Whites need not apply. Ludicrous? Yes, but it’s the message John Whitbeck, Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, gave to prospective candidates seeking his support for nomination in Republican contests in Northern Virginia. He chose to support a Hispanic over two white candidates vying for the Sully District Supervisor position in an upcoming Fairfax County firehouse primary with this explanation: “I do think the Republican Party is not doing minority engagement to the fullest extent possible if it’s not eventually nominating candidates that don’t look like me, a white male” (see As Fairfax grows more diverse, candidates for office mostly don’t).
Whitbeck said he gave his support as an individual and not as Chairman. He stated this when criticized for offering support during a primary, but his de facto endorsement would mean nothing without his title. Without the title of Chairman, the “support” might as well come from John Doe and it is likely Whitbeck realizes this. If not, he should.
“Don’t look like me — a white male,” were the truly disturbing words Whitbeck offered in connection with his support, inferring the candidate has an edge in his eyes due to color and ethnicity. It also made it more about Whitbeck and not about the candidates’ qualifications in a statement reminiscent of, “If I had a son, he’d look like…” This begs the question: Why is this about him? This primary is about the Sully district voters being able to choose a candidate for the Sully District Supervisor on the basis of their abilities regarding good governance, not on their skin color.
The prospective harm to the Party from Whitbeck’s expressing preference for one candidate over the other two could be broad in the long run and is not conducive to unity. In expressing his choice that the Hispanic candidate is “uniquely qualified,” to reach a wide array of voters, Whitbeck is suggesting the two white candidates are not as capable. This could backfire on any of these candidates in the General Election if the Chairman’s words have credibility. It also hurts Whitbeck because future candidates will be guarded by his “support” and what that actually means. They might wonder if they’re being favored for their color rather than ability. Whitbeck’s choosing of someone who doesn’t look like him (Whitbeck), but looks like them (a minority), further divides us into the “us” and “them” categories. It is insulting and denigrating. In the end, Chairman Whitbeck will own the result of this election and any possible unintended consequences.
It is a miscalculation for the Chairman to think that choosing candidates for “color” above any white candidate qualifies for a winning engagement plan in our Northern Virginian communities where we need everyone doing the heavy lifting. It is the responsibility for all Republicans to take part in party building. It is the Chairman’s job to ensure all party members are encouraged to relate to everyone in every community all year and not just prior to an election. All candidates are able to fill the role of relating to other ethnicities if their heart is in it. It is backwards, tokenism and reverse discrimination for Whitbeck to insinuate otherwise. The “diverse” voters Whitbeck refers to are impressed when ANY Republican candidate reaches out to them in a sincere way. It makes no difference what color the candidates are. What matters is not what they look like but what they project from their mind and their hearts to voters. They can be charismatic and genuine if they make the effort and have the talent whether they are white, black, brown, red, purple or green. It makes no difference.
Whitbeck’s preference of a candidate for his “color” because it is unlike his own as a (his words) “white male” is prejudicial. Chairman Whitbeck would be wise to reflect on the words of one great American who sought to rid us of bigotry and all forms of discrimination:
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King
Tito Munoz is a Republican business owner who lives with his wife in Prince William County, Virginia, and is familiar for passionately stating, “I was born in Colombia, but I was MADE in the USA!” He served as the 11th District representative on the VA Board of Housing and Community Development from 2010-2014, appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell.