Why do terms like “Black Conservative” and “Black Republican” seem to almost instinctively come across as anomalies in the matrix, perceived as oxymora that must be dragged underneath a magnifying glass to better comprehend?
I can think of a few reasons.
First, clarification: I am not a Democrat, I’m an Independent. Thus, my thoughts aren’t tethered to the more typical “Us versus Them” line-toeing. I actually lament the U.S. political system, an ostensible democracy as studies reveal. The “Democrat or Republican” frame is a false dichotomy, either party ultimately upholding white supremacist ideology long ago established and yet entrenched within our social institutions. Neither appropriately represents me.
This doesn’t mean I view them as being identical. The values of each political base are divergent. While I tend to be dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, I acknowledge that some of my concerns regarding policies and reform have a better chance of being addressed (to an extent) with liberal representatives.
Recent Pew Research shows African Americans favor Democrat affiliation by an 80-to-11 percent margin. This gargantuan divide began during the Great Depression Era with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that aided minority and disadvantaged groups. To be sure, Roosevelt’s domestic relief programs weren’t engineered to specifically help Blacks, as its effects on Black communities were paltry in comparison to economic and political advantages conferred to Whites. However, any sliver of assistance was better than none, and the implementation of the First and Second New Deal over a 5-year period produced the seismic shift from allegiance to “Lincoln’s Party” to the Democratic Party.
Black loyalty to this party grew with Harry Truman’s racially integrative federal employment and military executive orders. Civil Rights legislation from JFK and Johnson essentially cemented the Black Democratic vote. While these progressive moves weren’t unanimously co-signed by other Democrat officials nor the general public—many of whom, even if they weren’t affiliated with the Dixiecrats, loathed racial integration, preferring “The Good Old Days” of robust white supremacy and Jim Crow—Republicans did little to rival the strides and efforts made by Democrats that benefited Blacks.
That general truth continues today. That’s not to say Democratic placation to the Black vote isn’t swaddled in strategy to ensure a key demographic for elections. I don’t expect much genuine concern for marginalized voices in the realm of political charades. It’s far less about “slavish devotion” to a platform and more about survival and results that produce some measure of change.
What does conservatism offer Blacks? That isn’t rhetorical, I’d really like to know. The foundation of conservative views and the modern conception of the Grand Old Party revolves around a reverence for social conservatism, or Traditional Values™, which is “clever” coded language signifying an appeal to the aforementioned “Good Old Days” wherein regressive, sectarian ideology is seriously endorsed as virtuous qualities. This philosophy of preferential treatment to “tradition” is a literal desire to either preserve the status quo or degenerate to values even more bigoted than what is currently in play. Is there any surprise that the vast majority of Republicans are White and overwhelmingly religious?
This support of opposing societal developments that benefits the general Black population is precisely why Blacks reject the Conservative movement.
Right-wing advocates wax poetic concerning issues like free market capitalism and lower taxes but overlook relevant hitches in the conservative proposal. For instance, a mutual disdain for modernity and multiculturalism (read: anything gravitating away from White insularity). Why should the Black majority heed sophistic red herrings that digress from the fact that the Republican Party has consistently acted as a repulsive force, proudly subverting the social advancement of people of color?
The more recent anti-Black incarnation of the GOP began approximately fifty years ago with the Southern Strategy, a scheme to rally racists disgruntled with the expansion of integrative policies and growing calls for the basic human rights of Blacks. This tactic was never abandoned. Additionally, Nixon enacted the infamous “War on Drugs” that targets and sentences people of color at a disgustingly disproportionate rate. This policy has mainly been perpetuated by Republicans, though Clinton is also guilty in complicity and Obama has done little to end it. Dog-whistle politics—specifically, verbal or visual coded language masking racist implications—was a method “The Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan slyly indulged in (e.g., support for “states’ rights,” allusions to mythical welfare queen stereotype), as did his successor Bush (e.g., the Willie Horton propaganda), as did Senator Jesse Helms (e.g., “Angry Hands”). Implicit communication that reinforce negative racial stereotypes are now commonplace within media transmission and political discourse.
These facts aside, there will always be outliers. Black Conservatism—itself a cabal mainly composed of classist elite double-dipped in internalized racism—is an actual thing, though barely. Here are some awesome representatives of this political alignment:
Justice Clarence Thomas. He’s known for boasting to his law clerks, “I ain’t evolving!” These three words encapsulate why such an inflexible viewpoint is problematic. It suggests an unwillingness to change despite contradicting facts or developing circumstances within society if it means having to amend adherence to conservative principles.
Ben Carson. A former neurosurgeon, Carson denies the overwhelming evidence for evolution, likens gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality, and dismisses the Black Lives Matter movement as “silly.” Non-POC people love themselves some well-dressed, token Blacks that embrace the notion of “all lives matter,” a statement that contributes to the erasure of racial disparity purposely highlighted in the Black Lives Matter slogan. Carson bizarrely blamed feminists and a lack of fathers on the events surrounding Ferguson and not the actual culprit—systemic racism.
Allen West. West once referred to Obama’s use of the words “equality” and “fairness” as divisive rhetoric. No further commentary is needed on Mr. West.
Carol Swain. This political scientist endorses white supremacist fan favorite “A Conversation About Race”, a documentary whose whole cloth thesis declares racism doesn’t exist in the U.S. and that whites are the ones being oppressed. Swain, like virtually every other Black Conservative (including Herman “Structural Racism Apologist” Cain, Thomas “Revere My Conception of Facts, Ignore the Rest” Sowell, and Tommy “Self-Loathing Misogynoir” Sotomayor) resorts to mentions of the black-on-black crime myth and gaslighting. With selective perception they omit a key source for malaise, outcry and inequality—the pervasive nature of interpersonal and institutional racism—in preference for merely pointing to this multifaceted reality’s consequences.
The law of cause and effect doesn’t work in reverse, and yet Black Conservative logic demands it. It isn’t about ducking responsibility, another assertion of this sorely skewed belief system. Convenience of disconnect allows one to conflate outspokenness for social justice and more parity with “whining.” It’s absurd, as well as inherently racist, to think the continued disenfranchisement of the Black population is due to an inability or unwillingness to enact self-determination without examining external forces contributing to racial stratification. The “Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps” dictum typically espoused by conservative mindsets is a callous-minded falsehood that lacks empathy, seeks to victim blame, and puts stock in the laughable notion of equal opportunity that willfully ignores the intersectional effects of dissimilar life circumstances and privilege (or lack thereof).
One can disassociate themselves from the fold, but a detachment from reality doesn’t negate reality. The world doesn’t simply disappear because we choose to shut our eyes. Black Conservatism is a minority with good reason.