1/28/08 Black Conservatism

I remember in 2006 during the race for Maryland’s vacant senate seat, a hot debate being sparked on our show when a guest said, “Any black person who votes for a Democrat in this election is a patsy.”  Oh, the calls that came in for the rest of the hour-people were SO angry! 

While it was a comment that probably could have been worded in a much more intelligent way, what it implied was interesting.  The implication was that the Democratic party was taking the African American vote for granted by not supporting the candidacy of Kweisi Mfume-and that blacks should vote for the Republican candidate, Michael Steele, an African American.  Most of the callers were offended by the very suggestion that the Republican agenda had anything to offer black voters.

But according to statistics, more and more blacks are finding something about the Republican party to interest them. In 1972, fewer than 10 percent of African Americans identified themselves as conservative; today nearly 30 percent-11.2 million-do.  Those are the numbers presented by Christopher Alan Bracey in his new book, Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice. He points to the social issues that African Americans tend to be conservative on-abortion and gay marriage for example-and traces the history of politicla conservatism in the Black world.

Figures like Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell–what appeal did they find in conservative politics?  Why do they remain such polarizing figures?  Join us today to discuss.

-Jessica

P.S. Go here for information on Bracey’s event in Howard County this weekend!


 

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4 Responses

  1. I think the issue that many prominent Black Conservatives face is their alignment with the racist, divisive white Conservative movement from the 1980s until now. Clearly Black Conservatives didn’t just spring out of the ground…from Booker T. Washington v WEB Dubois in the beginning of the LAST century, until now, we’ve had this divide.
    It’s clear that both sides of the aisle are necessary individual and societal responsibility, but why is it that I, a fairly moderate voter who could almost as easily be a moderate Republican as a moderate Democrat, feel a sick feeling when I hear these prominent Black Conservatives berate and demonize poor African Americans as lazy, shiftless and dependant on the government? It’s almost as if they need to “out racist” the white Conservative movement. African Americans are pretty socially conservative, yet this movement will never gain the traction it should have if Blacks are to be fully represented in all areas of the society until its leaders (or those on display as its leaders) stop demonizing African American people.
    But they don’t have to do it.
    Tony Brown is a prominent AfrAm conservative who is been on TV for 30 years now, he almost never does this.
    but then there is Armstrong Williams, Jesse Lee Petersen, and Clarence Thomas to wash him away!

  2. OK, I gotta say, although I appreciate my question being read on air, Dr Bracey seemed not to answer my or any other question, yet just make statements he wanted to make.

  3. Kimberly, now that i can read your question, I see that I didn’t get the whole question. I just got the first part. I didn’t hear the part about whether black conservatives need to demonize poor blacks. I think the answer to your question is that NO ONE “needs” to demonize poor blacks. The sick feeling is perhaps a gut reaction to the deeply classist idea blacks can and should act a certain way. For instance, in Cosby’s most recent book (with Alvin Poussaint), he suggests that black youth should watch fewer music videos and more traditional musicials, like “My Fair Lady.” As a liberal, I find this kind of thing particularly disturbing on multiple levels. I, too, have problems with the way blacks are depicted in music videos. But the absence of any serious depiction of black life in “My Fair Lady” is perhaps equally if not more problematic in terms of the signals it sends to black youth about the value of black culture in America life.

    Suffice it to say, no leader — conservative or otherwise — should need are want to demonize black americans. The challenge is to determine which combination of strategies — liberal and conservative — provide the optimum means of securing social, political, and economic empowerment for blacks.

  4. Christopher Bracey posted on our blog today about the complicated history of black conservatism and how it affects the political landscape today.

    “Do everyday blacks, who believe a more conservative pathway is most attractive, dare to state these views publicly, particularly when the Democratic nomination is at stake? More importantly, if, in the spirit of public discourse, certain blacks declared themselves to be conservative, what exactly does that mean? Is there a black conservative tradition, or multiple traditions? And what obligation, if any, do liberals and progressives have to engage this conservative tradition in a serious way?”

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