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Schumacher: How to Build – or Destroy – the GOP

By Greg Schumacher

A video clip showing racist and homophobic comments from Mr. Eddie Deane, a key supporter and delegate recruiter for Bob Good, surfaced on social media last Sunday. He said minorities “will not be satisfied” after the presidency of Barack Obama and referred to LGBTQ people as “a bunch of queers” and “strange people” among other comments.

As is the nature of such things, it was shared and circulated, and culminated in a local Charlottesville CBS-19 report [1] yesterday, followed by an article in The Hill [2] later that day.

As with most revelations like this, it will be used by different people and different groups in different ways, to include political purposes. That’s just the reality of our system, and I will address that. But what is far more important is that we use an example like this to prompt self-examination in each one of us, to remind ourselves as both individuals and as society that there will always be work to do to combat racism and bigotry, and that our focus needs to be on solutions and improvement moving forward.

The main takeaway here transcends politics. When I saw this clip, I was shocked and horrified by the content and the tone. We often look around ourselves and tend to think all is well, but this is a reminder that it is not.

For everyone I know that saw it, their reaction was unbelief. But as I reflected on it further, my shock and unbelief morphed into grief. Grief over being confronted with the reality that folks still harbor racist and bigoted attitudes toward groups of people, and when squeezed, the juice comes out.

I was grieved to realize that this was not a James O’Keefe secret video of an individual. This was an individual sharing openly on Facebook Live with about 60 viewers. Were any of them shocked? Did any of them confront the speaker?

It’s easy to point fingers, but then my grief turned inward as I reflected on things I have said in the past, or the way I said them, or jokes I told, that I’m now ashamed of, and will never say or tell again.

This example should drive us beyond just finger-pointing to self-examination for things we have thought and said, and to consider how they might not only offend, but hurt. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own beliefs, principles and convictions that we stand on and fight for, but it does mean that we need to speak to each other with language and tone that doesn’t demean or attack others simply because of who they are.

That said, there is an inescapable political impact to this revelation. Realizing that the individual in this clip is a known Republican, and a key supporter and delegate recruiter of one of our Congressional candidates, I was struck by how things like this set back our very real and sincere efforts as Republican individuals and Party organizations at all levels to build bridges to and to welcome people not historically associated with us. Our efforts to do so are hindered by stereotypes perpetuated by Democrats and the media, but revelations like this certainly provide fodder to feed the stereotypes.

If you are an African-American or a gay person, to the extent you think this clip represents the Republican Party, you may stay clear or be very wary. So what do the overwhelming majority of Republicans committed to building an inclusive, caring, and “big tent” Party do when isolated instances like this emerge?

First, we have to swiftly repudiate them in the strongest of terms to reinforce that this is not who we are. As Chairman of Fauquier County Republican Committee, I denounce Mr. Deane’s comments in the strongest of terms, and emphatically state that such comments have no place in our Party nor in our society. Other Republican leaders need to do likewise, if not proactively, certainly if asked.

That said, I pray that Mr. Deane is able to learn and grow from this experience and to admit how wrong they were. There is not one of us free from past sins and the need to repent and move forward. When we hear or read these kinds of comments, each of us has a responsibility to confront the person, attempt to educate and persuade, but if necessary, to repudiate and distance. We have a special responsibility to do this within our own Party and to police ourselves.

As of this writing, a week since the clip was out on social media, and three days since local and national stories appeared, to my knowledge, Mr. Deane simply says his remarks were taken out of context, and Bob Good has “no comment” on these stories and remains silent. This is unacceptable for all of the reasons stated above and particularly for one aspiring to be a Republican standard bearer.

To not repudiate the remarks, or to have any comment at all, especially with all that is going on in the Country right now, is the height of political tone deafness at best, and at worst, shows the lack of moral courage to take a stand against something that so obviously needs to be stood against.

The second thing we need to do to overcome these stereotypes about our Party is to act. Words are cheap if not followed through with actions. The most important thing we need to do is to reach out to diverse communities, and to listen, learn, love, and grow in mutual understanding as a starting point for all the subsequent work we hope to do together for our communities and our Country.

There are deeply embedded aspects of the Black experience and associated fears that white people will never fully appreciate or understand. Conversely, there are aspects to White experience that Blacks will never fully understand. The key word is “aspects,” some of the key differences and perspectives that form the lenses through which we see life. Understanding these does not mean one person or the other is always right, but such understanding is foundational to building trusting relationships and to solve problems together.

We have by no means arrived – not locally, not statewide, not nationally – and we never will. When we learn of injustice, identify needs, or see tangible ways that we can help build these bridges and improve from where we are, we need to have the moral courage to both speak and act.

There is always room to learn and grow and to do more, but I’m thankful for the good people in our Fauquier County Republican community who are walking the walk, and committed to doing just that.

Greg Schumacher is Chairman of the Fauquier County Republican Committee.