wamp’s annual picnic, I reminded them sarcastically, “Don’t forget to fix plates and sneak them out the door! You know that is how colored folks do.” We laughed. But this was no laughing matter. It was racism, Republican style. Then there is the time I was voted as a alternate delegate to the National Federation of Republican Women, and the president called to tell me she wasn’t going and that the event was called off, so that I would not go in her place. Later, I was told by a member that this was not true, and that there were members who had said they did not want a black person representing them at the convention. I also remember Robin Smith telling me that nobody gets to do anything in the Republican party unless it came through her or Congressman Wamp. Each day, I am seeing more and more that sometimes you do have to laugh to keep from crying! Dr. Jean Howard-Hill Jean.howard.hill@gmail.com

Posted by Dr. Jean Howard-Hill on 02/13/2009 at 1:46 AM


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