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Tara L. Conley Headshot

Yo, Michael Steele, Whut Up Homie!

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Dear Michael Steel -

From one Hip Hop Head to, well, I guess another, do you mind if I address your latest call on the GOP to engage broader, more diverse groups like the Hip Hop community?

This will only take a sec.

While I don't think the idea of reaching out to broader or more diverse communities is counterproductive for the GOP, I do think that as their leader, you ought to focus more on encouraging the GOP to deeply reflect on their public policies, image, and messaging. Then, after some necessary introspection, perhaps the GOP might be ready to reach out to the Hip Hop community. You can't expect other communities to accept your olive branch when your own tree house isn't in order.

And then there's that whole 2006 campaign thing, you know where you kinda misled poor, low-income folks of color to distribute campaign fliers in Philadelphia under false pretense. That was pretty gangsta, but it's really not the kind of change we've been looking for. By reaching out to Hip Hop folks now, are you just using another community to satisfy your own personal interests? It's a fair question, no? One that also asks you and your folks to engage in some serious reflecting before going forward with this whole reaching-out-to-the-Hip-Hop-community bit.

Baby steps, GOP, baby steps.

Don't suggest that the Hip Hop community will help, or even save, the GOP. And please don't use the "first-African-American-to-chair-the-RNC" shtick to seemingly assume black, brown, yellow, and white folks within the Hip Hop community will follow the GOP lead. Like Obama, you and your party need to earn our short attention spans by first checking your own party members. This includes voting records that hardly reflect issues of those within our communities and neighborhoods - oops, I mean, 'hoods.

Quick! What was Mos Def's position on the Jena Six situation, and why was it important to social and criminal justice? And no, it wasn't that he thought Bush didn't care about Black people - that was the other Black rapper guy talking about that other Louisiana city.

(My bad, "gotcha" questioning is so 2008.)

But nothing says 'I'm seriously engaged in your community' like uttering phrases such as "bling-bling" and "off the hook" while speaking to members of Congress and national press. That's right, Michael, using patronizing slang as code words for being disingenuous is exactly what gets you an "in" with all the hipsters.

On the real though, you should encourage the GOP to be more concerned about its dangerously divisive domestic and foreign policies. Polices that, by in large, aren't grounded in reality but instead centered on a combination of illusion and some really neat 1950's sitcom I saw on TV Land last weekend.

Reconsider GOP messaging, which largely impacts the GOP's perceived image and brand. Stop using folksy, out of touch women to be the "face" of the party, when it's obvious that the party needs much more than a faux feminist face lift. Try reconstructing the entire GOP political body by supporting women and their issues all of the time, not just when it's convenient. Stop allowing your party to use self-absorbed, self-serving, and unapologetic Black men as puppets to passive-aggressively talk smack to the opposition.

Aim low, GOP.

Consider recruiting humble, thoughtfully spoken, and open-minded individuals who have a complex understanding of the worlds we inhabit. Having a complex world view doesn't mean adopting a post-9/11 mentality that believes "most" of Islam wants to kill "all" Americans.

Stop giving right-wing conservative warriors (?) like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh woodies by either appearing on their shows or acknowledging their existence.

There's always room for opposing views, but for any conservative leader to encourage such narrow-minded opinions should be held accountable - this especially includes you, Michael. (You might want to peep out fellow GOPer Arlen Specter's radio interview with Laura Ingraham, a.k.a Ann Coulter Jr.)

When you can approach your party behind closed doors without cameras and microphones and ask them to candidly reevaluate their regressive policies and ideology, then you certainly have my permission to step up on that podium and ask to engage broader, eclectic, and creative communities of influence. Then maybe, just maybe, we'll consider your request.

I'm outty five thizzie, home skillet!

Tara