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June 10, 2004


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I can't help but be a conservative black. I like it like that and don't imagine that I could be any other way. It's probably more proper for me to say that I've made peace with my conservatism. I wasn't particularly ill at ease with being a neocon with regards to global capitalism and being against the minimum wage a la Sowell, but it didn't all fit together for me as well as it does now. But I have always been a black man first, as the old timers say, all I *have* to do is be black and die.

And still this is a battle over terminology that gives me the willies. What are we to do with black conservatives? Indeed as I think on Glenn Loury, wouldn't he be a better conservative black were it not for so many thoughtless blacks who contributed in making his existential hell? Wouldn't all black conservatives be 'black enough' if we let them? We may hear 'Git in where you can fit in', but not long ago the word to black conservatives was 'Git on before you get spit on' and some days it still is.

I don't want to make apologies for LaShawn or Spence, y'all are grown folks, but I feel this kind of clash especially hard, even though I know it is inevitable.

Going back to my own college days, I presided over an organization split between the retention & remedial side and the leadership & scholarship side. We were split between the black colleges and the predominantly white college and between the regionalisms of a national organization. We wanted to preach unity, but the unity of purpose was severely cracked under the surface. The conflict made me desparately crazy. I'm sure that I was clinically depressed over it. In the end I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as black unity, and way back in 1988 I became something of a rabid monolith breaker. You could see my eyebrows twitch when people said 'the' black community.

My point is that we are dealing with a whole lot more political diversity than anybody wants to acknowledge. I'm as invested in the battle for 'black' as much as just about anyone and as snobby as I want to be, I have a hard time with the lions and lambs on my side of the fence. I'm an Episcopalian and I have a bear of a time dealing with the very concept of Jesus that Evangelicals possess. So knowing that many Republicans are what I call 'Conservatives in Place' working for the Party of God, gives me serious heartburn.

But I also know how people are people, and as wonky as I like to be, large majorities of people are going to choose political affiliations based on a few simple ideas. So I have to deal with the fact that people have their own reasons, even though I know better.

This is the pain of party work. Being 'on message' and all that and getting people on your side by appealing to simple concepts is part of the game.

I guess what I'm saying ultimately is that both parties will take any kind of blacks they can get. That's franchise.

I hope that we can find, in black politics, ways to get what blackfolks need. That means finding what the parties can do for us, real patronage, rather than just what swag we get in 'being' and advocate for one party or persuasion.

Alright I need to go to bed now...


Michael, based on your internet output alone (a phenomenon that if you recall I didn't really recognize as being "real"), I think you bear the mantle of Albert Murray and even Ralph Ellison well. We need more conservative blacks like you. And I'm not saying that from the standpoint of the other side of the aisle...but from someone interested in cell based organization.

The battles you had in NSBE (I assume you're talking about NSBE) are the exact same battles I am currently fighting in the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Do we continue to run the organization like a mom and pop shop, or do we blow out the curve? This is an intra-racial battle that I now realize needs to be fought as much as you think the battle between Cosby and BayBay needs fighting. In fact, as I think about it the only time I DIDN'T have these battles was when we had cell-type organizations--usually with my fraternity as the hub.

When I tell Barber that she needs to do more work...Juliette too for that matter...what I'm saying is BS. She doesn't need to do JACK. But what I do know is that I'm not tolerating madness when it comes to intellectual endeavors. The same type of lazy analysis, shoddy commentary, that you and I both detest in folks like Debra whatshername ...Dickerson, that's it, I see in commentary like Barber's on the regular. Like McWhorter on the regular. If you're not down with black people enough to be familiar with the history, to use and employ logic and reasoning based on a belief that black people are sane and powerful, then you're on the other side.

And I'll treat you like that.

La Shawn Barber

You still didn't show how my arguments are "specious" and sense of history "truncated." And I’m a woman, by the way. I don’t know if this makes a difference in my response, but I’d like to note that I’m not a registered Republican, nor was I ever a registered Democrat. I signed up "Undeclared." I consider myself an Independent Conservative.

1) By outlining in my "black vote" article the various civil rights legislation and policies of the Republican party and the anti-civil rights policies of the Democrats, I was simply reminding people who forgot what both parties stand for or informing people who never knew in the first place. The history of both parties stands for what it is, however people want to interpret it.

I argue that Republicans were and still are the ones supporting policies beneficial to black Americans, such as school choice, which a majority of younger parents support. Democrats are hamstrung on this issue, beholden to teachers’ unions. They know that black parents, especially in an inner city like DC (where I reside), desperately want school choice. Why don’t Dems care? Because they know they’ll get the "black vote" anyway, regardless of what they do. That’s the danger of one party having 90% of any electorate in their pockets.

And I’ve heard the argument ad nauseum about how old Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms switched to the other side of the aisle. Is this your evidence that my sense of history is truncated? Did you think I didn’t know this piece of information? It dilutes my point in no way. Do you realize that both of these men left their extremely vocal, southern, racist, Democratic rhetoric behind when they crossed the aisle?

Helms and Thurmond did not pervert the Republican party with that nonsense. I’d like to see other examples of the "shift" besides just these two men.

Despite the popular myth, the south didn’t join the Republican party en masse in the 1960s or during the "Southern Strategy." The shift occurred mainly in the 1980s.

2) I know all about the Republican party’s aid and comfort to newly freed slaves. Blacks considered themselves abandoned after the Compromise of 1877 between Repubs and Dems. The act basically ended Reconstruction in the south. I’d feel abandoned, too, but blacks in 2004 are not newly freed slaves or helpless victims. We are responsible and free moral agents with a tradition of strong families, moral behavior and our share of success stories in America. We don’t need a modern-day Freedmen’s Bureau in the form of excessive government interference, regulation and hand-holding in every area of our lives. Not anymore.

And just because my view is opposed to yours doesn’t mean I don’t understand how "white supremacy worked in the south and the north." I think I have a better grasp on it than you do. Liberals claim to care about black folks so much but couldn’t care less what lowered standards can do to a black child. They have no regard for kids in failing schools. While Republicans want to GIVE blacks choice, Dems want to take it away and just throw more money into a decaying bureaucracy, black kids be damned, while they send their kids to private schools.

3) In response to the assertion that I’m “conflating” affirmative action with racial discrimination, you don’t have to be unsure of anything. I’m doing exactly that. Race preferences are race discrimination. I seem to recall something about “equal protection of laws” in the Constitution. See excerpts from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 below:

"No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

"It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer--

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

(b) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."

My shoddy “critical thinking” skills notwithstanding, but U.S. law seems plain enough to me. Rather than creating more outreach and inclusion of minorities, affirmative action has evolved into entitlements and quotas. Despite the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly forbids government from treating its citizens differently based on race, it does exactly that under so-called affirmative action.

Now if you want to justify race discrimination on the basis of the proverbial "leveling the playing field", that’s a different argument.

And about the semantic thing with black adjectives and conservative nouns or whatever you're talking about, I think the whole point is silly. Being the free person that I am, I’ll call myself whatever I please. You accuse me of lazy analysis and shoddy commentary?

Maybe my lazy mind just can’t seem to follow your "argument." For that, I offer my humble apologies.


To say that after you became a conservative you began to use your brain and your critical thinking skills for yourself, is to make an argument that appears to make a great deal of sense. But the implicit assumption is that people who AREN'T conservative politically (and the majority of black people aren't based on polling data and voting behavior) do NOT use their brains and critical thinking skills. This is a SPECIOUS statement...that is, one that appears to be based on common sense but really isn't once you deconstruct it.

Now it could be that you didn't mean to make this argument at all (and I'm not being snide here, I could've misunderstood you).

You say on the one hand that the Republican Party of 1865 is exactly the same as the Republican Party of 2004. Then you turn around and say that state's rights (and a small federal government) is a core Republican principle. Taking each statement separately sounds like common sense. Taking them together reveals again that there is only the PATINA of common sense. The two statements are contradictory. The Republican Party of 1865 believed in a strong federal interventionist government, and they fought hard against state's rights. So how can the core principles you support today arguably be considered a core value of the GOP across time? Again, this argument is specious...and because you don't appear to have considered the contradiction, I assume it is because your understanding of history is TRUNCATED.

Finally, you argue that black distaste for state's rights come SOLELY because of their experience in the south. You ignore the role that the federal government has played in making black life better in the north AS blacks--making it possible for blacks to integrate northern neighborhoods, making it possible for blacks to successfully sue in instances of northern discrimination. You also ignore the role the federal government played in making black life better in the north and the south folk who are predominantly poor and working class. Though it wasn't applied equally, the GI Bill is an excellent example of positive federal government intervention. So it isn't just black sentiment about the south that makes them frown upon states rights rhetoric. It isn't even some sort of knee jerk reaction against individual charity--liberal black folk give more than their white conservative counterparts. It is the deep understanding that you cannot simple cede power to private forces--be they possibly racist individuals, or multinational corporations. Again, your understanding of history--as reflected in your comments is TRUNCATED.

This is where I become conservative. I employ a color-blind standard that is extremely high and very objective. You either meet that standard...or you don't. The vast majority of black conservatives don't meet that standard. A significant number of conservative blacks do.


spence, i think that is the best compliment anyone has ever paid of me. thank you brother.

i'm now going to go back and read up on this, and see if i feel closer to murray.


Terence Byrnes

Black Convservatives: Recently, I found myself at a cross road in life. Split between the idea of being a liberal or conservative. Yes, I am an African-American, with a touch of white blood in my veins. I have socially felt the pain of black america. At one time liberalism stood for those that were under previllaged, especailly with racism. But I think there is a social change going on some where out there!!!! I believe that I am some what conservative and believe in some issues concerning party lines to the right.

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