Barry Saunders

Republicans should reach out to blacks – and Democrats shouldn’t take them for granted

Wait a minute. Have I been on a date with Bill Cosby?

Nah, but for some reason I must have passed out a few weeks ago and missed something big.

No, even bigger than Donald Trump’s hair,

Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and a Republican presidential candidate, in June made what was – for a GOP presidential contender in 2015 – an incredible concession.

At a National Press Club event in Washington, Perry said, “We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty. And, because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects.”

Say what?

Had Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or even a Republican from the 1960s said that, no one would’ve been surprised.

But Rick Perry? In 2015?

Here’s how that remarkable comment by a Republican was allowed to pass unremarked upon: Unfortunately for Perry, too many in news media have already placed him in the also-running category, to be noticed only when he makes a gaffe – such as when, during a 2012 GOP debate, he forgot one of the three agencies he vowed to eliminate if elected.

A phrase that has gained much currency in recent years – epic fail – is used to describe everything from a fat kitten cartoonishly missing his leap from the sofa to the windowsill on Youtube to Perry’s 2012 “oops” moment.

To be honest, that kitten was hilarious.

To me, though, a Republican acknowledging what many refuse to about the complicated, lasting effects of slavery is way more significant than his forgetting, under the lights with millions watching, the name of an agency – or even those fake-looking glasses he adopted afterward to give himself a more learned, informed look.

Perry’s comment acknowledging how the past informs the present was welcomed by many and overdue by the GOP. Man, wouldn’t it be cool to see a Republican Party that did more than pay lip service to inclusion, to welcoming all Americans, a GOP that stopped trying to prevent people from voting by instituting post-Reconstruction-era voting restrictions?

Now that would be epic.

“The Republican Party needs to be reaching out to people of different cultures, races and ethnicities,” Perry said. “That’s what the Republican Party needs to be about. And frankly, that’s what the American people need to be about.”

Halleluyer. Rashad Robinson, a guest on Melissa Harris-Perry’s eponymous Sunday talk show on MSNBC, wishes the GOP would reach out, too, so the Democratic Party will stop taking black votes for granted.

Robinson, executive director of the million-member civil rights group, didn’t just say Democratic politicians take blacks for granted; he accused the party of treating blacks like its “side chick.”

He wasn’t wrong. For you squares, the side chick is the old standby you call at 2 a.m. when everyone else has turned you down, the one you need only buy a burger and fries – not even a shake – if you deign to sport her or him (yes, dudes can be side chicks, so chill) in public.

As distressing as that reality is, it is also undeniable. Of course, being the side chick of one party is preferable to being the dead duck of another.