In my political journey from idealistic stalwart Democrat to die-hard conservative, I have paid little price for my convictions, chiefly because I tend to keep my political opinions to myself and don’t really feel like arguing with ill-informed people who will naturally doubt my Black “bonafides” if I publicly admit my conservative position. The neighborhood Black barbershop is not really the place you want to advertise your political views too openly unless you have the stomach and the patience for being viewed as an Uncle Tom. Unlike my fellow former ex-PUMA compatriot Afrocity, my little blog doesn’t attract the ire of those seeking to either educate or vilify me. She is, after all, a double traitor to the Democratic political plantation, being both Black and a Woman. Surely she must be either dreadfully deluded or deliciously deranged… and those are the nicer things that are said of her. She says so well what many think of Black conservatives / Republicans:
Ooops. I’ ve gone and lost my blackness again. Where did it go? I am a racist too. Now, according to this brutha, I can no longer call myself Afrocity. The statement above is self-explanatory when it comes to illustrating how African Americans place restrictions on one another in terms of political freedom. On the blackness radar, the bias is in favor of black Democrats. Anything else, is an imitation.
Yup… according the prevailing ideology that dominates the media, academia, political discourse, cultural memes, the NAACP, and any and all voices that somewhere somehow feel they have some right to define what Black is, being a conservative or failing to tow the party line is only possible if you hand in your Black card.
Unfortunately for them, I am Black whether they like it or not. One of the true triumphs of the Civil Rights movement is that no one gets to decide for me who I am, where I can go, where I can eat, and where I stop to pee! I’m certainly not going to allow all the marching, praying, firehose facing, singing, petitioning, crying, and working that my parents and grandparents did be essentially wasted by spitting on their sacrifice by shutting down the very good brain God gave me and allowing myself to have an identity foisted upon me because of the color of my skin and the history of my people.
I remember walking into the house one day as a child chanting loudly (who knows where I heard it), “Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m proud.” Strong words and needed words from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown who helped redeem and recapture the God-given beauty of what it meant to be Black. For those who don’t know, to be called BLACK was largely a pejorative term in those days among Black people. The worse thing a child could be (especially if she were a girl) was BLACK and have nappy hair, and God only help her if she was “heavyset.” The word BLACK spewed from snarled Negro lips with a combination of pity and disdain that is hard for some to imagine. “Oooh that girl is so BLACK!“ And what passed for a compliment, “She’s pretty to be so BLACK!”
It was an empowering thing to Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m proud! except my mother, in her inimitable way stopped us in our tracks. She said to us flatly and matter of factly, “You didn’t have anything to do with being Black. Do something with yourself and then you can be proud of that.” Well that shut our chanting down and her words have stuck with me until today.
Did my mother have some residual self-hate that she projected onto us? Was she somehow in denial of the beauty of her own Blackness? It would be hard to argue that a woman who would one day doff a bouffant wig and the next day leave the house with her neatly cut natural hair with her boys and husband all decked out in dashiki’s she made for
them felt any particular disdain for Black beauty and culture. What was more profound was rather that being Black was for her just a thing. The history of overcoming oppression and discrimination was something to be celebrated to be sure, but race was never a card to be played as an excuse for slovenly or slothful behavior.
But there is a word of caution here also for my fellow conservatives of the non-ethnic minority variety. The reason I embrace conservatism is not because I have somehow adopted a color-blind, America is great, racism is a thing of the past lens of our nation. My ethnicity matters to me a lot and the chief thing that draws me to conservative thought is that I see it as the best way to finally free my people, BLACK people, from the oppressive chains of tyrannical do-gooderism that has been the bane of our existence since we were first forcibly brought to these shores. I do not agree with race husksters who make their living pedaling grievance and victimhood, but there are indeed real barriers, racial, economic, and cultural to the idea of bootstrapping one’s way into the middle class.
It is not easy nor empowering to live one’s life when the totality of imagery you see of yourself in popular media is negative. Conservatism and the Republican Party are not served well by being represented over and again by men who’s accents remind us too readily and easily of those same Southern sheriffs who blocked school room doors, and when your economic history includes always having an unemployment rate that is at recession levels, there certainly is not a lot of audience for the idea of cutting taxes for those who seem to already have it made.
The history of Blacks in this country has been the history of struggle, almost perpetually. And while I know that conservative approaches to economics and cultural issues offer the best solution for what ails, I also know that it feels insulting when I’m told to somehow “forget” my race and view myself only as an American when race has been the defining reality of my people’s collective life since we’ve arrived. For better or worse (and as a conservative I say for worse)the federal government has been the chief guarantor and benefactor of Black Americans in this country. When private employers offered disparate pay, the federal government did not. When other places were segregated, the federal government was the first to desegregate. And when advocates of states’ rights and individualism were standing in school house doors railing against the overreaching power of the federal government, it was those same feds showed up. Conservatives will never tap into the wellspring of natural conservative leaning Black people unless and until that history, and the current reality, is addressed.