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Black Elephants in the Room

The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans

Corey D. Fields (Author)


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What do you think of when you hear about an African American Republican? Are they heroes fighting against the expectation that all blacks must vote democratic? Are they Uncle Toms or sellouts, serving as traitors to their race? What is it really like to be a black person in the Republican Party?
Black Elephants in the Room considers how race structures the political behavior of African American Republicans and discusses the dynamic relationship between race and political behavior in the purported “post-racial” context of US politics. Drawing on vivid first-person accounts, the book sheds light on the different ways black identity structures African Americans' membership in the Republican Party. Moving past rhetoric and politics, we begin to see the everyday people working to reconcile their commitment to black identity with their belief in Republican principles. And at the end, we learn the importance of understanding both the meanings African Americans attach to racial identity and the political contexts in which those meanings are developed and expressed.

1. From Many to Few
2. Beyond Uncle Tom
3. Race Doesn’t Matter
4. Black Power through Conservative Principles
5. Like Crabs in a Barrel
6. Whither the Republican Party

Methodological Appendix
Corey D. Fields is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. 
"The real value of this book, via ethnographic research, is the articulation of a conflict between notions of African American shared fate and Republican rhetoric that advances race-neutrality and more inclusive American themes."—Basil A. Smikle Jr., Executive Director, New York State Democratic Party New York Journal of Books
"Fields makes great use of interviews, observation and survey data to argue that a majority of black Republicans are race-conscious, seeing their positions on social and economic issues in racial terms."—New York Times Book Review
"Turn off your televisions and close your digital blogosphere windows. Corey D. Fields shows us that the loudest and most well-known black Republican voices do not represent the everyday unexpected politics of those who combine salient black identities with socially and fiscally conservative ideologies. Black Elephants in the Room masterfully uses history, interviews, observations, and theory to illustrate the complexities of both racial and political identities. Given the changing racial composition of the United States, this book is essential reading for understanding the future of American politics." —Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

"When confronted with the concept of an African American Republican, many Democrats of all racial identities are tempted to ask, 'What are they thinking?' Corey D. Fields can answer that question. This beautifully researched book avoids perilous assumptions and ad hominem dismissals to engage black Republicans on their own terms. Black Elephants in the Room is an outstanding work of political sociology from an important emerging scholar." —Gary Segura, author of Latino America: How America's Most Dynamic Population Is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation

"Corey Fields approaches his subject with an ethnographer’s sensitivity to meaning making as he successfully describes fascinating variation among black Republicans. He shows that while African American Republicans, as a group, tend to share the basic tenets of American conservatism (a belief in small government, low taxes, and conservatism in social issues), they diverge sharply in how they characterize the needs of the broader African American community and in how they relate to white Republicans. Calling these unique ways of being Black and conservative “race blind” and “race conscious,” Fields demonstrates the varieties of ways that right-leaning African Americans think about policy, politics, and the sheer experience of being outliers in one’s race and party." —Amy Binder, author of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives

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