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Saturday, November 27, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: GOP policies don’t mesh with diversity push

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The Indiana Republican Party launched a diversity leadership series, which could be a good first step if executed properly. Touted as an effort to build long-term relationships statewide with diverse communities, the program covers civic engagement, campaign management and communications at all levels of government.

I’m told that the sessions are supposed to be a conversation with give and take. The program participants are supposed to learn from elected officials who will attend the sessions, but the program participants are also being challenged to share what it is like to be a person of color or member of the LGBTQ community while holding on to Republican ideals.

The leadership group that created this is comprised of a diverse set of Black Republicans who came together during the protests of the summer to make the case for changes within the Indiana GOP.

Whitley Yates, the first director of diversity for the Indiana GOP, also had a hand in developing this initiative.

Over the last 16 years the Republicans have had a lock on state government, and they’ve even had a couple Black statewide elected officials and some top-ranking Black appointed officials.

To be fair, former Gov. Mitch Daniels and current Gov. Eric Holcomb received considerable support from Black voters in each of their respective elections.

Nevertheless, this hasn’t resulted in the kind of policies the Black community would like to see.

There is no racial equity policy at the Indiana Department of Education despite years of racial achievement gaps.

It was Republicans who passed a law preventing local communities from banning the box (preventing employers from asking about criminal backgrounds on job applications). It was Republicans who passed a law restricting local communities from raising the minimum wage. It was Republicans who fought against LGBT rights only to relent after national pressure.

The Indiana General Assembly under Republican leadership has been slow or even indifferent to our issues, ranging from food deserts to anti-gentrification measures to compliance on MWBE programs. Our issues have not really been a priority.

Prominent Republican operatives still believe society should be colorblind.

Consider the backlash Gov. Holcomb received for just uttering “Black Lives Matter.” The Indiana GOP hasn’t been a welcoming organization for people of color or other diverse communities despite representational diversity in some statewide offices. The challenge has been inclusivity.  

The Indiana GOP needs this program — and the party needs it to be successful.

Success should not only look like more diverse candidates in the future but also more consideration on issues that impact communities of color.

Efforts like this are important and should be given a chance to be successful. I’ll be watching to see what comes of this program and its inaugural class, as well as the impact on the Indiana GOP.

I commend the Black Republicans for their leadership in getting this moving and for State Chairman Kyle Hupfer for making this happen. This was a good idea whose time had come.

What I am hearing…

Attorney General Curtis Hill is not exactly a sympathetic character. Once the top vote getter in an Indiana election, he has experienced an ignominious fall.

He has also taken positions that just seem odd, including lending his voice to a Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the elections in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin — part of Trump’s last efforts to undermine democracy.

Nevertheless, right is right, and it seems odd that at a moment when the Indiana GOP launches a diversity series, a perusal of its website has the duly elected attorney general of Indiana’s missing. 

There is no photograph of the only current Black statewide elected official on the Indiana GOP’s website. Yes, you read that correctly. The party that backed Trump and his antics and at times dangerous behavior enthusiastically chose to remove a picture of a Black statewide elected official on its website.

Actions speak louder than words.

I’m hearing that for the first time there may be a Black woman seeking the opportunity to lead the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation.

In a community where we are dealing with the ravages of the racial disparities in both co-morbidities, health care treatment and health outcomes — and even trust with health care systems more broadly — it seems fitting that diversity should be a key factor in the selection of the next CEO of our county health care system.

The African American Legacy Fund of Indianapolis has raised over $329,000 thus far and recently announced its inaugural leadership team, which includes the following: Kiahna Davis, President; Tamara Cypress, Vice President; Dr. Nichole Wilson, Secretary; Dr. Katasha Butler, Treasurer; Dana Austin, Member -at-Large; Tavonna Harris Askew, Member-at-Large; Dr. Amia Foston, Member-at-Large; Jennifer Norton, Member-at-Large; Nick Williams, Member-at-Large; LeRoy Lewis III, Membership Chair; Larry Smith, Donor Engagement Chair; and yours truly, Marshawn Wolley, Grants Chair.

As part of a collaboration with the IndyStar Seasons for Sharing program, AALFI will be providing grants to Black-led organizations that serve predominantly Black youth (ages 0-25). Grants should focus on dismantling racism, enhancing services, or supporting families.

See you next week…

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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