Thursday, December 4, 2014

Artificial Black Conservativsm

The Omnivore has wondered what a black (or other minority--or, hell, even female) conservative makes of it when they read the comments section of articles on race or get, for example, the Confederate Battle Flag thrown at them on Twitter. Do they think: These are my peeeps (frowny-face)? Do they actually agree that black Americans are predominantly thugs out there committing most of the crimes and rampantly engaging in "Polar Bear Hunting" (as the left-wing media struggles to cover it up?).

Or is the thought process something like this:
  1. It's just a tiny bunch of bad apples (... who do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to the bunch!!)
  2. Who are probably liberal trolls anyway that are 'false-flagging' (which has the double-punch of making phantom-liberals the "real racists" and exonerating the non-posting imaginary masses)
  3. And, anyway, there's still work to be done? Right--and that work is being done--these people on the Internet aren't leaders.
The above logic is used in some permutation for excusing bad behavior on everything from Social Justice to #GamerGate--it's hard to falsify and it's a kind of security blanket for people who want to benefit from the parts of the movement they like and distance themselves emotionally from the parts they don't.

Enter Chidike Okeem
Chidike Okeem, on the other hand, goes and writes this: The End of Artificial Black Conservatism. It takes an entirely different perspective:
The mainstream conservative movement has no respect for independent black conservative thinkers. Creative and intrepid black conservative intellectuals are counterproductive to the role that the black conservative is supposed to fill in the mainstream American conservative movement. Blacks in the mainstream American conservative movement are simply resigned to being convenient spokespeople who dutifully absolve the white right of any unpleasant charges of racism. Indeed, artificial black conservatism is more beneficial to the white right than it is to the black community. Artificial black conservatives are every bit as subservient to the right as many left-wing blacks are to the American left.
The Omnivore was reminded of another writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates writing in The Atlantic, about Bill Cosby:
The author of this moment is Bill Cosby. In 2004, he gave his "Poundcake Speech," declaring black youth morally unworthy of their very heritage. Cosby followed the speech with a series of call-outs. I observed several of these call-outs. Again, unlike typical black Republicans, Cosby spoke directly to black people. He did not go on Fox News to complain about the threat of the New Black Panther Party. He did not pen columns insisting the black family was better off under slavery. He was not speaking as a man sent to assure a group that racism did not exist, but as a man who sincerely believed that black people, through the ethic of "twice as good," could overcome. That is the core of respectability politics. Its appeal is broad in both black and white America, and everywhere Cosby went he was greeted with rapturous applause.
What both authors are noting here is that to a certain extent (and maybe a very, very large extent) mainstream black conservatives pay their political bills by assuring white conservatives that (a) they are not racist and that (b) racism mostly does not exist anymore anyway. Cosby was notable for giving moral lectures when he wasn't running for anything. But for a white person who may have a sensitive spot for being called a racist, having either credible black celebrities or black politicians say these things is crucial: Hey, I'm just repeating what Bill Cosby said--go call him racist!

Here's the deal: if you acknowledge that the black conservative messaging from the top down is (or at least appears to be) largely for the benefit of white people then you have a problem: those comments sections on the Internet? They are arguably the product of leadership.

Whose Side Are You On?
One doesn't have to look any further than Gallup to come to the conclusion that there might be a method to the madness of selecting black conservatives to shore up the emotional weak-points of a mostly white, largely older, increasingly, uh, southern voter-base:
If the GOP's strategy is, middle-term, to win more white people, that would make a lot of sense. If you are willing to add in actual 'racism' (not even necessarily of the hood-wearing Klan-type--but perhaps of the more subtle racism without racist subconscious / negative impressions style?) and work under the largely tautological premise that politics will benefit those most active in them? Then it's also not hard to understand why only 2% of blacks would logically choose Republicans if we knew nothing about them other than their demographic make-up.

But wait, you say, what about the principles of limited government, entrepreneurialism, and social values rooted in authentic morality (Okeem's description of Republican values black people would logically adopt)?

Well--yes: if you define 'authentic morality' as pro-life and limited government as cutting everything but the military (including Big Bird, apparently) you are certainly moving away from the mainstream left (not sure where entreprenuerialism falls in--maybe government regulations?).

On the other hand, go read the Brietbart comments sections. No, seriously, go read them.

In his article, Okeem calls out two specific policy positions that he thinks mainstream conservatives have fallen down on. These are:
  • Affirmative Action
  • The War on Drugs
Let's look at them in order.

Affirmative Action
Okeem writes that the authentic reason to oppose Affirmative Action (racial quotas for college admissions) is because it (a) puts unqualified black people into environments they fail at and (b) also cast doubt on black people who succeed without its help. He takes issue with the "reverse discrimination against whites" argument that is used predominantly by both mainstream conservatives and white-nationalists.

The War on Drugs
Okeem notes that Republicans are more preoccupied with Michelle Obama's food-plans than the War on Drugs which has culturally devastated the black community. He calls out liberal Democrat Charlie Rangel for advocating it and notes that standing behind the War on Drugs is a litmus test for "true conservatism."

Let's Look At These Positions
These are interesting politically for different reasons. The first because it's a great look into racial policy. The second because it's kinda already the Democrat's position.

Affirmative Action and Prop 209
Affirmative Action--quota-based racial inclusion--was first called by that name in 1961. In 1996 California enacted Proposition 209 which effectively reversed it for college campuses. Fredrik Deboer has a fantastic blog post that points out the following:

After Prop 209's effects hit in 1998 the percent of black students in the University of California system dropped precipitously (that 2+% is thousands and thousands of black students). He notes they "made it up" over the years following by doing things that got around the letter of the law (like letting the to 10% of any public California high school attend a UC school). Indeed, Slate notes that these measures (such as having a class-based admission system that promotes students from lower income areas) are responsible for the difference and liberals should vote for their wide-spread adoption as well (in lieu of a blunter, entirely race-based quota system).

One would think this would be a point of easy agreement for everyone, conservatives and liberals alike--but Deboer goes on to show a graph that suggests that what really made up the increase in the graph above was a dramatic increase in minorities in California period:
The alternate strategies may have made up some of the difference but the gap--the red-line at the bottom goes up in 1998 and then more or less holds steady as the under-representation gap rises.

This presents liberals with a real problem: are quotas (and therefore statistically relevant representation at the start of college careers even if they do not finish as strongly) worth placing unqualified students in schools? Is it worth giving white-nationalists (and, erm, Republicans) a bone to pick?

It's a good question. 

The War on Drugs
On the other hand, The Omnivore isn't finding a lot of air or light between most democrats and ending the War on Drugs. Okeem strangely calls out Rangel who, yes, is a Democrat--(a) other than being notably black and notably an anti-drug crusader in the 80's didn't have near the impact of Nixon (who coined the War on Drugs term) and Reagan who vastly increased the effort and, uhm, (b) Rangel has reversed his position.

In our last election marijuana legalization was seen widely as a liberal victory. While The Omnivore understands that Ron Paul Libertarian voters are also pro-hemp, it seems strange that if one wanted to address the devastating drug-war's effects on the black community in an article on conservatism that you'd finger Rangel at all.

Convincing half the country to abandon the War on Drugs might be hard--but the other half is almost there.

Let's Get Back To Those Comments Sections
Okeem didn't write about Michael Brown in that article (although he has in others)--but he did call out mainstream conservatives for treating the shooting of Trayvon Martin as "inconsequential."

Last night, in New York, another grand jury exonerated a police officer who used a choke-hold on Eric Garner. His crime was selling cigarettes without the proper taxes. People have compared him to Bundy who faced down the entire Bureau of Land Management with armed militia guys over not paying taxes. Bundy, of course, was white.

 The Omnivore was reading reactions and came across Balloon Juice--a conservative-turned-liberal blog. The article was pretty straight forward: the writer is appalled by the decision. Here are some of the comments:
We need a federal “accountability” act that states that once the Police begin taking you into custody, lay hands on you, or shoot at you they have to account for your death or injury completely and “I didn’t know he could die” or “I didn’t intend for him to die” is unacceptable, simply unacceptable. Frankly I’d also put “I feared for my safety” or “the safety of others” under really strict scrutiny as well.
You’ve got anger and frustration. Claiming you have nothing is letting go. Do not allow yourself to let go, because, while it’s easy for us whites to let go, blacks can’t. Instead, use your anger and frustration. Do everything you can think of to try to change it: Contacting representatives at all levels, letters to the editor, whatever.
How can this keep happening?
The Omnivore then went over to conservative mega-blog, Hot Air, where Noah Rothman writes a piece that is actually very critical of the police and their use of the choke hold. Let's look at the comments here:
Do we actually know that [that it was a choke hold]? Fox had a guest on earlier today disputing that, calling it a seatbelt hold rather than a chokehold.
Noah, your pathetic.
I didn’t go riot and loot when O.J. was acquitted.
I don’t view these stories as an excuse to burn down buildings and steal myself a new TV, or bottle of tequila….
Noah is no better than the idiots in Ferguson pushing a false story. According to him the cop intentionally killed Garner for selling cigarettes. Oh, and being black.
The Omnivore is aware that these are just randomly chosen selections of Internet detritus that don't necessarily show a larger picture but The Omnivore wonders what Okeem thinks when he reads the contrast.

At what point does a movement grounded in limited government (which, as we know, no side is actually limiting in any meaningful way), the pro-life position (which, for certain trimesters, anyway, has broader bi-partisan support than a decade ago), and less small business regulation (what is the last time anyone talked seriously about that on the national stage) become too damaged--too hostile--to hold its core philosophy? If ending the War On Drugs--or convincing liberals to adopt class-based admissions over racial quotas will lead to better outcomes for black people?

Who appears to be further away here?

1 comment:

  1. There's not much doubt as to the true beneficiaries of the War On Some Drugs, which is after all just smokescreen politics à la the Volstead Act and the current War On "Terror".

    Most of us "just said no" to it all, decades ago - yet it remains. That snippet from the DoI about how "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" is little more than a cruel joke now.

    -- Ω