I am a black conservative, and in this day and age, that’s a statement that can cause surprise. Yet for me, it isn’t shocking, it is the logical response to the issues that I perceive are facing the African American community today.
Conservatism offers Black Americans a path to take part in all of the liberties and freedoms that are afforded them in the constitution. However, if the right’s most ardent supporters really want to bridge the gap and create space for meaningful engagement, they must recognize the answer does not lie in racial colorblindness.
Racial colorblindness is a complete disregard for the unique historical background that African Americans bring to every conversation in politics. We, as Americans and as conservatives, cannot deny the validity or seek to minimize the very real damage that even recent policies have done to the African American community. Also, it is not enough to simply attempt to blame liberal ideology or plead with Blacks to leave the Democrat plantation and not explain the solutions conservative ideals and policies provide.
My personal road to conservatism wasn’t a straight one, nor did I have a “Paul on the road to Damascus” moment. Instead, it was more of a series of encounters with serious questions regarding the role of government, my belief in human potential, and my core values using what I call the “Jeff Foxworthy mode of deduction”. Do you believe in less government intrusion in your life? You might be conservative.
As a history major at a historically black college in Texas, I fell in love with Texas and even deeper in love with black people. I haven’t always lived in Texas, but I have, however, always been black. Growing up in Chicago-area public schools, there wasn’t much effort given to actual black history. So given the current loyalty of African Americans to the Democratic party, I was surprised to find that, historically, African Americans have been (and still are) pretty conservative. We believe in hard work and entrepreneurship, we have a general distrust of government (albeit for important historical reasons), we have historically supported the right (and even the responsibility) to educate our own children how we see fit, and we respect our right to bear arms to defend our families and communities. African Americans have generally wanted what we believe America promises: a fair shake at achieving the American Dream. For a slate of reasons, I believe the American Left has been able to capitalize on this desire of African Americans without any real deliverables while the right has relegated itself to sidelines.
Historically, African Americans have been confronted with the worst that America had to offer, but through a shared faith, a commitment to education and entrepreneurship, and a genuine belief in the values espoused in our nation’s founding documents, we have consistently overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to consistently make a space for ourselves in this nation’s landscape.
The simple truth is, the way forward for Blacks, and America as a whole, is an adherence to educational flexibility, common sense criminal justice, and free market economic policies that support generational mobility. However, we can’t engage with a community without acknowledging who they are and being conscious of how conservative ideals speak to them directly. We must seek to nurture relationships within the African American community and not depend on flyover slogans and hashtag social media campaigns to bridge the divide. If we truly believe that we are the side that offers the most opportunity, then we must build genuine and lasting relationships as well as speak in terms of opportunity. We must focus more on what conservatives have to offer more than how liberals have failed to deliver.
We need to move from the general language that conservative ideals offer the most “freedom”, “liberty” and “opportunity for all”. Instead, we need to speak specifically about why those ideals can and will work for African Americans in the 21st century. For the parents who want to provide their child with the most educational opportunities possible, to the young entrepreneur who is looking to take their tech idea from possibility to actuality, conservatism offers progress. For those seeking safe and affordable homes and neighborhoods, conservatism offers stability. For a community that has been long been crushed under the weight of failed liberal policies, conservative policy proposals would create the environment for African Americans to do more than what they’ve been able to accomplish in the face of overt opposition. Conservatism offers the most promise.