I once had a job supervisor who liked to share stories about his past exploits. His first summer job was while he was still in high school. He worked at what was called a "5&10 cent store" –they were then like Walmart is today.
On this job he was the only Black person and he knew his place. There were 76 White women and one White man, all of whom he knew, were his bosses. Then one day the store hired another young Black man.
For the rest of the entire summer, he recalled, most of his time on the job was spent quarrelling with the other Black man about which of them was in authority, after the 76 White women and one White man. So it is today.
In early September, on the second day of the Democratic National Convention, the Romney for President campaign announced it had formed a Black Leadership Council made up of 21 council members. "In the months to come, this group will help facilitate dialogue between Mitt Romney and respected leaders who provide unique expertise, experience and knowledge on a range of issues impacting Black American communities," the campaign said in its announcement.
That's odd because with only two months until Election Day, there's precious little time for this group to even get together with their candidate for a photo-op, much less for a dialogue, particularly not with the Romney campaign in a freefall caused by the candidate himself, and his opponent enjoying a post convention "bounce" which has boosted his approval and his ratings in key battleground states which Romney needs if he is to have any chance of winning.
What may be even more peculiar is that most of the members of this council have followed career paths which have conspicuously avoided bringing them together with any other Black people to do anything, especially anything impacting Black American communities. That's not what Black Republicans do. Black Republicans today parrot the Tea Party line calling for drastic cuts in safety-net, social programs and more tax cuts for the rich.
So now all of a sudden, these Black Lone Rangers are lumped together in the GOP's ghetto, a "black hole" [no pun intended] from which no light, no sounds, no wisdom, can possibly escape. They are now consigned not to ponder major campaign issues, but to the potential voter pool that everyone knows has already been written off as unattainable and undesirable to any possible Republican White House victory.
But this council does serve a purpose. These names which are virtually unknown among Black folks all come with Black faces, and can therefore flail around the way Alan Keyes and Armstrong Williams [both of whom are conspicuously absent] have done in the past, reciting tired racial bromides about "character, not color," and so forth.
Also conspicuously absent from this list are Michael Steele, the immediate-past Republican Party Chairman, who has been unceremoniously kicked to the curb by his party, not even receiving a credential to attend their convention in Tampa, a convention which for the most part Steele himself planned and organized before his departure. And where is former Congress member J.C. Watts? The Oklahoma Republican shares football hero status with a couple of the lower-down council members, but he rose to the soaring position of Chair of the House Republican Caucus, when the GOP was in power, making him the fourth most powerful member of the House at that time, retiring in 2003.
The two current Black Congress members who share the title of National Council Chairs with Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll are both damaged goods however. Freshman South Carolina Rep. and bachelor Tim Scott was forced to repay the American Enterprise Institute thousands of dollars when he took a lady friend and lingerie store owner to a legislative forum at a ritzy country club in Sea Island, Ga. His colleague, freshman Florida Rep. Allen West was drummed out of the Army because he unlawfully tortured enemy prisoners in Iraq.
Brother Malcolm X explained the importance of such "councils" a generation ago [paraphrasing]: "The White Man only likes to deal with one Black person at a time. So he sets up someone for all the rest of the Blacks to report to." It's the classic plantation "straw boss" scenario, the "rattler," the slave who takes it easy, reporting only to the Big Boss while the other slaves sweat and toil. In this case it's not one, there are 21.
My guess is that if this group has any future at all, it will be spent – as my former boss spent his first summer at work – quarrelling among themselves as to which of them is in the lead after the thousands of Caucasian male Republicans whose opinions do matter to the GOP.