And the blurring of racial lines might complicate things for race-based organizations. President Barack Obama, for example, was once a CBC member, and his heritage includes a white mother and a Kenyan father.
But the CBC sidesteps those kinds of issues by admitting anyone who identifies as an African-American. The organization has always been heavily Democratic, though it’s technically nonpartisan, and only two of six black Republicans elected to Congress have chosen to join.
“Any African-American can join the CBC,” Cleaver says. “You don’t do a blood test. You don’t have to fill out any papers. You don’t have to like NBA basketball.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.