Op-eds

Published on March 5th, 2014

21

Chidike Okeem: 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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21 Responses to Chidike Okeem: The End of Artificial Black Conservatism

  1. Pingback: VOICEOFCHID.COM » Blog Archive » New Essay at Hip Hop Republican

  2. HD-con blues says:

    The right shows that it’s biggest concern is white hegemony and that is totally the rationale(if they were honest) behind their demonstrated lack of deference to the 44th POTUS

    • SallyMJ says:

      So you don’t believe that thinking grown-up men and women can disagree with a candidate? What Kool-Aid have you been drinking? On the liberal plantation?

  3. Excellent analysis. True black conservatism must always retain an independent stance from the party line of mainstream white conservatism. Thomas Sowell was more like this in earlier times. Your point on affirmative action is well taken. As I mention in my own blog, affirmative action began as a mechanism to benefit WHITE union members, who were discriminated against due to union membership. Courts realized that merely saying “please stop” to employers was meaningless and imposed specific remedies in view of those white unionists directly affected. Sowell was more forthright bout such things in earlier times. From one of his 1975 articles for example:

    ———————————————————————————————————-
    “The general principle behind “affirmative action” is that a court order to “cease and desist” from some discriminatory practice may not be sufficient to undo the harm already done, or even to prevent additional harm as the result of a pattern of events set in motion by the prior illegal activity. This general principle goes back much further than the civil-rights legislation of the 1960’s, and extends well beyond questions involving ethnic minorities or women. In 1935, the Wagner Act prescribed “affirmative action” as well as “cease and desist” remedies against employers whose anti-union activities had violated the law. Thus, in the landmark Jones and Laughlin Steel case which established the constitutionality of the Act, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company not only to stop discriminating against those of its employees who were union members, but also to post notices to that effect in conspicuous places and to reinstate unlawfully discharged workers, with back pay. Had the company merely been ordered to “cease and desist” from economic (and physical) retaliation against union members,the future effect of its past intimidation would have continued to inhibit the free-choice elections guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

    Racial discrimination is another obvious area where merely to “cease and desist” is not enough. If a firm has engaged in racial discrimination for years, and has an all-white work force as a result, then simply to stop explicit discrimination will mean little as long as the firm continues to hire by word-of-mouth referrals to its current employees’ friends and relatives. (Many firms hire in just this way, regardless of their racial policies.) Clearly, the area of racial discrimination is one in which positive or affirmative steps of some kind seem reasonable-which is not to say that the particular policies actually followed make sense.”
    –Sowell, Thomas (1975) Affirmative Action Reconsidered. The Public Interest 3, pg 48-65
    ——————————————————————————————
    http://nilevalleypeoples.blogspot.com/2013/09/affirmative-action-as-term-appears-in.html
    ——————————————————————————————

    DEBUNKING RIGHT-WING TALKING POINTS
    http://nilevalleypeoples.blogspot.com/

  4. TylerD says:

    Finnally a conservative of African heritage that acknowledges why Black conservatives are not taken as legit in their own community. Before telling me about the plantation I’m on you have to take care of business on the plantation you live on.

  5. Darnell says:

    The problem with most blacks especially black liberals is that they believe that racism is the cause
    of most of their problems. They can’t get educated because of racism. They can’t achieve because
    of racism. So on and so on.

    This put racism in full control of their lives. It says that most blacks believe that they do not have the
    ECONOMIC POWER that is needed to solve their problems. With black Americans having nearly a
    Trillion Dollars in purchasing power, this is unbelievable.

    There are blacks who believe that they can not accomplish or do anything without the approval or input from white people. Therefore they keep the racism game going.

    • Ricky says:

      You do not know the problem with most blacks, since American schools and colleges do not offer information on such aspects of black lives, that was usually conducted by various Civil Rights leaders, and at best you have an elementary understanding regarding the cause and effect of western politics and capitalism.

  6. Jack says:

    Most Black conservatives lack the courage to fight racism..Name one that you can call when racism happens to you..

  7. Pingback: VOICEOFCHID.COM » Blog Archive » 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act: Don’t Let Partisan Frauds Rewrite History

  8. Pingback: VOICEOFCHID.COM » Blog Archive » Cliven Bundy, Racism, and Artificial Black Conservatism

  9. Pingback: VOICEOFCHID.COM » Blog Archive » An Honest Conservative Analysis of Affirmative Action

  10. Pingback: What a black conservative thinks about racial dishonesty | Right Wing News

  11. Pingback: VOICEOFCHID.COM » Chidike Okeem » My Response to Odd, Daft Attack by <i>Right Wing News</i> Blogger

  12. Jack says:
    Most Black conservatives lack the courage to fight racism..Name one that you can call when racism happens to you..

    Nonsensical. Black conservatives have been in the forefront of “fighting racism” since there was such a fight. And who is exactly supposed to be “on call” when “racism happens”? Are you on perpetual call so that the next white racist hollering “nigg##” from a passing car can be “responded to”? Who bailed out ML King countless times in the 1960s? Black conservative A Gaston. Who provided armed self-defense units at various times during the Civil Rights era as several authors show (see Negroes with Guns, or This Non-Violent Stuff Will Get You Killed for example)? It was black conservatives in many instances. Who has taken on and debunked “scientific” racists time and time again using hard science? Black conservatives.
    http://nilevalleypeoples.blogspot.com/2014/08/leading-scientists-criticize.html

  13. L. Brown says:

    Does it make a difference to anyone else that a fellow from Nigeria and raised in England is trying to speak for Black America?

  14. I just read your article, “The End of Artificial Black Conservatism.” As you may understand, I read it from a Chicano point of view. I like to call it seeing the world through Brown Eyes.
    Your article began as though you were attacking black “conservatives” in general. I have no love for the Left in any sense, but those who represent the right are often politically beyond my personal worldview. I believe that the Republicans are clueless as to how to work with people of color, especially Latinos, and more specifically, Mexicanos. Yet, I know that my people are less Left, than they are “right.”
    I tend to view blacks in the same general perspective. I have serious trouble seeing how the Left has in any way been “good” for blacks in America. I see the Democrats as just being vote-mongers whose only real use of blacks is to get their votes. Don’t forget Michelle Obama’s urge for blacks to vote Democratic, regardless of who was on the ticket. I believe that the Obama’s, as well as the rest of the Left, do not care for blacks in any positive and beneficial manner, unless it results in garnering black votes.
    The Left needs blacks to be at, and continue to be at, odds with the “right.” Malcom X basically said this when he insinuated that all blacks were either “field Negros,” or “house Negros.” In my book, “We are NOT Field Negros” (Amazon), I go into detail, presenting my argument why this mentality is not only harmful, but clearly detrimental to the black community. The Left needs for all blacks to see themselves as, and put themselves into, these “field” and “house Negro” categories. Your argument, which by the way was excellently explained and put forth, about “artificial” black conservatives seems, from a Chicano point of view, to play into this.
    From the outside (not being black or white), it seems that the same old argument is continuing. While your eloquent article made some clear and valid points, it still sounded like the same bell was being rung. The “us and them” aspect reared its ugly head again.
    Your article, depending on how many persons read it, will have results you may not have intended. The “field Negro” person will see it as another confirmation that if you are seen as “doing right,” it will be the same as “being white.” If you get a chance to go to my Blog, Chicanismos.com, you will find that I am clearly conscious of not being white, while I am also aware that I am not black. Ethnocentric as I am, I believe that I can look into the black and/or white experiences, and view the racial conflicts from a slightly less subjective point of view.
    Black conservatives, while you find the term problematic, serve a purpose. They offer the black community few and important points of view that, while they may be contrary to your perspective of what they should be doing, demonstrate that a black person does not have to walk the “straight and narrow” of what it is supposed to be “black,” just because they have a darker shade of skin.
    The reason many political observers find “blackness and conservatism” as some sort of oddity, might just be that their latent racism may be telling them that all blacks are supposed to speak like, and behave like, every other black. In many cases, these views are usually that blacks are not as educated, eloquent, or able to think differently than those who have the “field Negro” mentality. Malcom X, called himself a “field Negro,” and though he was directly speaking of Martin Luther King, Jr., he implied that those blacks who did not think as he did, were automatically “house Negros.” I argue with the logic, I do not believe that all blacks should be lumped into some mountainous pile that is supposed to be made of the same material. Blacks should be as varied in their thinking, behaving, and “conservatism,” as any other racial group.
    I greatly enjoyed your article, mainly because it stimulated my thinking, but the fact that I smelled the same odor of Malcom X’s argument, that blacks should see themselves as some sort of slaves who are divided into two groups, left me feeling uncomfortable. I know that you did not specifically make that argument, nor do I believe that this was your intent. Yet, from a non-black or white perspective, it did sound a little like that. I especially got that feeling from your statement, “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.” Does this not kind of sound like the “field Negro” complaining that the “house Negro” is getting too cozy with the “master?”
    The fact that you attached the term “artificial” to “black conservative,” implies that you believe that you have the “real” understanding of what black “conservatives” should be. You article did touch on some good points, but you also did not detail what would be included in the effort to “start formulating a message and constructing a conservative platform on which black people can comfortably stand.” It sound great, but what is it?
    I believe that you should consider, instead, encouraging all blacks to think individually, as well as racially. There is no one mold that all people should fit into. The closest “mold,” and I use the term loosely, should be that we all are citizens of the United States of America.
    Finally, if I did not completely get you upset with me, I would like you to consider responding in your blog, and mentioning my blog as well. I will be posting this to my blog, and would like to post your response. Thank you for a great read.

  15. games says:

    I as a upper middle class black man, who works for a prominent utility company and is part of a union while also owning my own landscaping company believes that real thought, real progress in the community whether black, Latino, white, Asian etc. comes from ones own thought process, not a certain political party, or ideal. Admittedly, I’m mostly a liberal, but there are a lot of days I agree with conservatives. The problem is that we(speaking from a black persons perspective) are too tide into being apart of something, a group, a party. No offense to anyone on here but I’m neither a dem or rep, conservative or liberal. I’m me, just a black man trying to succeed in this world. Do I deal with racism, yep, just about everyday. Do I complain about or make it an excuse to be foolish, nope. I have to work in the bad neighborhoods bc the majority of white guys at my job are afraid to, basically the let’s put the black in the hood to work bc they won’t shoot him bc he is black mentality. When I go into the hood to work, I don’t see or think about libs and conservs, I don’t see dems and reps. I do see some people who are missed understood, and may not be afforded an opportunity to get out the normal way (I.e. non sports or music related). I also see individuals who purposely want to portray a ignorant stereotype, that show they have no love or self respect. My point is I think you all seem to be frustrated because you all feel u need to be apart of something to make a difference, to take a stand. You all think that being apart of some political party is going to give you an answer and it won’t. Once people and especially minorities, figure out that self awareness, self accountability, and honesty to themselves and the people around them is the answer, then we won’t need columns like this questioning black conservatism and wondering if these pundits and politicians are real or not. On its face yes conservatism, and republican views would be most beneficial, but we all know we don’t live in a perfect world. I mean honestly to dumb down the article for simple folk like me, that’s essentially what you are struggling with. You agree with ideals conservatives have, but you struggle because u know what life is like as a minority in america. U live it, you know stereotypes, u know the racist joke being said accidentally around u at a party, and the awkward silence after its been said. Then you question the Herman Cain’s of the world who just dive into conservative culture without any thought or regard to how u or I are living. The truth is we have to start free thinking for ourselves not for a political party, but for ourselves, we need to find the integrity to be honest with ourselves, and the viewpoints and decisions that we make. That’s why to me politics doesn’t work, because this country like life is not simple and clear cut. Sometimes u need capitalism, sometimes u need socialism. Sometimes welfare works sometimes it needs to be cut back. Sometimes racism will bring ya down, sometimes blacks need to more responsible and not use race as a crutch. Every situation is different and fluid. Oh and by the way, economic efficiency doesn’t change how you are viewed, u can have all the money in the world, if a person is ignorant, they’ll never accept ya. They may accept your money, but they won’t accept you, trust me I have personal experience with that.

  16. Pansy says:

    ” 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.”

    This is exactly the problem with blacks that vote democrat. They feel they need to white welfare, white food stamps, white handouts and other remuneration from their white overseers. They can never take the chains off that white democrats placed on them unless they stand up, shake off the oppression and decide for themselves.

    I pray someday that will happen but with Obama in office, a man who claims to have gone through the Civil Rights movement, (far to young), a man that claims all sorts of racial problems although he was brought up in a privileged white family and made up all the rest, it cannot happen.

    This is called the Cult of Obama because he makes almost every black person out there believe in the struggles he never had. He wrote books guided by and ghost written by a white man. It is a sad time in this country.

  17. Pansy says:

    Serious black conservatives should approach political parties with caution.

    This article is so bigoted, so biased and so racist. How about serious black liberals approaching political parties with not only caution but a slim bit of intelligence.

    No sense commenting here since there is bigotry to the max and my comments don’t show. Just a pathetic site and now I understand why blacks still live in ghettos.

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