Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michael Steele's Coonery Tour Has Ended



Michael Steele was elected as the first African American Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in January of 2009. He was elected shortly after President Obama became the first African American President of the United States. Many believed that Mr. Steele would be the Republican’s answers to President Obama. Mr. Steele could attack the President without it appearing racial. Mr. Steele promised that during his reign of the RNC, he would make sure the Republican Party reached out to more ethnic minorities across the country.


But Mr. Steele’s leadership seemed to cause more division among conservatives and was not inclusive of minorities. The RNC lost a chuck of its base to the Tea Party. The Tea Party organizations from around the country ran candidates against not only incumbent Democrats but Republican as well. The Tea party members called Republicans out in many races and promised that once they got to Washington they were not only going to hold the President accountable, but Democrats and Republicans to their vision of how they want the government work.

Down South, my grandparents used a term to call intelligent Black folks who played down their abilities and mocked their communities coonery. In many conservative circles, Michael Steele’s coonery was blamed for helping topple the RNC. Nothing prepared Republicans for his antics and out of control foolishness that came out of Steele’s mouth often. Not only was he an embarrassment to old school Republicans but many Black folks did not know what to make of Steele’s constant ignorant outbursts. His love of self-promotions made in him a comedy routine regular on The Daily Show. A Muppet like character was created to depict Steele using his street slang. His made up homeboy sayings had even people from the streets scratching their head questioning what he was talking about. Nothing from Steele’s background would have predicted how badly he would lead the RNC.

Steele was adopted by a Democrat leaning working class family as a baby. He lost his farther at an early age but his mother later remarried and had a second child. His half-sister, Monica Turner, later married and divorced Boxer Mike Tyson. Steele attended Catholic schools and even studied to become a priest. He graduated from John Hopkins University with a degree in International Studies and later received his law degree from Georgetown University Law School. Steele was employed as a corporate securities associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, & Hamilton. From 1991 to 1997, he specialized in financial investments for Wall Street underwriters, working at Cleary's Tokyo, Japan office on major product liability litigation and at its London office on corporate matters. He left the law firm and founded the Steele Group, a business and legal consulting firm. He was active in politics.

Mr. Steele severed as Lt. Governor of Maryland and was the first African American to hold that title. He was instrumental in helping establish Minorities Business Enterprise program and made education a priority.

Several minority business owners that I know personally from the DC area have credited Steele for helping them establish their businesses. But they quickly point out did not recognize the Steele that was chair of the RNC. Steele, a bright and intelligent person prior to becoming a national political figure, became someone who played up the worst stereotypes of Black in mainstream media. He became a caricature from the hood that put on a suit and a bow tie that made white folks chuckle with glee and Blacks folks hold their breathes in dismay. Watching him tell his humorless jokes on TV would leave me baffled but hearing him in person left me wondering why I was even trying to comprehend his logic on the occasions I heard him speak. He truly reminded me of an Amos and Andy routine. He attacked the President as his paycheck required him to do but rarely did any of his attacks stick.

Steele could have used his talents from his previous careers to convert independents who became disillusioned with President Obama. But he could not even get ants to an outdoor picnic. He allowed racial rhetoric go too far too long. Steele’s justified statements that he knew were inflammatory nightly on cable news. He only countered it when RNC members started complaining about his lavish spending, questionable nightclub outings, and how he seemed to pocket money from his book tour instead of giving the money to the RNC. When he came under scrutiny, he ran to Black radio crying racism in the RNC. Hmm, how convenient.

Steele had no shame. Folks on Coonery circuits usually don’t. Being the head of the RNC, Steele showed us classic coonery. Right out the bat he tried to bring hip-hop to the RNC in order to reach the youth. Who say hip-hop anymore? Publicly feuded with Rush Limbaugh only to back track and kiss Rush’s Ring. And other parts. Didn’t know pro-choice did not mean pro-life. All Catholics know the difference. Swore that white folks were afraid of him. Really? In January 2010, predicted that the GOP would not win very many seats. They won 63 House seats. Said he wrote his book before he was Chairman of the RNC. Lied. Claim Afghanistan 'Was A War Of Obama's Choosing. Nope, President Bush took us to war. Twice.

Steele ended his gaffe filled two year coonery tour this month with a response to a question at the RNC chair debate. The candidates were asked what their favorite book was. Steele said his favorite book was War and Peace by Tolstoy, and then quoted: "It's the best of times and the worst of times," triggering laughter throughout the hall at the fact that Steele had in fact quoted A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Shameful. Thankfully, the tour is over!


Article first published as Michael Steele's Coonery Tour Has Ended on Blogcritics.

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