By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
One of the prices that we paid for integration was the disintegration of the black community. – Ed Smith
Black Republicans are running for public office at a record-setting pace. Despite the GOP’s troubling record of anti-voting rights and other policies deemed hostile to black interests, 81 blacks were candidates in the 2022 Congressional primaries, the most in history.
“Why,” asks scholar and political historian Leah Wright Rigueur, “would an African American join the Republican Party when the GOP bears no relation to the party of Abraham Lincoln?”
The answer is complicated.
The GOP is pouring millions of dollars into minority campaigns to cut into support from Black and Latino voters, a longtime stronghold for the Democrats.
Scholar Joshua Farrington notes the composition of today’s diverse group of black Republicans. They comprise “out-of-touch relics, pawns of a hopelessly lily-white party, pragmatic strategists, and savvy political operators who use the GOP to advance the black agenda,” he writes.
At the same time, the Democratic Party is overcrowded. There are more candidates than available political offices. So, many talented Black candidates find opportunities within the Democrats scarce and turn to an opportunistic GOP.
Pulitzer Award-Winning columnist Eugene Robinson highlights the role of integration that led to the disintegration of the Black community, leaving class differences and large economic and social disparities.
Therefore, there is no longer a shared vision or clearly-defined black agenda, notes Robinson. Instead, the bond between Blacks previously based on race is no longer what it was once, and we have less and less in common than 40 years ago.
I spoke with Josh Williams, an African American and Republican candidate for Ohio’s 41st House District. Our following discussion is about Williams’ candidacy and policy positions.
Perryman: Please give our readers some of your background.
Williams: I was born and raised in Toledo. I attended Start High School and dropped out as a senior when I became homeless. I worked as a subcontractor and fell 30 feet at age 21. Soon, I became disabled and lay in bed for the next six years. Eventually, I had five back surgeries and was 458 pounds, the heaviest after my disability from lying in bed. I had weight loss surgery in 2013 and fought with the State of Ohio for over a year to be able to go to college and not be kicked off my disability. Finally, I got approval.
Perryman: Tell us about your education.
Williams: I started college at the age of 30 at the University of Toledo. By 35 graduated with three degrees, including my law degree. I received a full scholarship to UT Law, completed my law degree in 2020, took the bar exam, and passed my first attempt. I became a practicing attorney here in Lucas County and across 12 other counties in Ohio. At 37, I got re-married and declared my candidacy for state rep as a Republican.
Perryman: Why are you running for this political office?
Williams: I’m running because many things need to change in the State of Ohio. I’m running on a conservative platform, but I’m also running on a criminal justice reform platform.
Along my journey, during my sophomore year of college, while volunteering in my community, I was falsely accused of two felonies. I had to fight for a year and a half to clear my name. Finally, it was cleared, the charges dismissed, and my record sealed. That experience taught me some very intricate details about the criminal justice system. It is easy for someone to get charged with mere accusations without a chance to confront their accuser. So, massive changes need to be made from everything, including our bail system to how the grand juries run, our sentencings, and priorities when it comes to sentencing.
Perryman: What is the difference between you and your Democratic Party opponents?
Williams: The main difference between my opponents and me is the way we see society and the role of government. Through my struggles with the government to go to school and dig myself out of poverty and disability, I’ve learned that the government attempts to hold you back when you try to make those gains. Essentially you vote for those who are providing things for you. My opponents believe in the opposite. They think that the government’s role is to provide as much as possible to the citizens. I’m more of a libertarian regarding my view of government in our lives. It’s more get out of our way and let us become successful. But then the government should create programs that allow individuals to dig themselves out of poverty.
Perryman: In Ohio, we’ve seen unarmed Black men and women shot by the police. How do we address this issue?
Williams: Part of it is contact tracing, and part of it is removing these barriers to seeing officers’ prior history. They essentially have union contracts that allow their actions to be removed from their permanent record, which shouldn’t be the case. We should be able to see where there’s a bad apple, and we have to hold officers accountable.
I’ve also been a proponent of getting rid of qualified immunity, which has a lot to do with it. We rarely see convictions for officer-involved shootings or deaths, regardless of race. We should at least be able to sue them for violating our rights. I’ve been a proponent of removing qualified immunity and making law enforcement agencies and individual officers carry insurance plans.
Perryman: Over the last several years, our nation has witnessed deadly mass shootings. Every day 96 Americans are killed, and 200 more are injured by guns. In the aftermath of what happened in Texas and Buffalo, students and others demanded reform. What is your position on gun violence prevention?
Williams: If we’re talking about the shooting in Texas and the call for reform, as in removing AR-15s from the civilian space, my answer is no. Those guns are in our society and will remain in our society. Essentially, they function as they should, but you have bad people with bad intentions who use them. So, I don’t think we can use Texas as a good analogy for why you would need gun reform. If you had an individual alone in a room with kids for 90 minutes or 60 minutes, officers were in the hallway. He could’ve had a butcher knife or a pistol or a shotgun, and he would’ve still wreaked a lot of damage.
Perryman: Well, let’s talk about Buffalo. And, if you want to bring it closer to home, we’ve had mass shootings a few years ago in Dayton and in northeast Ohio. Those assault weapons are weapons of war. What role could they possibly have in our everyday civilian society?
Williams: Well, they were intended to be weapons of war, and we were intended as civilians to have access to those weapons to maintain an anti-tyrannical government. Think about that, ever since slavery, one of the founding principles of the NRA was to arm black people. So when the KKK used to knock on our doors and lynch and tar and feather us, it wasn’t pea shooters that we were using. It was the arms that were in the same hands as some of our soldiers.
Perryman: I respectfully disagree. Those weapons were for the enslavers to fight against so-called potential slave uprisings. But anyway, we do know that machine guns are highly regulated. You have to go through a huge amount of bureaucratic red tape to get machine guns that you don’t for an AK-47 or an AR-15.
Williams: At least one of the facets of the conversation we need to have about these school shootings is why schools are soft targets and seen as potential targets for mass shooters. For example, a grocery store was seen as a target in Buffalo. In Buffalo, we also saw an individual engaged with a crossfire from a security guard, a former police officer who unfortunately lost his life.
Perryman: Everywhere is a soft target, schools, churches, supermarkets, and even bars and restaurants in Dayton. So, everywhere. How do you feel about arming teachers, which is a bill that the governor is ready to sign?
Williams: I support it where competent, experienced teachers and security guys are at our schools with more firearms, and those firearms have to stay on their persons. I would feel comfortable knowing my son is in a school where individuals are competent, experienced in firearms, and willing to lay their lives down or on the line for their students.
Perryman: I don’t know that a pistol would’ve handled the AR-15 in Texas, where a battalion of professionally-trained law enforcement was afraid to confront the shooter. So, is that placing too much on our teachers to be professional security as well as try to teach these kids?
Williams: What the State of Ohio is doing is not saying to teachers to get a teaching certificate in the State of Ohio, you have to pack a 9-mm. They’re not saying that. What they’re saying is, individual school districts, we’re going to give you back the authority to vote on what you believe is best to safeguard your schools. More localized conversations like that are how we get to a solution. So, for me, anything that will save a child’s life, I’m for it. I will admit, it’s a very difficult subject. There’s no real easy solution.
Perryman: What is your position on Bill 616, the divisive concepts legislation that prevents teachers from teaching factual history just because it presents our history’s negative or seamy side?
Williams: Suppose we’re talking about teaching African-American history and the history of the United States or about slavery and oppression that happened to groups of people. In that case, I have no problem with kids learning that. However, I have a problem when you tell kids that a white kid born in 2022 is inherently an oppressor because of that history, and a black kid born in 2022 is intrinsically oppressed by that white kid.
Also, I don’t like that divisive language portion of the bill because it’s too broad. It gives too much discretion to school districts to cut out curricula like slavery and Jim Crow and the need for race being used in standard admissions processes, the reasons behind that.
Perryman: Let’s talk about reproductive rights. You mentioned that you’re for limited government, but the government should have a say when it comes to a woman’s right over her own body. So, please explain your views on reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose decisions regarding her own healthcare.
Williams: Right, we start with the way you preface the question, calling it reproductive rights. I never will believe that murdering the baby inside the womb as an elective procedure is a reproductive right.
Perryman: The term “Murder” is such loaded language, especially when talking about a fetus, an embryo inside the womb, that can only continue its existence through its mother. However, outside the womb, after it is born and enters this world, there seems very little concern for the life of children, according to conservative policies.
Williams: That’s your position. I care about it both as an embryo and as a newborn. So, for me, life begins at conception, any intentional act to end that is murder. Ohio’s statute already recognizes that the baby inside the womb is worth protecting. The question here is not whether or not it’s a person or whether or not it’s a life. It’s whether or not the mother has a right to end that life.
Perryman: As far as LGBTQ rights, what steps, if any, would you take to ensure full equality for LGBTQ people in our community?
Williams: I don’t object to anyone’s lifestyle. That’s the libertarian in me that says, ‘you do you, I do me.’ But let’s be clear, there have to be boundaries. So, when you say equal rights, what are we talking about here? If you’re talking about a man who believes he’s a woman and still has [male genitalia] going in a bathroom with my wife or daughter, the answer is no. It’s always going to be no. However, the government’s role is not to intrude in your bedroom or personal life.
Perryman: Will you commit to providing adequate funding for safe and affordable housing?
Williams: Absolutely. I think safe and affordable housing, financial assistance, SNAP benefits, and these programs that provide a safety net are essential. I’ve been there. I’ve been on SNAP benefits before, been on WIC before, and lived in impoverished neighborhoods for decades. So, I believe those programs need to be there as a safety net. But, still, there have to be eligibility, work, vocational, and school requirements because these programs can be used to hold us back from socio-economic progression.
We have to develop a system where people can dig themselves out of poverty and relieve themselves from the need to be on these programs. At the same time, we provide a cushion to transition back into being independent of the government. The more independent we are from the government, the more free-thinking we are. Then we don’t vote for those who just provide us stuff. Instead, we start looking at each issue and each candidate differently.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org