CLEVELAND – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday urged New York Republicans to confront an uncomfortable truth in his keynote speech: “No white American understands the pressure of being an African-American.”
African-American Republicans like Michael Faulkner applauded that line louder than most at the gathering of New York delegates, and he hopes the message is finally resonating within his party.
“That was something Newt had to say, it had more credibility with some people than if I said it,” said Faulkner, 59, of Brooklyn, who is running for mayor of New York City.
“He said it well and he said it with conviction,” Faulkner said in an interview. He had picked up on criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement as anti-white and anti-police at the national convention in Cleveland, but said that’s the perception his party needs to confront.
“I don’t see the Black Lives Matter movement as a racist movement, any more than I thought the tea party movement was a racist movement,” Faulkner said.
Gingrich’s comments “were right on the money,” said Fred Brown, chairman of the National Black Republican Council at the GOP national convention.
He said, for example, despite the protestations of some Republicans that African-Americans are not treated equally to whites by law enforcement. But he said the Republican Party can change that and draw more African-Americans away from the Democratic Party.
“They are going to have to do it, just like the ‘southern strategy,’” Brown said in an interview, noting the Republican inroads made in recent decades into what had once been a solidly Democratic South.
Brown, 81, also noted Republican President George H.W. Bush had more African-Americans in his administration such as secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice than President Barack Obama.
Brown and Faulkner said acknowledged the effort is a bit harder with Donald Trump as the party’s presumptive nominee. He has polled low among African-Americans.
“This is why the political leaders here must understand this and put resources behind it,” Brown said. “My party has to be seen as the party of opportunity.”
Some of those polls showed zero African-Americans supported Trump.
“That’s just a disgrace,” said Scherie Murray, 35, of Queens, an African-American and state GOP committeewoman. “There is a huge disconnect between the African-American community and the Republican Party.”