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"Pull yourself up by your bootstraps." These are the messages that President George Bush and soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are sending Americans of all races and creeds. These are the messages of the Republican Party. These are the messages of contemporary black Republicans. To be honest with you, as a 21-year old black Democrat, I don't have severe problems with the existence of black Republicans. Political diversity within the race is healthy for blacks and the nation as a whole. But black and white people talk about black Republicans as if they are aliens from another planet. In fact, the majority of black Republicans desire the same end as black Democrats and independents do: racial, political, educational and economic equality, achievement and justice for blacks and everyone else. The difference is that black Republicans prefer a different methodology than black Democrats. It is essential, though, that as we approach the 21st-century black Americans discontinue confining themselves to one political party since America has a two-party system. In order for blacks to wield a serious and enduring power on the American political and corporate establishments, we must remove the hood of political predictability that has stunted the growth of the black politic. We must venture into the Republican Party. Presently, black political power in America is a constant. This is not to say that black political power is marginal or insignificant, but black political power has become like a mathematical constant, which most of us learn by the fourth grade. Politicians can pretty much bet on blacks voting a solid 70-80 percent or more democratic in any given political election. Herein lies the problem. When someone can predict your every political move with near perfect accuracy, the strength of your political power is gradually reduced because your power becomes surmountable. Opponents can prepare way in advance for your move. In order for you to evade predictability, you must become multi-faceted. You must constantly add new components and weapons to your arsenal. Why did the Chicago Bulls finally dethrone the classless Detroit Pistons and their tight, restrictive (not to mention painful looking) shorts and advance to the NBA finals? Because Scottie Pippen and John Paxson removed their constant stigmas (it's called choking in everyday life) and became participants instead of spectators. The Bulls became multi-dimensional. The result: everyone wants to be like Mike. The black body politic must now exhibit some shrewdness. It must penetrate the Republican Party for the simple reasons of providing alternatives, offering choices, multiplying options and possibly producing further progress. Although it may sound like it, this column is not meant to be a sweeping endorsement of the Clarence Thomas nomination. Nor is it designed to release the Republican Party from any responsibility for the numerous and spiraling problems facing America, especially black America. Every American, regardless of political affiliation, should question the irony of Bush preaching self-help at home but hurling millions of dollars around the globe to ignite and accelerate the engines of democracy. Every American should question how an industrialized nation like ours allows more than 30 million Americans to live without adequate health coverage. Every American should be alarmed by the unparalleled decay of our major urban centers. Every American should question the roles the last two Republican administrations have played in the rapid deterioration of our educational system over the last ten years. Black Democrats must challenge -- but not condemn or excommunicate -- black Republicans on these and a host of other issues. Both groups must learn to work together. The problems facing black America are too complex and massive for one group to wrestle and pin down on their own. If black America wants to benefit from economic prosperity, participation in both political parties is critical. If black Americans want a comprehensive Civil Rights Bill, not a token Civil Rights Bill, participation in both parties is required. Jesse Jackson and Doug Wilder can't do it alone, just like Michael Jordan could not do it alone. But remember, nobody wants to be like Paxson. They want to be like Mike. Harold Ford is a senior History major from Memphis, Tennessee. Say It Loud appears alternate Thursdays.

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