Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chidike Okeem — Can Conservatism Establish a Foothold in Inner Cities?

In order for conservatism to establish a foothold in inner cities, people on the political right need to do a better job of arguing why conservative policies are beneficial to the lives of ethnic minorities who dwell in these areas. Liberals have appalling policies that have caused devastation in America’s cities for several decades, but—at the very least—they have solidly presented the image that they care about the interests of ethnic minorities. More than anything else, politics is about optics. If a political party or movement has poor optics, policy ideas turn into nugatory thought exercises.

I have previously pointed out the wrongheadedness of stop-and-frisk and how such a policy has absolutely no basis in an authentic conservative approach to crime. Aside from the fact that the policy is objectively uneconomical, no serious conservative believes that a fundamentally good approach to law enforcement includes the animalistic treatment of young black and brown males. Unmistakably, stop-and-frisk is based on a policing practice of compulsory suspicion towards young American males who have darker skin pigmentation. Interestingly, adherents of mainstream conservatism relentlessly use the language of cutting the size of government. Curiously, however, their intense desire to minimize the size and scope of government seems to elide very important issues such as stop-and-frisk. Minorities notice this deviousness and hypocrisy, and it harms the image of conservatism. Yes, conservatives believe in policing. One can even argue that serious conservatives believe in robust policing. However, solution-oriented conservatives do not believe in dressing up state terrorism in uniform and calling it policing.

Before conservatives can start talking about effective economic policies—such as enterprise zones that incentivize the building of businesses in certain economically deprived areas by offering tax credits—they must first disavow heinous public policies that have become popular on the right. Such policies present the image that members of the political right have serious difficulty acknowledging, much less respecting, the humanity of black and brown males. Any discussion about market-based economic policies in an environment where stop-and-frisk is endorsed will never be welcomed—no matter how potentially efficacious those policies are. Many often neglect to consider how perceptions about race and urban development policy intersect.

This necessitates a discussion about the deep-seated political shortcomings of the modern-day Republican Party. Being a serious, solution-oriented black conservative today means that one needs to be a fervent critic of the anti-blackness that is prevalent in the mainstream conservative movement and the Republican Party. Unlike many black conservatives who are only comfortable attacking Democrats and leftist public policy, solution-oriented conservatives must eloquently push back against the mainstream conservative movement when it acts as an impediment to the furtherance of a true conservative policy agenda in inner cities. One who is addicted to the allure of partisan politics may be stuck with the unwise notion that conservatism and the Republican Party are inseparable elements that must be taken as a package deal. Such people are inclined to believe that a good conservative is by definition a dutiful Republican. This is not only fallacious, but it is dangerous to the cause of authentic conservatism.

It would demonstrate enormous imprudence to wait for the mainstream conservative movement to change before advancing conservative ideas in inner cities. The likelihood of this ever happening is slim. Mainstream conservatives do not have a copyright on conservative ideas, nor is their imprimatur required before any kind of conservative sociopolitical action occurs. Conservative ideas are capable of being sold to any community. It is the obligation of solution-oriented black conservatives to create a formidable, independent conservative movement that can operate and influence policy autonomously. As I argued in The End of Artificial Black Conservatism, “insofar as black conservatism is inseparably attached to mainstream conservatism, all it has the potential to be is artificial black conservatism.”

The liberal approach to black progress is largely based on the actions of the state. Liberals believe in redistributing already existing resources via confiscatory tax policy. This is not a strategy that can create wealth. Wealth creation occurs as a result of the accumulation of skills for the purpose of engaging in effective entrepreneurship. When thinking about solutions to the problems faced in inner cities, evidence-based strategies need to be put on the table, and ideas that have proven ineffectual must be dismissed. Where inner city economic development is concerned, group economics is the best way forward. Group economics is essentially the idea of ethnic groups investing their money within their own communities in order to build an economic foundation. So many ethnic groups in America from Jews to Koreans practice group economics with brilliant results, but it is not something that black people in America have mastered, which is why trends in the economy affect the black community significantly more than other economically stable groups.

Group economics is absurdly decried by some as a fringe idea that is solely advocated by black nationalists. While some nationalists support group economics, that does not make it an unwise strategy rooted in bad economic thinking. The principle behind group economics has been supported by both Thomas Sowell and Louis Farrakhan. While the former is not a black nationalist, the latter is. Another argument that some offer is that such a strategy promotes the balkanization of American society. If this is the case, then the publication of unemployment numbers analyzed by race is also problematic. If race-conscious solutions to economic problems are inherently invidious, it makes little logical sense for there to be job numbers published every month that expose the fact that black unemployment is invariably worse than the national average. Strangely, we never see the people who express anger over the idea of group economics attacking the monthly publication of unemployment numbers that point out the distinctions between racial groups. This is sheer colorblind hypocrisy.

The case of Madam C. J. Walker is a good example of how group economics works to create wealth and lift people out of poverty. Madam C. J. Walker became the first female self-made millionaire by selling hair care products to her fellow African American women. She would never have become a self-made millionaire had she relied on people outside of her community to create wealth. While times have changed since the nineteenth century, the fact of the matter is that black people are still suffering. Market-based economic solutions that were effective during Walker’s time are still effective now. It is imperative that the black community develops an entrepreneurial mindset—with special emphasis on intraracial economic development.

Conservatism can establish a foothold in inner cities; however, solution-oriented black conservatives need to get over the fanciful idea that this can become a reality within the existing framework of the Republican Party. Focus on the Republican Party is simply a hindrance to the promulgation of conservatism in black communities. Solution-oriented black conservatives need to stop pretending that today’s Republican Party can enthusiastically invite racist Phil Robertson to speak at their recent Republican Leadership Conference and still be a party that can have mass appeal to blacks in inner cities. Thinking that solution-oriented black conservatives will be successful in advancing conservatism in inner cities while inescapably tethered to the Republican Party is as foolhardy as suggesting that Sean Hannity, Cliven Bundy, or Rush Limbaugh could plausibly appeal to black people.

The future of inner cities is dependent on solution-oriented black conservatives—the kind who will not only be confident in calling out injurious liberal policies that wound those they are supposedly helping, but also the kind that will call out fraudulence in mainstream conservatism and expose the shortcomings and prevalent anti-blackness of that largely incompetent movement. Showing that conservatism can exist without anti-blackness is crucial to the success of a conservative policy agenda in inner cities. Urban areas are dependent on maverick black conservatives who are willing to do the hard work of establishing an independent conservative platform, presenting an appealing image, and effectively conveying a conservative policy message to residents of inner cities.

Chidike Okeem was born in Nigeria, and raised in London, England. He is a conservative who writes about race, culture, religion, and politics. You can follow him on Twitter @VOICEOFCHID and read the rest of his writings on his website at