I am a Republican.

What do you think about me now? Have you assumed that I am a racist, that I oppose gay rights and don?t care about the poor? Don?t worry, this happens to me every day. If you?ve just made an assumption about me without knowing me personally, then you have engaged in prejudice.

Americans rarely tolerate prejudice ? we pride ourselves on opposing it. We don?t appreciate those who unfairly characterize groups or use them as scapegoats. But as a Republican I am targeted by prejudice every day. Prejudice that is tolerated and openly embraced by many parts of our society.

At the mere mention of my political affiliation, friends and family grimace and ask indignantly why I am a Republican. I am told, time and time again, that my party is racist, interested only in helping the rich, and attempting to bar the basic freedoms of the people.

Strangely, I know of not a single Republican who shares those views. The Republicans I know stand for racial equality, economic freedom and protecting the rights and liberties of the American people.

I will be the first to admit there are some Republicans who are racists and extremists. There are just as many such people who are Democrats. I?m not an extremist Republican, just as most Democrats are not extremists. Being a member of a political party doesn?t mean I share the beliefs of its most radical members, a fact I often have to point out to others.

Still, many Democrats want to make assumptions about me categorically instead of individually. That?s called bigotry. The prejudice that Republicans deal with is endemic. There is a double standard in our culture by which Republicans are hounded for transgressions that are largely ignored when committed by Democrats.

What would happen if Reverend Jerry Falwell fathered an illegitimate child with an employee? Imagine the frenzy of the press to expose Falwell for his moral hypocrisy.

Yet days ago the Reverend Jesse Jackson, devoted husband and father of five children, admitted to having an affair with one of his staffers and fathering a child, now 20 months old. A sincere apology was all that was needed to wipe the affair under the table.

The press would not have been as forgiving to a Republican. When the Florida courts decided to approve presidential election recounts, the media reported a ?unified court.?

No headlines pointed out that Democrats dominate Florida?s Supreme Court. However, when the United States Supreme Court decided the issue, newspapers bannered headlines of ?Republican Court Supports Bush? and ?Conservative Court Sides With Bush.?

When Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft was accused of racism for opposing Judge Ronnie White to the Federal Courts, the media went into frenzy. For days, talk shows discussed Ashcroft?s racism. Minority workers who came forward to defend him were ignored, as was the fact that Ashcroft, according to CNN, supported 26 of 27 black judges. The accusations did not end even after Judge Ronnie White stated that he firmly believed Ashcroft was not motivated by racism.

Prejudice against Republicans is not an academic topic for me. I live with it every day and am tired of having to explain why I am a Republican. I am tired of the snide comments. I am tired of being told I am hateful and that I don?t care about the poor.

I believe in equality for all. That means that I am against racial quotas. I believe in economic freedom and lower taxes for all classes. I believe every American has basic rights and freedoms that should not be regulated. I am a Republican.

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