Documentary on black Republicans explores political culture gap

Statistically, if you are African-American, you are most likely a Democrat.

That presumption is challenged by the new documentary film, “Fear of a Black Republican,” screening at the Pearl Theater in Philadelphia on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The film starts in 2004, when filmmaker Kevin Williams, a white Republican in Trenton, N.J., asked his local committee if he could put fliers in a black neighborhood for George W. Bush’s re-election bid.

Don’t bother, he was told. It will only hurt us.

Hooking Bush election material on doorknobs in a predominately African-American neighborhood might remind them that there is an election, Williams was told. If they vote, they vote for Democrats. Let sleeping dogs lie.

So Williams picked up a camera and asked politicians and voters about the culture gap between Republicans and African-Americans. He found many blacks in the closet.

“Several people told us, ‘When your film comes out, that will be the first time my family or friends know that I’m Republican,'” said Williams. “For some folks, it was almost a coming-out experience.”

Williams says the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted, and always will so long as the Republican Party never challenges that presumption. That creates a situation that does not bode well for the black community, nor a short-sighted political system.

“It really isn’t about building your party or building your brand, or even solving problems,” said Williams. “It’s about making sure we win the next election.”

Black Republicans are rare, but Philadelphia has a fairly robust contingent, relatively speaking. Renee Amoore, an African-American businesswoman and deputy chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Committee, says she constantly fights the assumption that the GOP doesn’t understand the black population.

“We have no problem with you being on welfare, but we want to give you the resources so you don’t have to,” said Amoore. “Once you give people the resources, they feel better about who they are and what they want.”

“But I definitely get a lot of push-back,” she says. “Especially with President Obama in, they say, ‘How dare you be black and a Republican and not support Obama?'”

The film features commentator Tavis Smiley; former Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann; the first black chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele; and legendary producer Russell Simmons.

Following the screening of “Fear” at the Pearl Theater, a panel of local Republicans — including Rene Amoore — will discuss the film.

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