County Committee Meeting Examines GOP Relationships with Minorities

The relationship between the Republican Party and blacks and other minorities was the topic at the April 18, 2023 meeting of the Washington County Republican Committee. Presenting their own personal perspectives on the issue were (L to R) Je’Ron Rochon of Nashville, Tennessee, a global supply chain manager for Amazon;  and from Washington County were Kerry Mitchell, a measurement tech for Arkansas Western Gas; Gary McHenry, Ed.D., executive director of the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and, at the podium, Otis Robinson, a research tech for the University of Arkansas.  Looking on is Washington County Republican Committee First Vice-Chairwoman June Wood. Much like a presidential debate, the four men were presented identical questions, among them asking of their perceptions of racism in the GOP and if they have felt left out of the party. General consensus among the responses seemed to be that the men arrived at personal conservative beliefs separate from any actions or lack of action by a political party. Christian faith seemed foundational to those beliefs. Regarding accusations of racism, “sources matter,” said McHenry, noting that such accusations can be convenient ways to change the subject in a debate. Robinson said racism was “a problem on the inside,” but that God can change one’s heart. Even after such a change through salvation, individuals “have to be on guard” lest racist attitudes recur. Mitchell said:  “Racism can be perceived through lived experience. It’s not unreasonable to think that way” and that perception can become reality for a person. Yet, according to Mitchell: “I do not use the word ‘racist’ because that’s a social construct. Appearance is not substance. I use the word ‘ethnicity,’” noting ethnic backgrounds mean people have “different culture, language, and experience.” Mitchell said he became a Christian and found his changed values were more in tune with those of the Republican party and that he felt included there. But Rochon said he felt left out of what Republicans were doing, that the party has baggage. In general, the men indicated Republicans need to do more to reach minorities. “A picnic in the park might do,” Rochon said. “Everybody loves food.” Robinson said Republicans “need to be proactive, less reactive,” and Mitchell said white and black people should visit each others churches, since churches “are the center of gravity” for a community. Vice-Chairwoman Wood asked the men to send her a list of specific proposals of ways the party can build bridges to the black community. Ultimately, there was agreement on the real answers as being spiritual. “All politics is local,” said McHenry. “And all discipleship is local.” Upon conclusion of the panel discussion, committee member Nancy Johnson surprised the three local men when she nominated them for membership in the county committee.


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