To some people in Durham, the Republican Party is the party of old white men consumed with self-pride and a lack of care for the less fortunate.
Deep in central Durham County, where only 14 percent of people are registered Republicans, one man believes the African-American community should consider a different way of thinking.
Immanuel Jarvis, chairman for the Durham County Republican Party, believes his political party will offer long-term solutions and values that will greatly impact Northeast Central Durham. Jarvis became the chairman two years ago, however, his relationship with the community has gotten off to a rough start.
I sat down with Jarvis for a Q&A session.
DV: You’re not a “traditional” Republican. How do you fight that stereotype being an African-American male?
IJ: [laughs] Why would you say that? I think stereotypes are what have been given to any individual. I don’t care who you are, there are stereotypes that are placed on people. If a person says ‘I’m not a traditional Republican’, again, it’s that stereotype of assuming who I am. But the fact of the matter is that most African-Americans grow up in traditionally conservative households.
The difference is when they turn 18 years old, they’re told that all good black folks are Democrats and so they do it and follow what’s been told to them. They believe the easy information all the time without doing any research on their own. If you think about it, it’s very easy to become a Democrat. You don’t need to research or look at legislation, because guess what? It appeals to all the emotions. Democrats want to help people. Who doesn’t want to help people? Democrats want to help the poor. God, are you really against helping the poor? Who is against that? It is a very easy ideology to follow.
DV: Do you think Republicans want to help people?
IJ: Absolutely. Both parties want to get to the same destination, but both have different ways of getting there.
We never want to tell someone to hold themselves up from their own boot straps or anything like that. We have a responsibility in this great country to help those who are really poor but making sure we are not enabling the able; That’s a huge difference because when we do that, we take away their ability to be able to create — and we don’t want to do that.
DV: What message do you want to send to those who think the people in your party are racists, sexists or xenophobes?
IJ: Prove it. The same type of intolerance that they preach we have. If you think about it, is the same intolerance that they are giving to people when they castigate a group of people that has one particular thought process. It’s wrong. I think it’s a lack of human dignity when you do that. We’re all individuals. No matter who you are or regardless of what you look like — you have your own thought process. When people say Republicans are all this, what they’re doing is discriminating and doing the same thing they say they’re against.
DV: So, why are you a Republican?
IJ: My mom and my dad brought me up knowing nobody is going to give me anything in this world. I have to work hard and sometimes that means getting my hands dirty. I’m responsible for my actions, and if I do wrong, there are consequences for it. As I grew up, I decided not to shove that to the side. When I see that individuals are sometimes enabled, it actually makes them weaker and their true essence of who they are never comes out.
DV: How is their “true essence” restricted?
IJ: Every single individual on this planet has something to give. They’re special. They’re created uniquely. Sometimes government can get in the way and [suffocate] that. Government’s responsibility is to do two things and two things only — to promote good and to restrain evil. Sometimes, not all the time, some of the policies that they create actually stifle ingenuity, and it punishes success. We need to make sure we celebrate success. [Republicans] also celebrate charity and good-will. We can do all of those things, promote individuality with little government interference and provide resources. It’s not an “or,” it’s an “and,” you can be both. I think the heart of conservativism is truly the desire for individuals to live and fulfill their God-given talents and gifts of why they’re on this earth.
I think as we get older, we realize the utopia we think we can create for society really doesn’t happen and the reason for that is this issue in ourselves called sin. The human heart has this tendency to do wrong. That’s why this utopia won’t work.
DV: Have you always been a Republican?
IJ: No, like all ‘good black folks,’ I was a Democrat. When I was about 23 years old I started to read, listen, read history and came to the conclusion that Democrats have been making the same promises for a long time. Even when their efforts are pure (and I believe for the most part they are), if they end up doing more bad than good to a group of people, what’s the point? If someone needs surgery and I really want to help them, so I proceed to do surgery without knowing what I’m doing, I can actually damage a person more than help them. Democrats are like this and often short-sighted.
DV: On your Facebook page, you mentioned the division in our country, how do you plan to heal that in central Durham?
IJ: The thing about it is — no man heals. Doctors don’t heal. Surgeons don’t even heal. Procedures are done, but the body heals itself. I firmly believe the only thing that can heal this country is God. I think we can push our fellow men. So, for the Durham County Republican Party, our goal is to serve the community. We don’t want to talk about conservativism, because talk is cheap. We want to live it by serving, especially the under-privileged. Everything like food drives and back-to-school drives and things like that. This year we want to start moving towards education and tutoring and volunteering in that area. I’m going to tutor kindergarteners today. If you have a five-year-old or six-year-old who don’t know how to spell their name, it’s hard for them to read, causing them to quickly fall behind and get worse every year. We want to make sure we stay consistent and work hard. People will start to see that our actions match up with our words.
DV: Did you vote for President Trump and why?
IJ: Hmm. I don’t want to talk about who I vote for in terms of national because my title has nothing to do with the national Republican party. My title is the chair of the Durham County Republican Party, so my focus is 95 percent on what’s happening in this locale. I don’t even focus on what’s going on at a state level. My responsibility is here, and things like the city council, county commission, school board and sheriff’s office. Those are the things I need to care about. If more people were more focused on where they live versus what goes on miles away in Washington D.C., then this country would be a better place.
DV: What do you hope President Trump accomplishes in his term?
IJ: Another president question. Hmm. I not even going to talk about policies, but I hope he inspires the American people that they alone have the ability to be great on their own. It’s not about him making America great again, it’s about individuals making their own selves, their own families, their own neighborhoods, their own schools and their own communities great.
DV: What are your plans for central Durham?
IJ: I really want to focus on education — especially gettting children in the younger years so that they don’t fall behind in their academics. Also, provide a pathway to the ones in college by partnering with the career development center, so jobs are out there for students to know about and to prepare for.
DV: What brought you to Durham?
IJ: My wife and I came here about 17 years ago. She got her first job right out of college at UNC- Chapel Hill. We felt like this was the place where we’re supposed to be, and we started planting roots here, and we’re really committed to this city. Politically, obviously, it’s Smurf blue, but there’s so much culture, diversity and appreciation for business. It’s a great place to be an entrepreneur. It’s a great place to live.