Opinion | Black conservatives shun Republicans

One night during my freshman year, in the theater-lit auditorium of our historically black university, a student explained why he was a Republican. This occasion was one of his required civics seminars for the semester. The topic was the country’s two-party system. He was joined by other panelists, several undergraduates and several faculty members, all of whom took issue with his political party of choice. The audience would be tough, since the Republican brand is not respected among many black Americans, but he gave it an old-school collegiate try.

His reasoning seemed correct. He said the Republican Party was a good fit because of its commitment to business and entrepreneurship. By his light, they can realize the American Dream in ways that governments cannot or will not. He had proof. Struggling to pay for his used textbooks last semester, he spent his remaining few dollars on soap, ladders, buckets and brushes. And he left. He earned enough money to go door-to-door cleaning windows and buy books, creating a more useful source of income than the federal loan repayments he received.

The hall, full of aspiring professionals with entrepreneurial ideas, was waiting for what should have been an unpleasant part, and a small murmur arose. The professor on the other side of the stage, with the gentle demeanor of an elder, quietly questioned the murmur and said: But what if he didn’t get the federal loan, would he come here tonight, and what if he fell and broke his arm or leg or whatever? You may be a conservative, but I doubt you’re a Republican. ”

This obvious difference made the room feel fresh. The shortcut in modern American politics has long been that conservatives are Republicans. Being on the one hand means being on the other hand. Even us freshmen knew that. Also, that most Republicans are white, that they have surrendered leadership on civil rights to Democrats, and that the threats they see to their way of life always look like ours. We also knew. And we had conservatives in our family, and one or two of us were Republicans, whether it was because of our religion or tradition or because we were pro-business or self-reliant. We have now touched on the distinction between philosophy and party.

Today, many Republicans are forced to make the distinction themselves. Are they in the Republican Party because they believe in small government and austerity, or because they don’t like certain people who benefit from their taxes? Is it because individualism and law and order are the basis of a free society, or is it because they are used to suppress others? Whatever the answer, it is all about principles. If there is no animosity, why are 85 percent of Republican voters and 90 percent of the Republican caucus white? Even as freshmen back then, we knew a lot of black people with conservative values. Why don’t they belong to the “Conservative” party?

In today’s Republican Party, principled conservatism coexists with racial grievances. And the leadership is increasingly loyal to those who stormed the Capitol. It has become a cult of personality. It is led by its standard-bearer, Donald Trump, who is no longer his representative’s most public approximation of what it means to be a conservative. The special strain of American conservatism that is theatrical, intolerant, and doesn’t care if it breaks a leg is currently dominant within the party and cannot escape the spotlight.

Black conservatism, perhaps similar to the version its students practiced on stage, is proof that other, better versions exist. It practices moral individualism and is more concerned with independence and self-determination than with group differences. They don’t like being told what to do. The desires of the organization and authority figures are not often considered in decision-making. And it is admirable to prioritize certain public presentations, such as language, dress, and etiquette, in hopes of improving opportunities and outcomes, equality and justice.

There is a flip side. Black conservatives are policing the public image of Black America, shaming those who conform to negative stereotypes. They support harsher criminal penalties for lawbreakers. They are conservatives, after all. Law and Order makes a cameo appearance.

But one thing black conservatism doesn’t have is colorblindness. We know that racism is real and we believe we are playing into all kinds of disparities. healthcare and education. Business and Criminal Justice. I know what the Civil War was about and why banning books is a bad thing. and that people in democratic societies have a responsibility to each other, especially those whose histories have been shaped by intentional deprivation of freedom. It doesn’t look much like the Republican Party today.

Or the Republican Party when I was a freshman in college. That is why the students on stage created such memorable characters. He acknowledged that there was a racial problem in the party, but acted as if his bootstraps and dedication to business with buckets and brushes and soap and ladders could whitewash it. Many principled conservatives now support something similar, pushing the party’s growing challenge to democracy behind the scenes. Elect party leaders who banish selectionism over partisanship. The party’s devotion to celebrities who deliver angry monologues about those who need to be put in their place deepens.

The audience in the auditorium that night was tough, but we wanted nothing but the success of our conservative classmates. And for his silent traveling companions scattered throughout the hall and across the country today. To the very small number of people who insist on playing a role in today’s Republican Party and hope to rebuild it in a new and more welcoming light: “Good luck, brother.” I’ll break my leg.

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