I was one of those rare species: a black Republican, the guy willing to spit into the wind of conventional thought, who was often showcased on camera at party events to prove inclusiveness.
But as a proud black man, I can no longer be a member of the Republican Party.
Being a Republican has long been a part of my personal and professional identities, so leaving the party is a difficult and emotional decision.
In 1998, as a young man searching for what I believed were shared values, I cut ties with the Democratic Party and became a Republican. Democrats, in my view, had become unwelcoming to those holding center-right views not in lockstep with the party, and it was my belief that through hard work, the Republican Party could be utilized as a vehicle for improving our community.
For the next 13 years, I dedicated myself to growing the conservative base of the Republican Party, and in the process bound myself in emotion and deed.
During that time, I worked on behalf of Republican candidates at all levels, from presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, on down to local elections.
I have had the pleasure of serving as president of the Sacramento Republican Assembly, a term as a member of the California Republican Party executive committee, and most recently as treasurer of the Sacramento County Republican Party.
Last year alone, I donated more than 400 hours of my time to the Republican Party and made financial contributions to a number of Republican candidates.
As of late, however, when I look at myself in the mirror there is one question which perplexes me: Can I, in good conscience, remain affiliated with an organization whose message purveyors of racism and bigotry find attractive?
Generally speaking, Republicans are decent people, and naturally, many of my closest friends vote Republican. As with any large organization or group, there will always be people at the fringes who hold views that are not representative of the body.
An organization cannot control the behavior of each individual actor, but it can control its response to abhorrent conduct.
The latest incident in a string of tawdry, race-based actions was the promotion of a racist cartoon by elected Orange County Republican Party Central Committee member Marilyn Davenport. The cartoon depicted President Barack Obama and his parents as chimpanzees, while simultaneously implying that the president is not a legitimate American, but rather an African-born interloper.
While the Orange County GOP chairman and a number of other committee members were quick to condemn the image and Davenport, what’s disturbing is the incredible number of people who continue to defend Davenport’s actions as well as the cartoon itself.