Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Self-Hating Uncle Tom Black Conservatives

The annual NAACP convention is taking place this week, and one of its leading lights, Kweise Mfume, is calling the black conservative Uncle Toms the inert portion of a ventriloquist act, with the "right-wing conservative media" playing the part of ventriloquist. Good old Kweise, father of five children by five different women, taking people to task for their political thought crimes! There is a name for a guy who doesn't take responsibility for his offspring, and then makes his living as the leader of an organization that propogates the myth that racism is the biggest problem for the black community (rather than the staggeringly high rate of illegitimate births among blacks) - con man. In any event, it put me in mind of one of the first Ideas Hatched articles, from the February 1999 issue. Some of this is probably a little dated, but here it is anyway:

There exists today a growing minority within a minority. The Congressional Black Caucus finds itself dealing with two Republicans - Gary Franks and J.C. Watts. The head of the California Civil Rights Initiative, which intended to remove racial and gender quotas from government employment within the state, is a black man named Ward Connerly. The most welcomed Supreme Court Justice in conservative circles since Scalia is Clarence Thomas. And it is the Republican party, not the Democratic party, that boasts the presence of a black presidential candidate in the most recent election, with Alan Keyes throwing his hat into the ring.

A curios phenomenon, this! The black leaders capturing headlines these days are increasingly identifying themselves as conservatives, and the phenomenon is not restricted exclusively to political circles. In the realm of academia, which has traditionally fueled the most leftwing elements of the Democratic Party, the writings of Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Glenn Loury could just as easily be those of William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, or Joe Sobran.

There seems to be a burgeoning diversity of opinion, regarding nearly everything political, within the African-American community. And if the civil rights establishment stands for anything, they most assuredly stand for greater diversity - right? Well, not exactly. It seems the minority within the minority is not very well liked! How can this be? With all of the great strides we have made in increasing diversity in areas stretching from the composition of collegiate faculty right up to our immigration numbers, could it be that there is some form of diversity that does not promise to improve our lives and our society in leaps and bounds?

Is there a circumstance that justifies the other reindeers not letting Rudolph play in their reindeer games? Shouldn’t we embrace our differences as the source of our strength? Doesn’t more diversity improve our educational experience and, by extension, the substance of national political debate? In the face of all of the proven benefits of diversity, surely anyone who opposes it does so out of racism or sexism. To what else can we attribute such atavistic leanings?

But alas, diversity of opinion and viewpoint is apparently not necessarily to be valued, while diversity of skin color and gender are to remain sacrosanct. But surely good liberals will respect the rights of the dissenting minority to voice their disagreements. Or will they? Michael Williams was an African-American member of the Bush administration who pushed for race-neutral scholarships. Now, maybe he deserves to have his say, even if you believe the scholarships should be geared toward African-Americans. Spike Lee has a different idea of what should happen: Williams, in his eyes, is an Uncle Tom who deserves to be “dragged into the alley and beaten with a Louisville Slugger.” Thank God for freedom of speech. This minority within the minority must not wonder what it was like to live in the South in peak years of the Klan. Ask Ward Connerly - death threats were not unusual in his efforts to pass the CCRI, and it is doubtful they would have been as prolific had he been white.

Those members of the hard-line Civil Rights establishment have become diversity merchants. And in all their years of perfecting their trade, they have made few strides for the poorest inner city African-Americans. Sowell reviews evidence that suggests affirmative action has had beneficent effects on the income streams of middle and upper class blacks, while it has not affected the incomes of the poor. Charles Murray explains that the trend line for African American incomes prior to the institution of affirmative action programs would have put African Americans in the same position they hold today without one quota ever being made. But this would not have allowed those who have become wealthy to do it in the style they’ve become accustomed to: by exploiting white guilt for personal gain. This is much more fun then earning your money.
Consider President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman. After leaving the Carter administration, she started a consulting business that would help companies implement diversity programs that would allow them to smoothly adjust to affirmative action requirements. The example of large-scale construction in Washington D.C. provides an excellent example of how she could help a company achieve this goal. The city had in place a requirement that any government procurement process had to consider, as a criteria for selection, the representation of minorities in the management of private firms making bids. Alexis Herman helped more than one firm secure contracts without being the low bidder by her expertise in making the company more racially diverse. It was as simple as making her a silent partner with a nice equity share in the company - good work, if you can get it.

All of these black conservatives threaten the possibility of more millionaires in the style of Miss Herman - but do they really threaten the situation for other, less well-connected, African-Americans? The average back person on the street has no ties to the late Ron Brown and to other high ranking government officials that he can parlay into paychecks. What does he have to lose in the replacement of the standard civil rights leaders with their conservative brethren? To hear the standard civil rights reply, that reversal of power would be the loss of black leadership entirely. There is no such thing as a conservative brother. As Roger Wilkins puts it: “For black Americans who live in a society where racism exists, it is legitimate to set parameters. In arguing about how best to struggle, there is some political and intellectual behavior in which you engage that keeps you from being a black person.” The color of your skin, then, is at least partially dependent upon whether or not your political views mesh with those of Mr. Wilkens and others.

The modern civil rights establishment is premised upon the belief that blacks, as a group, have a clearly defined set of interests which, when denied from within, makes one a traitor to his people. The political embodiment of that notion is racial gerrymandering of districts: defining electoral districts so as to assure that blacks constitute a majority within certain districts, thus ensuring them the ability to be represented by blacks. When President Clinton originally nominated Lani Guinere for Attorney General, some of the criticisms for that pick centered upon her writings, which echoed the logic of racial redistricting, and suggested that blacks should have the right to veto legislation they find to be against their collective interests. Dinesh D’Souza points out that not since John C. Calhoun, in the context of arguing for the South’s right to hold slaves, has anyone advanced the belief that a minority should have some veto power over legislation.

Even if we were sympathetic to the idea, it could only be implemented in a logically inconsistent manner. Suppose that ten percent of all blacks are conservative - will ten percent of the racially defined districts be constructed so as to allow ten percent of the Congressional Black Caucus to be conservatives? If blacks were to be given veto power as a minority, in deciding whether to invoke that power, would they grant the same power of veto over their decision to a dissenting minority of black conservatives?

These arguments are made under the assumption that the majority of blacks lie consistently on the same side of the political fence across a wide variety of issues. In reality, the distinction is not so clear. As a minority faction within Congress, black representatives have gone far to the left of the blacks they presumably represent. In doing so, they have become a powerful minority coalition, trading support for more liberal measures in exchange for support on the issues they consider important. Their power belies the notion that minority veto power is required at all. It also suggests that to be truly representative of blacks, if they possessed that veto power, they would have to wield it in a way that would differ markedly from their current voting records. Is Miss Guinere ready to grant that minority power to blacks, seventy percent of whom are opposed to abortion? Perhaps she would grant the same veto power to women as an oppressed majority, and this would trump the majority decision of black Americans.

The ideas are so ludicrous when closely examined, but they point out the misplaced belief among black liberals that a consensus on issues across the board exists in the black community, is represented by current black leadership, and requires only a more concerted effort to consolidate the power necessary to implement their agenda. There is no consensus, as black conservatives are quick to prove. To artificially create one, black conservatives are no longer black.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J.C. Watts played for Barry Switzer. Now that would be a great ticket. Plus, I hear they both drive Volvos.

8:40 AM  

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