Black People Must Be Stupid
By Joel Dreyfuss
Black people must be stupid. That's the conclusion implied by David Horowitz's Why Dems Need Blacks column following the November elections. Horowitz is baffled that blacks continue to vote for Democrats in majorities "like the populations of Communist countries." He complains that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) won 94 percent of the vote in his Harlem district and suggests there would be uproar if a white candidate defeated a black candidate because more than 90 percent of whites voted for the white candidate.
Horowitz follows in a long tradition of lamenting the willingness of black people to vote their interests. I can understand why he's upset: Unusually high black turnouts in key races had a lot to do with upsetting the Republican apple cart in November. Until the day after the election, the impact of black voters was barely discussed on the talk shows, a state of affairs reflected on election night, when being white seemed to be the primary qualification for on-air pundits.
Lamentations about black voters are often thinly disguised efforts to set them aside. In 1984, after Ronald Reagan won reelection with majorities among all constituencies except African-Americans, a number of political experts suggested that blacks were isolated because of their unwillingness to join the coronation. Yet within weeks, this same "isolated" group launched protests that would force a change in the Reagan Administration's "constructive engagement" policy toward South Africaprotests that eventually helped end apartheid and free Nelson Mandela.
One of the favorite devices of conservatives is the mythical "double standard." Blacks get away with behavior that would not be acceptable among whites because of white guilt. "Why Blacks Need Dems" is full of such insinuations. Massive black support for black candidates is one example. Yet in races involving black candidates who are not incumbents, 80 percent of the white vote usually goes to the white candidateno matter how qualified the black candidate. Even Andrew Young, that paragon of integration and moderation, could barely gather 15 percent of the white vote when he first ran for Congress in 1972.
The red herring of the double standard is actually a cover for another favorite conservative hot button: moral equivalency. The fact that most black people only got the right to vote in the last 30 years; that they represent just twelve percent of the population; or that they are the only ethnic group whose rights were specifically limited by this nation from its inception seem not to matter to critics like Horowitz. So 90 percent of blacks voting as a bloc is rendered equal to 90 percent of whites voting to maintain their dominance.
While Horowitz laments the refusal of blacks to vote for most Republican candidates (strange that he doesn't mention the Govs. Bush), he ignores the GOP's long history of race baiting and appealing to white interests. In fact, Republican gains in the South are largely the result of thinly veiled appeals to white voters who feared black political gains. From Richard Nixon's 1968 "Southern strategy" through Willie Horton to antiaffirmative action appeals in this last election, the message to white voters has been clear: Let's keep them under control. In other words, white voters are asked to vote their interests, although white voters' interests are usually equated with everyone's interests. Once again, black voters just don't seem to understand.
Horowitz cites welfare reform as an example of Republican policies that have helped blacks, but even many who favored ending the old dependencies warn that an unusually long economic boom may have masked the long-term effects of throwing tens of thousands off the rolls with little or no safety net. One of the issues he and other conservatives ignore is that African-Americans have been among the chief critics of the damaging effects of welfare. But blacks favored a more gradual, well-planned process to avoid the chaos that could hit many cities in an economic downturncities still viewed as alien territory among suburban white voters.
Why is it that white conservatives use black conservatives to support their arguments? If their ideas can stand on their own merits, why must they drag in blacks making the same arguments? It suggests that for all the posturing about merit, white conservatives feel they need someone with a different skin color to make their positions more credible. Horowitz laments the harsh criticism of black conservatives like Larry Elder, Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly, and others by mainstream blacks. But isn't the wholesale rejection of their arguments by African-Americans a sign of maturity? Blacks have looked beyond the color of their skin to the content of their character, and rejected their positions.
As one who has closely followed the arguments of conservatives of all colors for years, I think one of the problems with many of these black conservatives is that they simply restate old arguments made by white conservatives. When black conservatives try to make more nuanced argumentssuch as economist Glenn Loury's complaint that white conservatives offer no constructive alternatives to the programs they don't likethey are expelled from the circles that initially welcomed them.
Conservatives like Horowitz cannot admit that black people have enemies. They are willing to give every opponent of affirmative action, set-asides, and minority election districts the benefit of the doubt: that they are really taking positions because they have the best interests of black people at heart. Maybe that's why he doesn't bring up the cynical Republican strategy in the first part of this decade to push blacks into majority-minority districtsso Republicans could win all-white suburban districts.
And like most conservativesand a lot of liberalsHorowitz is willing to dismiss the worldview of the black majority as simply wrong. African-Americans live in a world more finely nuanced than conservative ideology can comfortably embrace. Polls show that black people believe they have friends and enemies in all colors. Black people feel they still need affirmative action because of their real experiences with white people. That is why middle-class black people are more ardent supporters of affirmative action than poor blacks. They find that even the most well-meaning whites cannot always overcome hundreds of years of legislated and implied superiority. Just as African-Americans see real progress, they also see continuing obstacles, slights, unintended insults and exclusions. And that is why they won't embrace the Larry Elders and Clarence Thomases as heroes, no matter how often they get called black sheep.
Joel Dreyfuss covers technology for Fortune magazine. He is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists.
All Conservatives Do Not Think Alike
by David Horowitz:
There is something ugly under the civilized surface of Joel Dreyfuss' complaints about my column, myself and conservatives, and about black conservatives in particular. It is an attitude I alluded to in my original article and is therefore worth bringing out into the open in this response. Instead of simply arguing the merits of Larry Elder's Fifteen Reasons Why Blacks Should Not Support Clinton and the several reasons that I added myself, Dreyfuss moves immediately to the ad-hominem mode and suggests in not so subtle ways that I am probably a racist and at the very least (like whites "generally") don't give a hoot about blacks. Whites like me who disagree with blacks like Joel Dreyfuss care only to maintain our alleged social dominance. This is the very poison that I identified in my piece as making differences of opinion so sinister as to have the effect of locking the black community into positions that are destructive to its own interests.
Dreyfuss suggests that I imply black people are stupid and then that my entire argument is merely a racist lament that black people actually vote their interests. Well, if Maxine Watersa screeching, Marxoid leftist who thinks that a crack epidemic raging among inner-city blacks (but not inner-city Hispanics or Asians) is the creation of the CIA rather than the moral breakdown of the community affected, who never saw a government handout she wouldn't defend, who champions urban gangsters, and excoriates urban law enforcement while her own people are the primary victims of urban crimeif this ill-mannered and stupendously shallow chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus represents the authentic interests of black people, Dreyfuss is probably right. Otherwise, read on.
Dreyfuss accuses me of what he characterizes as a typical conservative insensitivity to the difference between oppressor and oppressed, so that "90 percent of blacks voting as a bloc is rendered equal to 90 percent of whites voting to maintain their dominance." Coming from an educated person like Dreyfuss this just shows how big the Big Lie has grown among the community of black professionals. Because the political reality in this country is just the opposite of what this slander of white America suggests. In point of actual fact, 90 percent of white-elected white representatives voted forthe Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act that ended white political dominance in the South 30-odd years ago. And that is just one example. The overwhelming majority of white people in this country have supported every step of the civil-rights movement, have backed and financed massive government programs to help blacks make up for the deficits caused by slavery and segregation, and have implemented and sustained nearly 30 years of misguided affirmative-action programs just to show that they understood the injustice of the past and wanted to make it up for the future. That Dreyfuss could so thoughtlessly advance the libel that 90 percent of whites care only to maintain their dominance over blacks shows just how perniciously effective the anti-white propaganda coming from the left has been in impacting the national dialogue on these issues.
Black thinkers and political commentators who have been decent and courageous enough to attempt to remind their community and the rest of the country of obvious facts like these have been rewarded by vicious slanders and by race-baiting no less ugly than the epithet "nigger lover" once hurled at whites who stood up to the lies of the race-preference crowd in the South, and by actual death threats as well. The African-American community hasn't been allowed to hear the arguments of the Glenn Lourys, Ward Connerlys, Clarence Thomases, and Larry Elders, let alone reject them as Dreyfuss suggests.
To be fair, there is at least one moment in Dreyfuss's commentary where he actually attempts to deal with an issue raised in my column on its merits. He acknowledges that the welfare system has been damaging to inner-city black communities. He then makes the preposterous claim that I "and other conservatives ignore [the fact] that many African-Americans have long cited the damaging effects of welfare." Really? Why on earth would we? Why wouldn't we jump to cite the support for our criticisms of welfare from African-Americans? Especially since black Democrats like the reprehensible (but much lionized) Rep. John Lewis has called us Nazis for even the slightest reforms to the welfare system. Dreyfuss suggests that we didn't embrace African-American welfare-reformers because "blacks favored a more gradual, well-planned process." C'mon. What welfare reform has Maxine Waters or Kwesi Mfume or Julian Bond proposed? Democrats controlled the Congress for 30 years of welfare policies. What dependency did they remove? Name one.
Unlike Dreyfuss, I don't think that all blacks think alike. In my column and my response to critic C. D. Ellison, I did not line up "black conservatives" in order to hide behind them, as Dreyfuss claims. I pointed out that Alan Keyes, Clarence Thomas, Glenn Loury, and Larry Elder have profound differences with each other. Elder is not even a Republican. Yet Dreyfuss, in a manner recalling that of the most sun-dried Southern cracker, still lumps everyone who is black and who disagrees with him into one common bag. The most basic idea of a democracy is that no one has a monopoly on truth. That is why it is essential that many voices be heard. That's why in democracies people don't win by 94-percent majorities unless their opponent has murdered her husband during the election. In order to maintain his point that it is in black people's interest to vote in 90-percent majorities for Democrats, Dreyfuss has to convince himself that Republicans are racists. This is a racial smear that is all too common among leftists, both white and black. That was the real point of my article. I'm sorry Joel Dreyfuss missed it.