Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Romney's Black Support Is Easy to Miss

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Romney's Black Support Is Easy to Miss

Article excerpt

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," a searing novel of black alienation from mainstream culture that shouldn't be confused with H.G. Wells' 1897 novella about a scientist who invents a formula that renders him invisible.

In Ellison's novel, the invisibility is metaphorical. The novel's unnamed narrator drifts ghost-like through midcentury American life, enduring its racial indignities unknown and unloved.

I've read the book twice in 35 years and assumed I understood most of its symbolism and substance. Alas, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has caused me to question the meaning behind the word "invisible" in Ellison's title.

This week, Mr. Romney addressed the annual NAACP conference in Houston. His speech was boilerplate and was greeted for the most part with restrained, polite applause from a solidly pro-Obama audience. It got ugly when Mr. Romney vowed to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would benefit an estimated 7 million African-Americans.

The crowd booed, of course. Honestly, black people love to boo those who believe they're powerful. Booing Mitt Romney at least once during a mostly insubstantial speech gave everyone a chance to imagine that it was Saturday night at the Apollo for a few minutes.

Some conservatives were outraged, as if the same thing wouldn't happen if President Barack Obama went to an NRA convention and advocated raising taxes along with the price of bullets. It was an applause line designed for failure, although it gave Mr. Romney bragging rights with those who question whether he's tough enough to stand up to minorities.

Later, Mr. Romney told Fox News' Neil Cavuto something that sounded like utter nonsense. "I spoke with a number of African- American leaders after the event and they said, you know, a lot of folks do not want to say they will not vote for President Obama, but they are disappointed in his lack of policies to improve the schools," Mr. Romney said, hinting at the existence of black supporters.

"At the end of my speech, having a standing ovation was generous and hospitable on the part of the audience," he said. …

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