Its primary season now, and, while the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) are busy outraising their respective counterparts, the Republican National Committee’s chairman Reince Priebus announced its first-ever commemoration of the holiday called Kwanzaa. “I want to extend my best wishes to all who are celebrating Kwanzaa,” said Chairman Priebus. “For families coming together to mark the occasion, I hope it is a joyous time of celebration with loved ones–and a time of meaningful reflection ahead of the New Year.”
Priebus’ announcement may be recognized as the GOP’s newest strategy at embarking “on a year-round effort to engage with African American voters”, but is commemorating Kwanzaa really the best approach? As of the 2010 population, there are roughly 39 million Black Americans living in the United States, yet its estimated that only half a million to two million or just 1%-5% of Black Americans even celebrate Kwanzaa. Surely, there are better ways to reach a larger portion of the Black American population. As one author noted, while Kwanzaa is meant to celebrate African culture, “most African Americans can’t pinpoint [their] African origins and that African culture is vastly diverse.” Urban Daily points that “black people just don’t care about Kwanzaa”, and they note that it is at the wrong time of year and difficult to remember.
And, despite RNC Co-Chairman Sharon Day’s praise for the holiday as a “time to celebrate African culture and history”, she fails to realize that Kwanzaa is not African in origin, but American with a Black Nationalist creator. Founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa was designed to be an alternative to Christmas. Karenga, the US (Us Black People) founder, a violent rival to the Black Panthers, and convicted felon, argued that “some of the most fundamental things that Black people lacked were holidays” and “the white boy got enough dates for everybody.” Although Kwanzaa on the surface was designed to promote unity, faith, and cooperation, its founder was infused with hate, racism, and violent revolutionary ideals.
Kwanzaa is a child of the 1960’s and, at 47 years old, has failed to make major strides into the Black American community. Kwanzaa’s disconnect with today’s Black American community is as obvious as the RNC’s disconnect with Kwanzaa’s controversial history and with the Black American community. Instead of sitting in the nice, heated offices of the RNC’s headquarters in Washington D.C. writing a letter very few Black Americans will read about a holiday very few celebrate, perhaps Chairman Priebus should take to the streets in the urban areas where many impoverished Black Americans reside. Then-candidate Ronald Reagan wasn’t afraid to walk through the slums of South Bronx and promise “I will do everything I can” to help them. He received 14% of the Black American vote in 1980, which is higher than any other Republican candidate received since. Engaging means to occupy, attract, or involve someone’s interest or attention. That means going to Black Americans face to face, talking with them, and finding out what they are interested in. As the statistics show, Kwanzaa is not one of them.