One of the lead stories to come out of the first two nights in the Republican National Convention was what seemed like an unprecedented embrace of minority perspectives.
On the RNC’s third night Wednesday, a trio of cultural leaders—all of whom recounted their own civil rights struggles in the Jim Crow-era South—may have clinched the deal with even the rival Biden campaign now setting the expectation that President Donald Trump could “over-perform” with black voters.
But according to Clarence Henderson—a dedicated, longtime Republican and one of the original protesters who helped launch the anti-segregationist sit-in movement by protesting at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC—there is no ‘over-perform’ about it.
Instead, he said, Republicans have always been the rightful purveyors of traditional black-American values, even if they haven’t always recognized it.
“The media is trying to convince you to conform to the same old Democratic talking points,” Henderson said in his speech Wednesday.
“You know what that will get you? The same old results,” he continued. “If you do vote for Biden, you don’t know history.”
Henderson recalled the uncertainty he faced, not knowing whether he would walk out of the department store in an upright or prone position.
“We faced down the KKK, we were cursed at and called all kinds of names, they threatened to kill us, and some of us were arrested—but it was worth it,” he said.
He said President Donald Trump had been a great ally in that fight with his support for historically black colleges and universities, school-choice vouchers, economic opportunity zones, criminal-justice reform and other issues to help raise the black community.
“These achievements demonstrate that Donald Trump truly cares about black lives,” Henderson said. “He has done more for black Americans in four years than Joe Biden has in 50 years.”
Echoing similar messages were two former NFL stars, Jack Brewer and Burgess Owens.
Brewer, a product of the Deep South, said his childhood included violent clashes with racists, including a close friend who “shot a skinhead in self-defense.”
His early experiences had led him to be a devout Democrat, but only recently he began to recognize another historic shift like that which drove black voters to support their one-time nemeses in the Democrat Party—this time driving them away.
As Biden has continued to make controversial remarks taking for granted the black vote and insulting the constituency as monolithic and lacking independent thought, Brewer also was shocked to see the way Trump’s critics casually tossed around baseless claims of racism.
“I know what racism looks like,” he said in his poignant and impassioned speech. “I’ve seen it firsthand … and I’m fed up by the way President Trump is portrayed in America.”
Brewer pointed to the outright lie that has been repeated frequently to justify calling Trump a racist based on his remarks following a deadly 2017 clash in Charlottesville, Va.
Many took out of context his remark that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the debate to falsely suggest that he was referring to neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, whom he had pointedly condemned in the prior sentence.
“Are you going to allow the media to lie to you,” Brewer asked.
While Brewer’s words and outraged indignation exhibited a fiery passion, Owens—currently running for Congress in Utah—spoke more optimistically in the hope of bringing the opposing voices back together in harmony.
He recounted his life of ups and downs, from joining the NFL to a series of bad business ventures that led him to the humbling job of becoming a chimney sweep, to his rebound as a successful entrepreneur.
Owens said the modern Left was pushing to destroy that fundamentally American tenet that hard work and determination can breed success, replacing it with a more defeatist vision of a country permanently marred by systems of racist oppression.
“Even a former bartender want us to believe it’s impossible” to succeed, he said, noting that leftists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-NY, were promoting “the same socialism that my father fought against in World War II.”
But Owens reached out with a final appeal, “specifically [to] my Democrat and independent friends: It is now time for us to unite,” he said.
“… Help us win back the House, keep the Senate and reelect [Trump], and I promise you, we will make you proud.”