Op-eds

Published on May 28th, 2013

15

Chidike Okeem: The Black Conservative Intellectual Civil War

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.

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.

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.

*****

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 find contact information and read more of his writings at www.voiceofchid.com.

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15 Responses to Chidike Okeem: The Black Conservative Intellectual Civil War

  1. Elizabeth says:

    The American social welfare system is too focused on poor people’s needs and deficits, while overlooking — and even inhibiting — their strengths. A safety net is crucial when people are in crisis. But most poor families are not in free fall. They don’t need nets to catch them so much as they need springboards to jump higher. Conservative solutions start with the family and the community. The State should be the last option not the first.

    Here are some conservative solutions:

    Poverty
    http://www.fiinet.org/

    School Choice
    http://www.edchoice.org/School-Choice/What-is-School-Choice.aspx

    Crime
    http://www.rightoncrime.com/the-conservative-case-for-reform/

    Housing
    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1996/05/time-for-bipartisam-reform-of-public-housing

    • Jason says:

      It appears that some Conservatives are finally starting to realize that the draconian methods they once wholeheartedly supported have long since reached the point of diminishing returns and are (shudder) expensive. it seems many so called “progressive” Conservatives are in a quandary about how to adapt some leftist ideas while still demonizing the originators of those very ideas that they have belatedly realized have merit.

      It also appears that these newly enlightened Conservatives have seen little support among the right-wing base and are eventually forced to contradict much of the Republican ideology in fact if not in rhetoric.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    @William,

    You can be a Social Conservative and not call people who are gay “sick” and “degenerate” and a “poison” to society.
    You can be a social conservative and not refer to black people who are Democrats as “slaves”.
    You can be a social conservative without calling the Obama’s “communist sympathizers”.
    You can be a social conservative without calling the Democratic party’ “worthy of the Antichrist.”
    You can be a social conservative without smashing watermelons (representing Obama’s policies) with an American-flag ax.

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  5. Kevin says:

    I disagree that all black conservatives should conform to a certain style of delivery in order to be effective.IMHO, the claim that those black conservatives who do not adhere to a specific intellectual platform, are nothing more than fame seekers, who are looking for white conservative approval, is nothing more than the opinion of this author.

    John and Jesus had 2 entirely different methods for delivering truth, but both were just as effective. However, I find it interesting that they were both very critical of the Pharisees, who kept the people ignorant and in bondage.

    There are certain people in the black community who will respond to intellectual debate and there are those who will respond to a fire and brimstone message from the pulpit. Then you have those who will not respond, no matter how the message is delivered.

    I also think it is wrong to criticize black conservatives who choose to identify themselves as Americans first. I think that just gives validity to the stereotype of how our people are widely known to be black first before we are anything else.

    I am a child of God, I live in America, I embrace conservative values and I’m a proud black man. My skin pigmentation actually tells you very little about me, except what you choose to believe through your own preconceived ideas.

    black or white conservative, debate or preach, what difference does it make?
    I thought we we’re on the same team?

  6. Elizabeth says:

    It is never wrong to criticize our friends, so long as its done constructively. No one is saying conform, just show a little respect. It’s not a religious thing. It’s a character thing. Don’t operate and behave in a manner that makes the job of engaging the African-American community harder. It’s hard already, to engage these communities on behalf of the Republican Party. These clownish acts by fame-oriented black conservatives make the job harder, much harder. They, and their behavior(s) become the face of the party. And unfortunately, that’s what people remember

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Saying that President Obama has the sensibilities of “an atheist and a Muslim” and is “an evil presence” as E.W. Jackson has stated may work at a Tea Party rally but it doesn’t fly with most African-Americans.

    Anyone who thinks so is clearly not informed.

  8. Stacy says:

    I think the commentary offers several compelling points that are worthy of debate or analysis on a far more profound level. However, the author weakened his article by personalizing it.

    He should have offered his analogy, without naming anyone in particular. Thus, allowing the reader to decide who and what it applies to, rather than being subject to the manipulation of perception the author projects towards specific individuals.

    Dr. King once said: “Some negroes among us are anti social. They are anti social in the sense that they are not committed to non violent direct action, but are only seeking personal advantage. They don’t care about the at large society.”

    The writer of this article is making an argument similar to King’s. It is a valid argument. However, he does so without the discretion and, possibly, without the good intention of MLK, Jr.

  9. Joseph by the Sea says:

    This a great, great article. I became more interested in black conservatives after seeing Crystal Wright, the “Conservative Black Chick,” on CNN a couple of years ago. I was completely fascinated by Ms. Wright’s fervent support of the GOP and total disrepect for President Obama and her not so subtle race baiting that served only to gin up her (mostly) white twitter followers. Does Wright have any connection to the black community? How could she through appearances on Fox or writing articles for Town Hall and the Guardian? Write an article targeted to a black audience or make an appearanace at a black college or in a black neighborhood, then I’ll take her and her other black conservative cohorts seriously. Begging Sean Hannity to appear on his show, just makes her a fraud.

    I would love to hear more from “solutions oriented conservatives” (who are they?) and a lot less from people like Crystal Wright, EW Jackson, Hermain Cain Jesse Lee Peterson and other “fame oriented conservatives.”

    Personally, I’m a political moderate. Unfortunately, seeing how conservatives, including black conservatives have treated, for example, General Powell, I doubt that liberal blacks will be willing to entertain the extreme and almost hostile views of most black conservatives.

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