Stacy Swimp, a conservative activist who resides in Michigan, found himself in the middle of a scuffle between pro and anti- Right to Work groups in Lansing, the day Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed a Right to Work legislation into law. Swimp was working inside the tent for conservative group Americans for Prosperity, when melee broke. He found himself having to come to the aid of fellow volunteers that day.
The law would permit workers to retain their jobs if they chose not to submit dues and become members of the union. Before the law was passed, a union could force from their job, any worker who failed to pay dues.
That day, Swimp was the only Black person in the bunch. He took the brunt of some racially tinged words:
“You are a token!”
“How much they paying you, Boy!”
“Martin L. King would spit in your face!”
“You are a shame to your race!”
“How does it feel to be rich?!”
Swimp says the words were biting. He says he was later accosted in the parking lot at the end of the day by others but he stood his ground and escaped without further incident.
But Swimp, who is the head of the Frederick Douglass society, a think tank which works to influence positive change in urban communities through free market solutions , says he’s used to it. As a Black Republican he gets a lot of push back from members of his race and party. A majority, 88%, of Black Americans consider themselves Democrats and meanwhile, a mere 11% of Republicans are Black, Gallup reports.
“I was not surprised at all. I have learned that diversity of ideas is not the norm within the culture of most liberal communities, “ Swimp said. “When I decided to get involved with public policy and advocating limited government and a strong free market, I was immediately labeled as a ‘sell out’, accused of ‘being paid for’, and even had a woman make a hate video about me comparing me to Hitler. So it is nothing new to me at all.”
Of the Right to Work law, Swimp says they “will empower the employees, protecting their First Amendment right to dissent from financially supporting a union they do not wish to be a part of,” adding “Moreover, they will no longer be forced to finance political campaigns they might not necessarily be in agreement with. The best part is that they can exercise their freedom of expression, of choice, without being subject to the historically vicious backlash of a hostile work environment, from either the employer or union retaliation. The law also means that workers may resign union membership, when they so choice, devoid of any consequence.”
Martin Luther King’s name wasn’t just mentioned against Swimp but among several other pro-union advocates in the hours following the law’s passing. King was assassinated the day before he was scheduled to speak on behalf of union of garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. But Swimp says King was defending a different permeation of the union.
“When Dr. King was standing with unions and signs that read: ‘We are men’, it was a different society,” says Swimp who is also the spokesperson for Project 21, the Nation’s largest network of Black Conservatives. “Labor unions were fighting a different fight than the politically motivated one they wage today.
“Additionally, we did not have the endless list of Federal ‘watchdog’ agencies we currently have that are designed to address any and every form of discrimination. There were no whistle blower laws. There no such thing as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the different ways someone can expose ill behaviors in a second! So my opinion is that Dr. King rightfully stood with the garbage workers in members and with certain other labor organizations during their time.”
After his party suffered a presidential loss this year, Swimp has some advice:
My advice would be for the GOP to be open to learning the difference between assimilation and accommodation of cultural experiences, perspectives, and ideas. This will result in the GOP being more attractive to minorities who share its values. Most do actually. It will mean those same minorities will have a greater hand in helping to shape the message of the GOP in a way that never compromises the principles of limited government, but does more effectively meet everyone right where they are at.
The GOP needs to abandon its ‘who is next in line” approach to leadership, agreeing with Congressman Allen West about that. The Democrat Party does a good job developing a farm system of young liberals. The GOP has to commit itself to developing a farm system of conservatives who are multi ethnic and economically diverse. They need to stop eating their own.
As for overcoming challenges to being a Black Republican in a political climate where he is the minority and faces adversity to get his messages across, he says trying to remain humble gets him through.
“I have to find a balance between treating them with grace and, yet, fighting against their agenda, is not always easy,” he said. “I try to make sure I operate in righteous indignation rather than bitterness, in other words.’