ARE WE BLACK CONSERVATIVES Uncle Toms? This question has haunted me for the past two months. Prior to that, I had absolutely no doubt that I was not an Uncle Tom. My political beliefs were simply different from those of most blacks. Or so I thought.
As you already know, I came to realize that my fellow African-Americans on the other end of the spectrum didn't think that this difference was "simple" at all. Most of the black population, our "leaders" in particular, believe that this difference is actually a manifest sign of evil. To paraphrase Larry Elder, this list is only a tiny fraction of the names black Conservatives have had to endure being called over the past few decades; Oreo, Uncle Tom, Boot-licking Uncle Tom, Straight-up Uncle Tom, Judas, Boy, Bug-eyed, Foot-shuffling, Sugarcane Negro, Handkerchief head, Trojan Horse, Anti-black, Pro-white, Remus, Sambo, Sambo-Tom, The Anti-Christ, Clarence Thomas supporter (as if that's a bad thing), Sniveling weasel, Evil, Ass-kisser, Coconut, Wannabe white, etc.
I've been a self-acknowledged Conservative since the early 1980s and I have been called all these names at some time or the other, on and off the net. More often it's been offline that I've faced the most abuse. It reached an extent that I would withdraw myself from any conversation with black people whenever the subject switched to politics. That has changed though ... I seem to have developed a sort of perverse sense of pleasure at making liberals squirm with a few well-phrased questions.
Throughout that time though, I have never felt like a "traitor." Until two months ago. It was the first time I have ever felt like a sell-out ... and furthermore I felt that all of us black Conservatives are sell-outs as well.
I believe that you have probably heard about the ordeal a sociology professor by the name of Jean Cobbs (as well as many others) has been going through for the past seven years at Virginia State University. Her crime is that she is an unabashed black Conservative and a Republican. For that, she has been subjected to a campaign of political persecution, discrimination and retaliation, campaign of political persecution, discrimination and retaliation which included a basically administration-approved physical assault upon her.
This story reminded me of an experience I had in 1984 (and a lot of others after that) right after the Reagan landslide. I made the mistake of telling a group of black "friends" at my workplace who I voted for. I can't forget the looks of disgust on their faces and it still amuses me no end when I think about it. One looked as if he was going to attack me right then and there. One spat at my feet and another called me a "Sell-out," shaking his head in disbelief. After some more name-calling, all of them turned their heels on me and left me standing alone by the watercooler.
But that was not the remarkable thing. As I was getting on the bus to get home the next day, one of them suddenly came onto the bus and sat opposite me. He was the one who had spat at my feet, so I got prepared for trouble. But what he said to me surprised me completely. "I'm a Republican too." So I asked him exactly why he didn't stand up for me the day before and he answered "I have to work with these guys everyday, y'know."
I have no intention of sounding melodramatic, but being black and a Conservative is a recipe for feeling isolated. And despite the fact that I risk sounding like a "victicrat" by saying this, we are probably among the most hated minorities in the United States. For not only do whatever racists that remain continue to hate us, so do the vast majority of the minority community, and the bulk of the Left, because we dare remain off their plantation.
Over the years, I have seen far too many black fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, friends, etc. seriously damage their ties with each other on account of politics, with the Conservative bearing the worst of it. A man I know had his wife excoriating him in public when he revealed that he voted for George Allen when he was running for Governor in Virginia. JC Watts had his father near publicly disowning him when he ran for his seat in the House. On black message boards and forums on the Internet, I have read screeds and witnessed attacks against black Conservatives that would not have looked out of place in Mein Kampf.
But the thing is, they are right to attack us. For we truly are Uncle Toms and sell-outs – though definitely not in the way they think. It is said that for evil (or bad ideas) to prevail, all good people need do is nothing, and that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. It is in regard to both these sayings that we black Conservatives have sold out.
We are sell-outs in two ways:
(1) Because we have consistently failed to protect and defend our own.
When brave souls such as Kay James, Alan Keyes, Condi Rice, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, JC Watts, etc. are attacked, where is our outrage? And if indeed we are outraged, how come the entire world doesn't know about it? When we are called names, why do we not fight back and make sure that person would think a VERY long time about it before he/she does it again? If we cannot stand up for ourselves, why would anyone respect us enough to listen to us? Is it a wonder then, that our arguments are simply dismissed and we are just called names instead of being civily debated against? Challenging the name calling and innuendo directed against us black Conservatives is not only a matter of justice, it would serve to open people's minds and thus yield dividends for us in terms of effectively taking our message to the black community. This I can personally attest to.
In November 1999, I again got into a discussion on politics with a group of co-workers, including five black colleagues. I was the lone black person who said that I thought Clinton ought to have been removed from office. Again, the reaction was similar to what I recieved in 1984, but I easily held my own in defending my view and explaining why I was a Conservative, until one black colleague (who had not even bothered to debate me and had only repeated Jesse Jackson slogans) looked at me in pure disgust, and said, "What are they paying you?" at which I got so mad, I walked away.
The next day, I went to his desk and plunked down my bank statements, pay slips and my tax return forms and reciepts over the last four years. I told him to look through them and show me where I was being paid to be a Conservative. He was so completely startled that it was all I could do to not laugh. Since then to the time that I was transferred to where I am right now (London, United Kingdom), he increasingly sought me to discuss politics and many other things, including whether or not to place his children in a private school or not. I even got him to concede that Clarence Thomas did not deserve the hatred that has been stoked against him in the black community. Imagine this happening on a larger scale.
(2) Because we have not taken our message to our people.
If we truly believed that Conservative principles would help our communities best and that the grip the Left has on the black community is destroying us, then our virtual silence is unconscionable. As black Conservatives, no one is more an advocate of self-help and raising ourselves by our bootstraps. But on this issue, we've done an extremely pathetic job of living up to our own principles.
We have our brains and should we be able to muster the passion (another thing that compounds our Uncle-Tom-ness) we have more than enough bootstraps to meet this challenge. But are we pulling? The answer is an unequivocal no. The fact that most of the black media is Liberal and that most of the black community at present distrusts us makes no difference. We could make and distribute pamphlets, post leaflets, speak at churches, campaign at schools and very publicly go into black neighborhoods and look our people in the eye and tell them exactly why they should shake off the Left's shackles. This sounds a lot easier than it is, and I agree that it is. But consider Bret Schundler, a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Male Conservative Republican, the second-term mayor of Jersey City.
Asked how it was that he was able to get himself elected with a 69% (first election) and 59% (second election) majority in a city that is two-thirds minority and that has Democrats outnumbering Republicans at least three-to-one, he simply answered that "he did it by going into the black communities and talking about school vouchers. He did it by going into the Hispanic communities and talking about tax-cuts and how they would affect individual families. To be succinct, he did it by going into communities that Republicans (even black Republicans) generally don't go to, and having a frank conversation with individuals, relating to them how his policies would change their lives." His approach paid off; he is probably the first Conservative Republican in the past few decades to have garnered 45% (second election) of the votes of his black constituents.
My question is; if he could do it, a white Conservative as he is, why can't we? The fact that we are basically standing idly by while the Left consolidates its grip on and destroys our communities should be a constant source of shame to us.
For instance the current state of our education system has long provided us with an opening (i.e vouchers/ education tax credits which are supported by an overwhelming majority of black parents yet opposed by the Left and "black leaders"), yet considering how so very important this issue is for the progress of our community, we have not taken this opportunity as we should have and I can't think of a reason why. That's why I would personally consider myself and all black Conservatives as Uncle Toms until we finally show the passion that we are honor-bound to show for our cause to uplift the black community as black Conservatives.
But why am I writing all this to you? One, because from where I am and the nature of my job, I can do nothing except over cyberspace, and because I believe this will help me sleep better tonight. Two, because I believe, after reading your articles and learning what little I could about your history from the Internet, that you could be a leader in rectifying this situation. I read with great interest your article "Is It Really Worth It?" in which you expressed your unhappiness with the lack of passionate activism on the part of black Conservatives and the article by Vince Paul calling for a Conservative Convention. It set my mind racing and I settled on an idea that has probably been tried before, but it is nonetheless something that I truly believe, done differently, may work. There should be held a Black Conservative Conference/Convention/Syposium. And it should be held as soon as possible.
It is imperative for black Conservatives to consolidate our efforts and work out our approach to taking our message to the black community, rehabilitating our images in the community, and defending our reputations from slanderous attacks from the Left and their allied "Civil Rights Leaders." We need to have vigorous debates on what Conservatism would mean for our communities, the policies we support and oppose (i.e. racial preferences), the way we present our beliefs and how we will deal with an often hostile media. We ought to come out from this conference (if it ever happens) more united, more dedicated to our cause, more willing to fight for it, and more willing to aggressively campaign for what we believe in. We ought to come out from this more alert to unwarranted and insidious attacks on our black Conservative brothers and sisters on the public stage, and more ready to defend them and castigate those who would attack them for nothing more than being Conservative. We ought to come out from this with an actual course of action and with a personal dedication to executing it, and also networking with and supporting those ideologically kindred groups like BOND, CURE, BAMPAC, Project 21, NCNE, the various black Republican caucuses, etc. that are already trying to do so.
Should this Convention be able to get as participants such people as Armstrong Willaims, J.C. Watts, Kay Cole James, Walter Williams, Elizabeth Wright, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter, Larry Elder (a Libertarian but it's all good), Joe Rogers, Alvin Johnson, Robert Woodson, Glenn Loury, Dylan Glenn, Michael Steele, Ward Connerly, John Doggett, Shannon Reeves, Carlton Pearson, Kenneth Blackwell, Michael King, J.J. Johnson, Hurley Green, R.D. Davis, Ken Hamblin, Alan Keyes, etc. imagine what we would be able to achieve! Imagine it ... and then, with all due respect, Sir, help us make it real.
And maybe, soon, I would no longer feel like we are all such traitors.
A BLACK CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN