BlackConservative360 seeks to provide a wellspring of diverse and eclectic commentary on politics and culture from a black center-right perspective. This blog is a labor of love and concern—concern for the conservative movement and the lack of thought-provoking black center-right commentary on both “black” and “conservative” news stations and news sites. While black publications and blogs are littered with the progressive perspective, conservative publications, on the other hand, tend to feature black conservatives who are pariahs in the very communities they claim to want to engage. Instead of offering solutions, many prefer to make a living attacking black culture.
Our hope is that this blog encourages a conversation about the unique role black conservatism has played both in the United States and abroad. In addition, we've provided many articles, links, and other resources as a means to educate the public about black conservatism.
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The Black Conservative Intellectual Civil War
There is a tendency on the right to unwaveringly support every person who claims to be a conservative. It is almost as though a good conservative has the duty to be less critical of other conservatives’ shortcomings and only focus on attacking people who hold different ideologies. This is incredibly damaging, inasmuch as it allows people to go under the radar and use the cloak of conservatism for all sorts of nefarious goals. Solution-oriented black conservatives need to understand that the fame-oriented black conservatives are not on our side. Whenever and wherever possible, we must expose them in order to protect the intellectual health and reputation of the black conservative movement.
The leftist assessment of the black conservative is that such a person is angered and frustrated at being born black, which leads to the adoption of conservative views in order to compensate for this perceived “congenital deficiency.” While this is a preposterous accusation to make against all black conservatives, it is intellectually dishonest to pretend as though this characterization of the black right came into existence wholly out of left field. Indubitably, there are some black conservatives whose proclamations and behaviors lend credence to the stereotypical leftist view of black conservatives.
Black conservatives are not intellectually monolithic, and we certainly do not read from the same script of talking points. Essentially, black conservatives can be divided into two groups: solution-oriented black conservatives and fame-oriented black conservatives. Solution-oriented black conservatives prefer to use their platforms to intellectually engage with people and offer serious ways to move black people forward. Inevitably, this encompasses astutely criticizing both the left and the right when criticism is required.
By contrast, fame-oriented black conservatives feign interest in issues regarding black progress, when, in reality, popularity among white conservatives and profit are their fundamental goals. Fame-oriented black conservatives never see an opportunity to bash black people and black liberal leadership that they do not take, but they conveniently manage to turn a blind eye to every shortcoming and malfeasance of white conservatives. Fame-oriented black conservatives are the right-wing versions of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons. They are people who care more about their bank accounts than bettering the lives of black people.
There is a civil war occurring between the intellectual, solution-driven black conservatives and the fame-oriented, pseudo-intellectuals on the black right. The winners of this war will determine the political future of black America. If the black conservative continues to be identified as a self-hating person who is simply a puppet for white conservatives, black people will never associate with the Republican Party or American conservatism. However, if this war is won by black conservative intellectuals who are truly about black elevation—and not the elevation of their personal bank account balances—black conservatism has a chance of truly permeating the inner cities and changing the voting behaviors of black people.
The most identifiable feature of fame-oriented black conservatives is their absurdist addiction to the inconsequential issue of whether or not blacks choose to identify as African American or just American. They call this the “unhyphenated American” movement. While this issue is unimportant to regular people, it is deeply important to pseudo-intellectual, fame-oriented black conservatives, because it is the key issue that they use to ingratiate themselves with white conservatives.
When “Rev.” Jesse Lee Peterson—a darling of the white right and “unhyphenated American”—argued that blacks being carried on slave ships is equivalent to traveling on coach airplanes, before earnestly thanking white people for slavery and removing his forefathers from Africa, he was not making an argument to reach out to other blacks. Rather, Peterson was talking to a certain white conservative audience that enjoys such rhetoric—particularly coming from a black man. It is no wonder why Sean Hannity comfortably sits on the board of Peterson’s organization dedicated to the supposed “advancement of black men.”
Similarly, E.W. Jackson is another black conservative whose fundamental goal is to be seen as a black hero by white conservatives, rather than to be a serious thinker articulating ways of bettering the lives of black people. His political proclamations are more geared towards bashing President Obama and liberals with vituperative and exaggerated language. Jackson’s slash-and-burn approach to political rhetoric is not designed to appeal to the human capacity for ratiocination. It is designed to get headlines, which, in turn, will endear him to the white right.
Liberals are quick to promote black conservatives like Jesse Lee Peterson and E.W. Jackson, because they fit the stereotype of black conservatives that is beneficial to the left. When men like Peterson and Jackson are held up as the black conservative standard, liberals do not need to offer counterarguments. Rather, all they need to do is point and laugh. White conservatives, too, promote these black conservatives, primarily because they say the outrageous things that white conservatives have in their minds but dare not say. Meanwhile, solution-oriented black conservatives are marginalized because such black conservatives do not exist for the sole purpose of making white conservatives feel good—and the arguments from solution-oriented black conservatives are often too logical for leftists to refute.
Fame-oriented black conservatives will win the intellectual civil war if they are not exposed for their use of black conservatism as a means of personal enrichment. They are the people who allow the leftist caricature of black conservatives to have believability. Creating an unmistakable distinction between solution- and fame-oriented black conservatives is an important step to improving the image of conservatism among black people. Once this occurs, black people will be more receptive to hearing about the superiority of conservative ideas to the dull liberal ideas that have failed black America for many decades.
The End of Artificial Black Conservatism
Black people are dramatically declining in sociopolitical power in the United States. While many recognize the problematic nature of the hegemonic control that the Democratic Party has on the black vote, many do not concern themselves with the fact that black conservatism is generally not respected as a serious intellectual movement. Black conservatism has the reputation of being an ideology associated with blacks who have self-worth issues and feel it is necessary to trash the entire race for validation—and remuneration—from white conservative audiences.
It is an analytical mistake to confuse blacks’ rejection of mainstream conservatism as a wholesale rejection of conservative thought. Rather, it is simply a rejection of artificial black conservatism. Manifestly, the most visible form of black conservatism in American society is the artificial strain. That is to say, many prominent black conservatives use their blackness as a convenient cosmetic feature, but blackness is truly foreign to their ideology. They use the problems in the black community as an opportunity to deride black people—as opposed to persuading blacks about the superiority of conservative solutions.
The mixture of blackness and conservatism is incorrectly looked at as an oddity by many political observers. In American society, people marvel at the sight of a black person who “astoundingly” supports limited government, entrepreneurialism, and social values rooted in authentic morality. Black people who hold conservative values are not odd. What can be considered odd, however, are blacks who are willing to unquestioningly repeat the talking points of the mainstream conservative movement. Black conservatives who are serious about the betterment of the black community cannot simply co-sign every talking point offered by the mainstream conservative movement. It is simply impossible to be a serious black conservative without demonstrating notable differences from the mainstream right.
The mainstream conservative movement has no respect for independent black conservative thinkers. Creative and intrepid black conservative intellectuals are counterproductive to the role that the black conservative is supposed to fill in the mainstream American conservative movement. Blacks in the mainstream American conservative movement are simply resigned to being convenient spokespeople who dutifully absolve the white right of any unpleasant charges of racism. Indeed, artificial black conservatism is more beneficial to the white right than it is to the black community. Artificial black conservatives are every bit as subservient to the right as many left-wing blacks are to the American left.
In post-Trayvon America, it is simply farcical to suggest that mainstream conservatives do not show a casual disregard for black life. Only an artificial black conservative could have stood with mainstream American conservatives as they enthusiastically supported George Zimmerman and treated the shooting death of Trayvon Martin as an inconsequential episode. In order to advance as an artificial black conservative within mainstream conservatism, showing a callous disregard for black life and black suffering is a prerequisite, which explains why an otherwise brilliant man like world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson flippantly compared Obamacare to slavery—and received whistles and applause from a largely white conservative audience. Attempting to persuade black people to join a version of black conservatism that has no discernible difference to mainstream conservatism is a fool’s errand.
The hostility of mainstream conservatism to the black race can even be seen from the esteemed Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 “a racial entitlement.” Scalia’s comment must be taken in context with the broader ideology advocated by the godfather of modern American conservatism, the late William F. Buckley, Jr., who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was an avowed white supremacist who wrote about the inferiority of the Negro. Buckley supported whites dominating blacks in both domestic (Jim Crow) and global (South African apartheid) contexts. Scalia’s comments should not be seen in isolation, inasmuch as they are wholly consistent with the history of mainstream conservatism. Simply pointing out that Republican politicians supported civil rights bills in the 1960s is not a refutation of the fact that many ideological thought leaders in the mainstream conservative movement did not.
It is interesting to note that Justice Clarence Thomas, the second African American Supreme Court justice, had nothing to say regarding Scalia’s remark about legislation protecting black suffrage. However, he was recently in the news because he made some comments about race, suggesting that northern liberals are more racist than southerners are. He also claimed that Americans talk too much about race. Thomas’ choices about when to speak on racial issues are peculiar. Thomas thought it was wise to stay silent when his conservative colleague referred to the black vote as a racial entitlement; however, when he does choose to speak about race, it is to offer a personal reflection that aids those who trivialize the brutality of Jim Crow in Southern states. This is the kind of rhetoric that the mainstream right has conditioned black conservatives to consistently utter in public. This is not genuine black conservatism. This is not a form of conservatism that has any use to black people. This is black conservatism in its artificial form.
Curiously, Clarence Thomas did not think Americans talked too much about race when he hyperbolically used the race card to deflect from sexual harassment charges levied against him by Anita Hill. Rather than simply maintaining his innocence, he chose to use the extremely racially evocative term ‘high-tech lynching’ to characterize his treatment. At least when Herman Cain used the same phrase, years later, he was actually being accused of sexual harassment by Caucasian women. The fact that a black woman was accusing Thomas of sexual harassment did not stop Thomas from injecting race into a discussion where it was clearly inapt. Evidently, Clarence Thomas thinks people talk too much about race—except when he talks about race to deflect from personal scandals.
Again, to the mainstream right, black conservatives are of no use if they are not being used to defend white conservatives against charges of racism—or being used to attack white and black liberals on issues of race. The quickest way to be discarded as a black conservative is to stray from this assignment, or by pointing out how mainstream conservatives are often as heinous on issues of race as the left-wingers they obsessively inveigh against. Black conservatives, then, are supposed to be unapologetic hypocrites who point out Margaret Sanger’s deplorable history with Planned Parenthood, her satanic dream of annihilating the black race, and the Democrats’ larger despicable history with the Ku Klux Klan, while appallingly aligning with right-wingers who—at best—ignore legitimate racism, and—at worst—are staunch defenders of the same kind of racism. Yes, the Republican Party was founded as the anti-slavery party, and it has a long history of introducing civil rights legislation for black Americans; however, it is simply intellectually dishonest to pretend as though the mainstream American conservative movement does not have a plethora of moral failings on the issue of race—failings conservatives continue to add to even today.
If black conservatism is to be taken seriously as a sociopolitical force and intellectual movement, it cannot simply be an appendage of a mainstream conservative movement that is overtly hostile to blacks. Insofar as black conservatism is inseparably attached to mainstream conservatism, all it has the potential to be is artificial black conservatism. For black conservatism to be respected, it must possess its own distinguishable brand and become an entity with serious goals and ideas. It is the almost inseparable relationship between black conservatism and mainstream conservatism that makes black people look at conservatism with contempt—despite agreeing in principle with many conservative ideas. Conservative principles are an inextricable part of authentic black culture and have been pivotal to black historical success; however, as long as black conservatives continue the delusion of a big conservative tent with no serious ideological demarcations, conservative goals will never be actualized in the black community today.
Blacks can adopt conservatism as a meaningful sociopolitical ideology—just not the conservatism of Antonin Scalia and William F. Buckley, Jr. Black conservative ideology should be based on the writings of the father of African American history, Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Indeed, if Woodson were alive today, many in the mainstream of conservatism would classify him as a liberal, simply because he celebrated his blackness and African heritage. They would conveniently ignore his repudiation of Marxist economics and support for free-market and competition-based ideas. It is inane for serious black conservatives to attempt to appeal to blacks using a platform that contains thinkers overtly hostile to the black race, especially when history is replete with pro-black conservative thinkers.
In the tradition and spirit of Woodson, black conservatives should continue to think creatively and originally. We need more black conservative sociologists, political scientists, historians, and journalists who do not have to check with the accepted publications of the mainstream conservative movement for approved talking points. Black conservatism needs more thinkers to speak the truth and posit ideas and strategies for the movement to proliferate. Granted, thinking creatively is hard work that often goes unappreciated. By contrast, there are many pats on the head and checks waiting for those who choose to be artificial black conservative spokespeople.
As creative thinkers, serious black conservatives must also be careful about the lines of argument that are taken to defend certain ideas. For example, the strongest intellectual rationale for opposing affirmative action is that it damages those it supposedly intends to uplift by placing people in institutions that they are not academically suitable for. This leads to higher dropout rates and ends the careers of people who would have continued their educations elsewhere and become wildly successful in their chosen professions after graduation. Another important point regarding affirmative action is the fact that it puts an insulting social question mark on the rightful achievements of black people, which helps to fuel the racist myth of black inferiority. By contrast, opposing affirmative action because it is “reverse discrimination against whites” is a weak white nationalist talking point that completely ignores the fact that white women have been significant beneficiaries of affirmative action. Serious black conservatives cannot advance the “reverse discrimination” argument, even though it is very popular in the white-nationalist-friendly mainstream conservative movement.
Another policy point on which black conservatives must differ from the mainstream conservative movement is on the War on Drugs. Neither political party has truly made efforts to end the War on Drugs. Republicans are more preoccupied with monitoring Michelle Obama’s alleged “Marxist plot” to ban unhealthy snacks than they are in avoiding lives being ruined by the injudicious War on Drugs that has been waged and devastatingly lost. The War on Drugs is a policy that was recklessly advocated by liberal Democrats like Charlie Rangel. Like most liberal policies, the War on Drugs disproportionately harms the black community, yet this has now become a policy position that is used as a litmus test for “true conservatism.” Serious black conservatives need to leave this preposterous policy position for the mainstream conservative movement and its unthinking “thinkers.” The black conservative position should be ending the War on Drugs. We should be advancing conservative alternatives to criminalizing drug use, such as effective community treatments, and more importantly, emphasizing the importance of stable homes, as social science research shows that those from stable families are less likely to engage in drug use. Black conservatives cannot claim to be supportive of the black community and the black family, while simultaneously supporting the funneling of blacks into the already mammoth and highly immoral prison-industrial complex.
Solution-oriented black conservatives must stop putting the advancement of the black community solely in the hands of political parties. It is simply imprudent to be aggressively devoted to any political party more than being devoted to a conservative ideology. Serious black conservatives should approach political parties with caution. While politics and elections are important, there are other things that black people can do to better our communities that do not directly involve the political process. Group economics—effective and strategic spending by blacks within the black community—does not require legislation; it simply requires the will of blacks. Promoting a culture in which education is of paramount importance does not require legislation; it just requires the will of blacks and a familial emphasis on bookish learning and academic achievement. Politics is important, but it is a grave mistake to neglect the various recession-proof, sociocultural actions that black people can take to improve our communities, without even a single legislation being passed. Impotently relying on the government, public policies, and political parties is a decidedly un-conservative approach to dealing with issues in the black community.
It is time for artificial black conservatism to end. Black conservatives need to start formulating a message and constructing a conservative platform on which black people can comfortably stand. No more should the term ‘black conservative’ be synonymous with ‘a self-loathing caitiff who tickles the ears of those in the mainstream American conservative movement.’ It is time for ‘black conservative’ to be denotative of a self-respecting, educated black armed with serious social and political arguments. Serious black conservatives must be ready to present an alternative vision to the progressive worldview that has caused devastation and ruin in the black community for many decades. The monotonous, stale, and inefficacious talking points of artificial black conservatives simply will not cut it any longer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chidike Okeem is a writer. Born in Nigeria, raised in London, England, and now living in California, he 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 www.voiceofchid.com.
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