BENJAMIN RAJADURAI, THE MILLENNIAL REPUBLICAN
As an American and the son of Indian immigrants, I’ve failed my community by staying silent. I’ve failed my party by staying quiet about racial issues that I clearly see. Simply put, I did a disservice to the conservative movement by shoving my experiences under the rug. Today, I speak up. Fellow Republicans, we can’t pretend that there isn’t a race problem in our party.
This is a wildly difficult topic to discuss and digest but this isn’t to spread shame or cast aspersion. The vast majority of Republicans are fundamentally good, decent, and honorable people who treat people of color as equals. Watching so many step up and explicitly condemn the alt-right and white supremacy truly affirmed this belief.
Unfortunately, though, it isn’t that simple. We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security that this racism and hatred is somehow contained to a few crazy, basement dwelling trolls. What we have to confront today within our party and our movement is not just the small minority of racists and the vile bigotry of the alt-right but a blind spot among well intentioned Republicans. It is easy to say that we don’t see race but as I’ve personally experienced my entire life, the unfortunate reality is that race still matters in society.
Race mattered when, in the wake of September 11th, I saw my mother get denied a license because “we don’t serve people like you here.” It mattered when the favorite taunt of too many growing up was “ you’re a terrorist.” It mattered when gas station attendants refused to help a fifth grader pump his bike tires. It matters every time I get that look when I’m walking home and it certainly mattered when my social media was (is) flooded with vile bigotry entirely focused on the color of my skin. I wish I was the only one that experienced this type of behavior but according to Pew Research, roughly seven-in-ten black Americans and a majority of Hispanics say they have personally experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity.”
These statistics aren’t intended to victimize people of color or ask for special treatment. Simply put, when confronted with these experiences, well meaning Republicans must empathize with and acknowledge that racial issues still exist in society today and work within their community to root it out and put an end to it. Over the past 24 hours, I’ve had several conversations with fellow conservatives of color and one thing stood out to me. There was an overwhelming feeling that our experiences were never fully understood. This can’t continue.
According to Pew, 80% of African Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. 80%! It is a stain on the conservative movement that the party of Lincoln and the party of the first black legislators has fallen this far. It’s especially infuriating when I know that the values of small government and individual liberty see no race. I earnestly believe that these values treat people as equal and that when implemented they empower the least among us to rise up and live fulfilling lives. Yet they are entirely useless if we can’t effectively communicate this message in an empathetic, practical way to communities of color. It is incumbent on every Republican at all levels of government to listen to our fellow citizens when they speak up about the problems they face. We can and we must craft a strong, understanding alternative to the status quo in communities of color.
While rectifying our approach to racial issues is a matter of survival for the Republican Party, it is first and foremost a matter of decency and humanity. Let’s commit to truly understanding each other and putting a final stop to the vile bigotry and racism that has pervaded our communities for too long.
Originally appeared in Medium.