On Monday, the gorgeous, beautiful African-American actress Stacey Dash broke with the “Hollywood liberal cabal” and announced her support for Mitt Romney. She was immediately targeted for a slew of racist comments.
The ridicule and scorn that black conservatives face presents is a significant challenge for the conservative movement. It makes it difficult for conservatives to recruit followers to spread their message in the black community.
Black conservative politicians, like Dash, are often the target of racial slurs. Prominent conservatives such as Justice Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice have endured this scorn for years. Mia Love is the latest black conservative to be targeted using vile, racial slurs. There is no justification for these politically motivated slurs and the language is indefensible. A black American should be able to choose to identify with conservative ideology without being called a "house n*gger", "Uncle Tom" or sell-out.
That being said, the standard disclaimers that the black community is not monolithic, that we should aspire to the ideal of not seeing race in all matters, that “liberals like to divide and segment people into groups” may all be true. But here another truth: the conservative movement, by and large, does not resonate with the black community.
17 years ago, Deborah Toler wrote, “For most African Americans, the notion of a Black conservative is an oxymoron.” 17 years later, nothing has changed. The conservative message hasn’t changed, and neither has its reception in the black community. Messaging is important and black liberals are turned off by much of the messaging on the right. The video “Sh*t Republicans Say About Black People” compiled by Jezebel.com is a collection of comments that conservatives have recently made about black America illustrating just this point.
Still, the Republican Party likes to showcase the few black conservatives that they can find as proof that there is a growing trend within the party. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter famously said “our blacks are better than theirs,” meaning black liberals. That may or may not be true but there aren't very many black conservatives by which to judge.
Black conservatives argue that it is time for “adult talk” and “tough love.” They say they are tired of being nice; it is time for brutal honesty. Maybe this accounts for their righteous indignation and their willingness to use the imagery of the vilest period in American history as justification “to go tell it on the mountain.” They see themselves as liberators. As Allan West suggested, black conservatives believe they are the new Underground Railroad. If conservatives believe that they can convince black people to join their movement by conjuring up images of blacks in chains, then they should just concede defeat now. That dog won’t hunt.
Conservative pundits and elected officials continue to use insulting references like "enslaved" and "plantation mentality" when describing the state of black America .For instance, the Fox News article, “Black Conservatives Explore New Slavery in Obama's Welfare State in New Film” described the documentary Runaway Slave, as an exploration of whether African Americans have been “enslaved to the welfare state.” Townhall.com provided this description: “Runaway Slave is a new documentary that exposes the economic slavery of the Black community to the Progressive policies of the U.S. government and how Black Conservatives are leading the fight so all Americans can be 'free at last.'”
Comments like those made by Allan West do not help the cause of the black conservative. As Politico reports, an appearance on Fox News channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor."Allan West said “The people on that plantation are upset because they’ve been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about.” He went on to say that some black leaders “are nothing more than overseers over that plantation.”
Additionally, conservatives have once again begun to question whether the black community has the morals, work ethic and family structure necessary to succeed in America. When conservatives suggest that a whole community is somehow inferior because of their culture, and then suggest what is "proper" in terms of family, they have lost any opportunity to make their case.
In an article written for The Grio, Rev Jesse Lee Petersen said, “Newt said that he would have black children, minority children work as janitors at school. Working as a janitor would build character.” The Huffington Post quotes the conservative minister as saying, "One of the things that I would do is take all black people back to the South and put them on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working."
Recently, conservatives have resorted to an old tactic of painting blacks in poverty as victims. Black people don't appreciate being labeled as victims. Gary Kane wrote in The Washington Examiner, "The Democratic Party has become the party of victims. It is the party of those who stoke the embers of their own victimhood. It is a party that needs victims, even creating new ones when the old ones are no longer victims, and making victims of those who clearly are not."
Black people question what motivates a black conservative to advocate against civil rights legislation and affirmative action. Black liberals believe that conservatives are seeking to overturn the social programs and domestic policies that provided the safety nets, dismantled legacies of discrimination and attempted to remedy the systemic racism that was inherent in all aspects of life. The conservative movement has characterized the legislation that provided the legal framework necessary to ensure equal opportunity as being illegal and unconstitutional. That is not a friendly message to a people that have only been able to enjoy true life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for less than 35 years.
Conservatives argue that government programs are the root cause of poverty in the nation and in particular in black communities. Conservative social policy ranges from drastic change to wholesale elimination of safety net programs provided by government. They have said that the shift in social policy will cause some "temporary pain" and that "charitable" services will be provided exclusively by private industry, be it profit/non- profit, faith-based or not. Black liberals have asked conservatives to "define temporary" and "describe pain." Studies show that as much as 30% of the black community lives below the poverty line. That could mean 12M people at risk.
Conservatives aren’t seen recruiting in neighborhoods where many black people live below the poverty line.” In the documentary Fear of a Black Republican, Kevin J. Williams says that Republicans believe that “urban areas are no longer considered competitive parts of America’s Election map.” I don't know any poor black conservatives. I know they're out there, but I don't know any. Conservatives seem to direct their rhetoric towards the more “successful” black person. This reinforces the perception that conservatives aren’t talking to all of the black community, and stands in drastic contrast to the active recruitment of non-black people living below the poverty line.
When a black person announces they are politically conservative, red lights go off in the community. The Gibbs Magazine article "Black Conservatives: What is their Purpose?" states, “When asked how Blacks should respond to Black Conservatives, most said that Black Conservatives should be heard to see what they are saying, but they should be refuted immediately; much like graffiti.”
Even Timothy Johnson, co-founder of the black Republican group The Frederick Douglass Foundation, believes his party is ignoring black Americans. He has said, “This party does not seem willing to invest in attracting the black community."
Further, black conservatives have a tendency to accuse black liberals of “group-think”, suggesting that they have been brainwashed. In a CNN interview, Herman Cain said, "African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view." Cain repeated the insult in an interview for This Week with Christiane Amanpour. In that interview he said, “Some black people won't even listen to someone who appears to be a conservative or a Republican. I call that brainwashing.”
Black liberals do not need to be deprogrammed. Black liberals are individuals who know the power of leveraging a group. We celebrate our rights, we enjoy our civil liberties, and we have identified with a party who we believe protects those rights. Representative Shelia Jackson Lee captured this sentiment in an article written for The Hill, saying, “We are not brainwashed, and I am absolutely insulted by [the] ludicrous interpretation of African-American intellect in choosing their political party."
Still, as Crystal Wright reports, “After being barraged by what can only be described as a rain of insults and ignorance, Stacey Dash tweeted, “My humble opinion ... EVERYONE is entitled to one.” Dash is right, even if her conservative stances may not resonate with everyone in the black community.
Those interested in black conservatism should check out the following helpful sites: