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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

This Is What Republicans at the RNC Think About Black People and Cops

"This mentality of, 'poor me, I've been oppressed so I am going to kill somebody...' How does that help?"
All photos by Jason Bergman

There's never been a time in my life where the subject of race seemed to be more discussed and dissected than it is today. It's fascinating how differently we can view something like death, which on the surface seems to be so cut and dry. Our ideas about race color everything we see, whether it is the extrajudicial killing of a young black men like Philando Castile or the shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. So when I found out I was going to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, I knew I wanted to explore this gulf of viewpoints on race by talking to some people on the ground.


I've written about race extensively for VICE, and that has really helped me process what being young and black in America today means to me. I believe this country is institutionally racist, and that the violence we see between the police and the black community is one symptom of this painful fact. I believe that Black Lives Matter is a nebulous conglomeration of well-meaning activists who are fighting against this country's entrenched racism, not a hierarchal cabal plotting to kill cops. And I believe that until we can properly address institutional racism, we are likely to see a lot more of the violence that we all fear.

I know what I think, and if you've been following VICE, you probably know it, too. But I'm also curious as to how people who might vote for Donald Trump, a man who I think has used racism as currency in this election cycle, feel when they see the same images and read the same headlines that I do.

The responses I got on the convention floor were eye-opening in many regards. I was surprised at how Christianity could make some people more compassionate for the lost lives of people who don't look like them. I was fascinated by some of the more conspiracy-oriented ideas people had that related black-millennial activists with mass shooters. And I was also intrigued by the ideas of blacks who've found their political truth within the Republican Party.

Here's what a handful of Republicans hanging out at the convention had to say about our country's ongoing issues with race and law enforcement.


Name: Burgundi Cain, Alternate Delegate
Age: 31
Hometown: Houston, Texas

The situation of race in America is worse than I've ever seen it. Obviously, I'm a millennial, so race has never been a huge issue for me. Some of my best friends are from places like the Virgin Islands, and we're really close. There is no racial tension between us. I've also had ex-boyfriend who was Asian. So for me, personally, I've never seen this division. But now I'm seeing it on the streets. I work in downtown Houston, and I just see people being aggressive toward one another. There is no connection, and they are avoiding eye contact because they are afraid of what the other person is thinking.

The Dallas shootings put some of these issues on the map for people in Texas. These shootings on both sides makes me very sad. I've always believed you should never kill someone, no matter what and that all life at every stage matters, no matter who they are or what they stand for. The police officers need to change the way they engage the public. And groups like Black Lives Matter have the right to speak on those issues as long as they do it peacefully.

For the GOP to help our nation heal, they will have to start with the idea that all lives matter and say, "Hey, what's going on is not OK on both sides." They need to pull in different cultures, because when you talk to people, you realize that they often have the same values as you.


Name: Kira Inis, Alternate Delegate
Age: 29
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

One thing I have come to respect is our men and women in blue. When I see the police, I know I am safe. I know Johnny Law is there to come and take care of things. I understand how difficult their jobs can be. Will they do everything perfect? No. But it is not out of a malice or racially motivated.

When any human life is taken, such as these police shootings, it is sad. But you can't let that stop you from recognizing the decisions these people made that led to them getting shot by the police. Look at Eric Garner, a man who was selling loosies and had a rap sheet a mile-long. When he was approached by the police, all the man had to do was comply. A lawful headlock was used on him; it only went wrong because Garner kept flailing around.

If black lives really mattered, don't you think people would do something about the epidemic of death in Chicago? There is a lawlessness in urban America. If you're not going to respect the life of yourself or others who look like you, why should I think you would respect those with a badge? So obviously, I expect when I hear of these incidences that the person who was shot did something ill-advised to get themselves killed.

And Black Lives Matter doesn't help at all. They are a bunch of racist, anarchist monsters who are responsible for the deaths of at least eight cops. All this blue blood is on their hands, because they were the ones who were chanting, "What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now!" What do you think is going to happen when you spew that kind of inflammatory rhetoric? Dallas and Baton Rouge, that's what.


I think that there was racism back in the day. But today, I think that racism is made up. It's in people's heads. It's manufactured by the white leftist elites whose mastermind agenda is to pit races, classes, and sexes against one another to keep the narratives of victimization of brown people going.

Name: Jim Miller, Delegate
Age: 41
Hometown: Hayward, Wisconsin

When I saw Baton Rouge, the the first thing I thought was just, Not another one. Not again. How long is this going to keep happening? My wife showed me the Minnesota shooting on my phone, and I thought that wasn't right, too. I'm a concealed-carry permit holder, just like that guy. Philando seemed like he was doing the right thing. But we will have to wait for all the facts to come out.

I think we look at things by color and gender too much, which causes division. I look at people by what is in their head. I've got friends of all different races, religions, and orientations. I'm sure some of this Black Lives Matter movement is organic. But there might be some who are professional agitators, paid by Big Labor, who want to divide us. When you talk about race relations with the police, there is some justification for the anger BLM has. But there are good and bad people in every industry. So I'm not going to say every cop is an angel, but these people are trying to protect us.

I think the racism in this country really stems form the media. When I was in Milwaukee recently, walking with my 12-year-old daughter, I noticed that when she would see a group of black men, she'd grab onto me like she was concerned. But when we would see a black woman and their daughter, she'd be fine. So something made her do this, and I think it is TV that is giving her a bad perception of young black men, and it is really unfortunate. I had to sit her down and have a talk about it.


Name: Gale Sayers, Delegate
Age: 56
Hometown: Texas

Over the last eight years, I've seen a heightened division between black and white. I think this comes from the top—the president. When something like the shooting of officers happens, instead of taking the time to honor the policemen and their families, he spent a lot of time talking about gun control and racial stuff. As a black person, I don't hardly ever think or see color when I interact with people. I think that the more you talk about race, the worse it gets.

I never worry about my kids' interactions with police. They know if a policeman approaches them, they need to be respectful because they know that if anything goes wrong, that is who they have to call. So I can't even fathom what is happening now with people shooting the police. The cops are the people we call when we have problems. To call them and ambush them is just unthinkable. I've been watching the Cleveland police officers at the convention, and it's just sad that they are putting their lives on the line for us and they have to watch their back.

There are many videos out there of officers interacting with white people and Hispanic people, and things go wrong, too. It's not just blacks. People need to learn to stop fighting with the police. Has there ever been a rogue cop? I'm sure of it. But as a whole, they are here to protect us.

My grandkids are black. My father was the blackest shade of black. My brother is very dark skinned. I love blacks. I'm black. But we need to teach people to have more confidence in themselves and stop seeing themselves as victims. A lot of times we get so caught up in how "oppressed" we are and how "everyone hates us," instead of focusing on finding someone to help or mentor. This mentality of, "poor me, I've been oppressed so I am going to kill somebody…" How does it help?


Name: Todd Jennings, Alternate Delegate
Hometown: Tampa Bay, Florida
Age: 35

We've spent a long time politicizing how everyone is different. We need someone who can come in and show us again that we are Americans because we share things that are outside of race, religion, culture, history. We share a love of liberty and freedom and a belief in the dignity of our fellow man, and I think we've lost that over the last couple of decades. I think Donald Trump can be that guy. He definitely made the right step in picking Mike Pence as his running mate.

It's tough to say if we're getting better or worse in regards to race relations. It feels like we are worse than we were eight years ago. But sometimes the worst of time precedes healing.

I think it is a shame how these shootings have been responded to. The media over sensationalizes it, which prevents us from having a conversation about it. As a white man, I can't say that I completely understand. But I acknowledge that young black men are targeted differently than whites. But we're going to have a hard time addressing that when the reaction to that is off the charts. We need to cool off to have a conversation about it.

I think Black Lives Matter is one of the clouds over the conversation that we should be having. I think that the initial idea probably had some merit. But when you are out chanting "death to cops," you're kind of defeating the purpose. If the goal is to raise awareness, you need to let people know you can have a conversation that can make things better. But I don't think they are contributing to that at this point.


Name: Richard and Leslie Kalama, Delegates
Home State: Hawaii
Age: 52

Richard: I blame the Democratic Party for our country's issues with race. The Democrats have not allowed blacks the opportunity to progress. They keep them in an economically depressed position to make them dependent on their party. I don't know how a black person in this country could even be a Democrat. The Democratic Party has offered nothing to the black community. Just look at how poorly the black communities are doing in cities run by Democrats. The Republican Party is about progress, business, and money. The Democrats are about making its supporters into victims.

As far as these recent shootings go, anytime anyone is killed, it is a tragedy. Our police have been known to use excessive force. I'm not saying that's the case with the Philando shooting, but it's very unfortunate either way. At the end of the day, I don't think that violence will ever work—whether the police are guilty or Black Lives Matter is guilty. It'd be nice if we had someone like a Martin Luther King Jr. to come in and bring unity.

I bring up Black Lives Matter because they are the most visible group out there that has advocated for violence. We only know what we see on TV. But we've heard they've talked about killing white babies. You can see that on YouTube.

I do feel like black gun owners are treated differently than whites. I have a lot of friends in law enforcement who will hate me for saying this, but when you see a black person with a gun, you tend to get more afraid, which is racist and wrong. I know black gun owners who are law-abiding citizens and shouldn't be treated any different than me.

I believe the Heavenly Father is color-blind. God created us the way we are. Our diversity is what makes this world beautiful. I would not want to live in a world where there were only white people—it wouldn't be good. Having the variety makes this world a better place.

Leslie: I'm for the law enforcement. They have a very hard job to do, and everybody just cries racism so fast before they even know the whole story. You have to put yourself in the situation of the officers. With some black people, I don't even think they really know the history of racism or slavery in the US. Republicans never owned any slaves. It was all the Democrats. But for some reason, a lot of blacks hate us.

These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Follow Wilbert L. Cooper on Twitter.