Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trenton Black Republican Speaks Out

TRENTON-- Local activist Dion Clark speaks out about being a Black Republican in a predominantly Democratic town after viewing Kevin Williams new documentary Fear of a Black Republican at Princeton's Nassau Inn.

Clark, a longtime resident of East Trenton and former Mercer County Freeholder candidate, sat down with Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- Saturday morning to discuss his views on the Republican party and the state of his beloved hometown, Trenton.

In the interview, Clark said that Democratic leadership has failed urban communities like Trenton for far too long and that it is time for change.

The East Trenton native said that many people from Trenton ended up not voting for him when he was running for Mercer County Freeholder this past November simply because he was a black Republican. Clark thinks those sorts of judgments are misguided and rooted in ignorance.

Clark says that its important that people come to the Republican party with an open mind. During our interview, he said that it was important to focus on providing more opportunities to individuals living in urban communities like Trenton, not simply throwing money at social programs as Democratic leadership has done.

The East Trenton native insisted that the emphasis should be on giving people a hand-up, not a hand-out. He said that the current system under Democratic leadership has helped create a welfare state where some people have ultimately developed a sense of entitlement after receiving assistance from the government. He went on to say that some people have turned this assistance into a way of life where they rely exclusively on the system generation after generation. He said, "its kind of like a checking account at a bank, if you don't deposit anything, how do you expect to get anything back".

On the other side of the coin, there are those that suggest that the Republican party is indifferent to the plight and predicament of struggling working and middle class individuals. Nine times out of ten, these critics point to budget cuts that adversely affect the everyday lives of poor and working class individuals. Cuts to city aid, education, and so forth are usually what they reference.

Critics like New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, argue that the Republican party only seeks to undermine social programs like Social Security, medicare, and veteran's health despite the value they bring to society. Critics of the Republican party argue that they only look out for the rich and well-to-do by refusing to raise their taxes despite their large incomes.

Please see videos below:


  1. I listened with interest to the speaker's ideas about poverty and the republican party. He spoke in generalities and made no specific republican policy presentations. He says that social programs only hold people back and implies that people in poverty are solely to blame for their plight. He implies that opportunities exist and that poor people simply fail to take those opportunities. I believe the problem is bigger and much more complex than that.

    He should have highlighted a program or policy that he as a republican leader would propose that would address the unemployment problems in Trenton. He says that people in Trenton are not open minded to the republican party. What policies does the Republican party propose to make Trenton a better place to live? He is silent on those issues because the republican party has no policies that help the poor, the working poor or the middle class. To his credit, at least he didn't say cut billionaires taxes and Trenton will prosper from the trickle down effect. A leader from any party should speak of solutions not just point the finger and blame people for poverty.

    While it is true that people have to work for what they need, his point of view assumes a level playing field where there is none. He states that people have an entitlement mentality but the word "entitlement" is a right wing hot button word that is being used to discredit valuable social safety net programs that billionaires and corporatists would like to eliminate.

    With record unemployment rates nationally it is not helpful to say that anyone who cannot find a job is looking for a hand out. I don't know what the solutions are for poverty but I am not a political leader. Poverty is a heart breaking reality in our world. Our political leaders need to propose solid solutions to very real problems in order to earn our votes.

  2. Anonynmous Reader,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think you make a valid point that members of the Republican Party ought to be mindful of. In a recent conversation with former GOP chairman Michael Steele, the seasoned Black Republican, made it a point to say that the Republican Party writes off urban communities like Trenton at their own peril.

    I think Republicans need to come to urban communities like Trenton and have a real conversation where the citizens can voice their concerns and Republicans can determine if they have a viable solution to these ongoing problems. But as Kevin Williams documentary, Fear of a Black Republican indicates, with urban dwellers in communities like Trenton voting for Democrats in large numbers, do members of the GOP have any real incentive to come here???

    So on the one hand, you have one group (blacks in urban communities like Trenton)that is skeptical of another group (the Republican Party) and then you have the other group (the Republican Party) that is unwilling to come to places like Trenton because they receive little or no support there.

    I hate to use an overused cliche, but it seems fitting at the moment. There seems to be 'a failure to communicate' here. Who is going to take the first to reverse this trend? What do you think? Let's keep the conversation going...

    Anwar Salandy


    Anwar, the link above will take you to an article titled, "Michael Steele: No reason for black Republican party base"

    Here is the most relevant quote from Mr. Steele reported on 4/21/10 in Politico online:

    Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told a group of students that African-Americans “don’t have a reason” to vote for Republicans.

    Steele was asked Tuesday night during a speech to roughly 200 students at DePaul University why African-Americans should vote for GOP candidates.

    “You really don’t have a reason, to be honest,” Steele responded, as was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. “We haven’t done a very good job of giving you one.”

    I agree with this statement with all my heart. It goes back to policy positions. Republican party positions clearly favor the rich and offer no policies that help the poor, the working poor and the middle class. BTW, I'm from a white working class Democratic background and can only speak for that perspective and not as a member of the African American community.

    However, as I see it republicans are currently trying to eliminate Medicare, reduce and ultimately end Social Security, cut food stamp programs and unemployment benefits - all this at a time when there is record unemployment and record level poverty in this country.
    They are also introducing legislation across the country where they are attempting to break the unions and to curtail voting rights. The voting rights legislation disproportionately impacts minority communities and civil rights leaders are mobilizing to fight back. As for union busting, I'm horrified. Strong unions are necessary to protect workers rights, health and safety and to give workers a voice and a seat at the bargaining table. Strong unions helped to create a strong middle class. As union membership has declined over the lost several decades so have the wages of the private sector remain flat.

    All of these issues I noted above are dear to my heart and I am angry at the republicans who push these policies. I admit that so I am admitting a strong bias towards progressive democratic positions.

    However, I did actually vote for a republican once when he was the candidate who supported issues that were more favorable to the union than the democratic candidate. This is a rare event but in this instance he earned my vote. I voted for the policy and not the party. Look at the candidates in any election and carefully examine their policy positions.

    I guess the question is what republican policy positions do you believe the republican party candidates offer that would benefit Trenton residents?

  4. Here's another interesting link:

    The most relevant part of the article written by Washington Post columnist Colby King who is quoted below:

    He (Republican candidate Rick Santorum) used the forum to take a below-the-belt blow at black people, telling his mostly white audience that, when it comes to entitlements, he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

    Of course, Santorum was pandering to a group that he thought would like that racial slur, which was based upon a false stereotype. Would he have said that to a gathering of the NAACP? ....

    The columnist continues: Santorum knows better. He knows, if he pays any attention to national statistics, and likely data in Pennsylvania, too, that most people on food stamps are white. Indeed, most people benefiting from all government entitlements (such as Social Security) are white, too.

    Many blacks, including many in my extended family, make a lot of people’s lives better through the taxes we pay. What’s more, our taxes are handed out by the government without regards to race, creed, color, national origin or sexual orientation to a host of our fellow Americans, many of whom don’t look a bit like us.

    1. Anonymous Reader,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for sharing the Washington Post link with me and other readers. I think the points you make are important to mention. For example, when you say that many people that are benefiting from government entitlements are white, I think this is a piece of information that often goes overlooked.

      With the help of media outlets like Anwar's Reflections, I hope to dispel any myths or stereotypes that black folks are inherently lazy and shiftless. Once again, thanks for sharing.