Godfrey Mwakikagile, Black Conservatives in The United
The Other Voices Within and Without
IT MAY NOT BE many of them, but disillusionment with the Republican party has forced some blacks to renounce their
membership in a party they feel best represents their interests and those of black America articulated from a conservative
Yet to most blacks, the core of the conservative philosophy that has found forceful expression in policies formulated
and implemented by the Republican party is at variance with what they perceive to be their best interests, contrary to what
black conservatives contend, as we have learned in the preceding chapters.
Some of the black conservatives who have made a dramatic exit from the GOP include Faye Anderson, a lawyer and political
activist of some "prominence" within the Republican party although the role she played has been dismissed as peripheral by
a number of Republicans themselves including her detractors who may consider her to be an apostate or simply a liberal infiltrator.
As she said about the Republican party and its warm embrace of racists while at the same time saying it wanted minorities
You can't get the Republican leaders to
listen. This is an issue that is of keen concern to me and a lot of people. You can't talk about inclusion when under that
tent are people who'd just as soon see us hanging from a tree.1
Her remarks came after a report in The
Washington Post in December 1998 said that United
States Senate Republican majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, U.S. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Congressman
Bob Barr of Georgia, and other leading white Republicans - including former governors Guy Hunt of Alabama and Kirk Fordice
of Mississippi - were affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a far-right wing organization founded in
Atlanta, Georgia, in 1985 but now based in St. Louis, Missouri, and which is the reincarnation of the notoriously racist White
Citizens' Council which terrorized and killed blacks and civil rights workers, including whites, in Mississippi and other
parts of the south in the fifties and sixties.
It was established by former activists in the segregationist White Citizens' Council and preaches white supremacy and
separatism. Its leader, attorney Gordon Lee Baum, was an organizer and field director for the White Citizens' Council and
established the Council of Conservative Citizens largely by contacting and recruiting old members of the White Citizens' Council
from the council's old mailing list.
Faye Anderson's departure from the Republican party inevitably came after some soul searching led her to conclude
that she was a member a party that couldn't care less about blacks and other minorities. And as Michael Tomasky stated in
his article in National Interest, which was also published in New York Magazine:
For all their talk of a big tent, most Republicans
still don't get it about race - as witness the Senate majority leader's disinclination to renounce white supremacists.2
In fact, even the national chairman
of the Republican party, Jim Nicholson, denounced the Council of Conservative Citizens as "racist" and called on anyone with
ties to the organization to sever them. And a number of congressmen sponsored a resolution in the House to "condemn the racism
and bigotry" of the organization.
But out of more than 120 co-sponsors of the resolution, only nine were Republicans, further confirming fears among
blacks that the Republican party was racist and did not care about them. And the resolution was killed even before it got
to the House floor, blocked by Republican leaders in a Republican-dominated Congress.
Trent Lott said he would not support a resolution condemning the Council of Conservative Citizens, and added, "if they
start on one group or one kind, I don't think that's wise." Yet he did not hesitate to vote for a similar resolution in Congress
in 1994 denouncing Black Nation of Islam leader Khalid Muhammad for his anti-Semitic remarks. Trent's ties to the Council
of Conservative Citizens drew national attention when it was revealed that he was a regular attendant at the council's events
and addressed its members several times.
The organization's literature and web sites, and its activities in other forums, consistently promote the genetic
and intellectual superiority of whites over blacks and other non-whites. Therefore it is not surprising that it fully endorsed
Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's highly inflammatory book, The Bell Curve, in which the authors
contend that black people have lower IQs than whites for genetic reasons.
In fact, the founder of the White Citizens' Council, Robert B. Patterson who established the first White Citizens'
Council in Indianola, Mississippi, in July 1954, became a founding member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and
even today continues to write racist articles about blacks in publications of the CCC.
Within two years, by August 1956, the White Citizens' Council had chapters in 30 states. And like its predecessor,
the Council of Conservative Citizens also has nationwide membership and strongly supports Republican candidates and policies.
As the founders of the Council of Conservatives Citizens clearly stated when they first met in Atlanta, Georgia, in
1985, they were opposed to government "giveaway programs, special preferences and quotas, crack-related crime and single mothers
and third-generation welfare mothers dependent on government checks and food stamps," in pointed reference to blacks, as the
coded language they used clearly shows.
That also is a typical Republican agenda - and strategy of appealing to white voters - black conservatives support
as if being black means absolutely nothing to them, although it does to whites in the Republican party, to which black conservatives
belong, and elsewhere across the country.
And not surprisingly, many of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) members are Republicans or support the Republican
party. Democratic state legislators from Mississippi and elsewhere have also spoken at the organization's meetings, and some
of them are members, although their party, the Democratic party, is seen by many whites as being too sympathetic toward blacks
and other minorities at their expense.
The only difference is that while Republican leaders of national stature have addressed members of the CCC at their
meetings, Democratic national leaders have not; for example, Bob Barr, a prominent Republican congressman and former prosecutor,
spoke at the organization's national board meeting in Charleston, South Carolina in 1998.
David Duke, a well-known white supremacist and member of the Republican party, is also one of the people who have addressed
members of the the Council of Conservative Citizens at its meetings at the invitation of the organization's leadership. Others
include leaders of the Christian Identity and several other white supremacist organizations, including Richard Butler of the
Jared Taylor, editor of the racist publication American
Renaissance, has also spoken at the CCC meetings.
His organization, American Renaissance, contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. And when David Duke addressed
a meeting of the South Carolina chapter of the CCC at Clemson University, he publicly urged its members to fight for their
Among the CCC members and supporters are many Republican leaders although they have been described as low-level in
the Republican party (GOP). Still, that does little to shed the GOP's racist image among many people, especially blacks, when
it has some of its people - including leaders - as members and sympathizers of a racist organization such as the Council of
And when Trent Lott spoke at the council's meeting, he explicitly told its members that they represent "the right
ideals and the right philosophy," and also told them, "we need more meetings like this...The people in this room
stand for the right principles and the right philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction and our children will be the
beneficiaries,"3 knowing full well that it was a racist organization.
His intention was obvious, and he showed his true colors and exactly where he stood on the subject of race, as he clearly
demonstrated later when he spoke with nostalgia about the good ol' days of Senator Strom Thurmond when the South Carolina
senator was an avowed segregationist, paying him the highest compliment by saying had Thurmond won the presidency, "we would
not have all these problems we have today," meaning integration and racial equality, with blacks having the right to be treated
as equal citizens and even take whites to court.
In all its ideological essentials, and the tactics it uses to appeal to white sentiments against blacks and other minorities,
the Council of Conservative Citizens is an advanced version of the Republican party in its purest form. It is white, while
the Republican party which has a sprinkling of blacks and other minorities is considered even by whites themselves to be a
party for whites that best protects their interests against blacks and other non-whites.
And the similarities in the political manifestos of the two organizations are striking, although the Republican party
is not openy racist but is adept at sending subliminal messages to whites using coded language to mobilize them against minority
interests of blacks and other non-whites. As the Anti-Defamation League which investigates hate groups and compiles reports
on them states in its assessment of the Council of Conservative Citizens:
Since its inception in the mid-1980s, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) has cloaked itself in the mantle of
mainstream conservatism to mask its underlying racist agenda. The CCC bills itself as a 'grassroots' organization working
on issues of concern to conservatives, such as opposition to affirmative action, 'big' government, gun control, and increased
The CCC co-opts both the language and issues of conservative causes to camouflage the true aim of the organization,
which is to regain what it sees as the lost power base of the white population of the United States....A pro-white and anti-minority
stance is at the heart of every CCC chapter.
A racist political group, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), has been making waves in the national media ever
since it became known that mainstream politicians such as Senator Trent Lott (Republican-Mississippi) and Representative Bob
Barr (Republican-Georgia) were keynote speakers at CCC conferences. According to the CEO of the CCC, Gordon Lee Baum, Senator
Lott has addressed the group a number of times, and Representative Barr made an appearance in front of the group in 1998....
In a recent interview in The Washington
Post, Gordon Baum reportedly said, 'Do we have
a few members who might have been in the Klan? Probably - but so what? None are leaders.' Mr. Baum is once again masking the
truth - various heads of CCC chapters are well plugged in to the extremist network of groups whose philosophy meshes with
that of the Klan....
Considerably more polished than traditional extremist groups, the Council of Conservative Citizens propounds its bigotry
in the guise of hot-button conservative advocacy. Striking hard-right positions on such contentious issues as...affirmative
action, the organization has insinuated itself into the mainstream successfully enough to attract a number of prominent conservative
politicians to its gatherings....
An examination of the origins, membership and publications of CCC suggests that it remains...squarely within Southern
racist traditions. While not every CCC chapter may be equally extreme, all are founded on anti-minority bigotry. The roots
of the CCC rest in white opposition to integration during the civil rights movement....
The beliefs of the CCC fall within the racially charged tradition of its predecessor (White Citizens' Council) but
reflect contemporary fears of its constituency....CCC members focus on issues like interracial marriage, which the group calls
'mongrelization of the races'; black-on-white violence; and the demise of white Southern pride and culture, best exemplified
n the debate about the Confederate flag....
Both on its national and chapter Web sites and its primary publication, The Citizens Informer,
CCC's belief in white superiority and its derision of of nonwhites, particularly African Americans, are delienated without
apology....The Citizens Informer is edited by Sam Francis, formerly a controversial Washington Times columnist who was eventually dismissed for defending slavery....
By appealing to widespread resentments (against minorities, especially blacks) and successfully attracting prominent
conservatives, the Council of Conservative Citizens has been able to recruit numbers of relatively moderate individuals into
an organization that maintains strong connections with extremists.
Its record demonstrates that CCC has not tried to break away from its racist antecedents. Instead, it has adopted
not only its predecessor's racial attitudes but also its strategies, deriving from them the tools to advance a racist agenda
from the grassroots to the senior levels of government.4
That is why some of its members and supporters
are prominent national leaders, especially Republicans. In essence, the Council of Conservative Citizens is the Republican
party itself in its crudest form, although the GOP, unlike the CCC, does not use overtly racist language. But its use of race
to mobilize white support for the Republican agenda hostile toward minority interests is no different from what the Council
of Conservative Citizens does.
And the policies it advocates - for example against affirmative action, immigration and 'big' government - are the
same policies advocated by the Council of Conservative Citizens. So is the exclusion of blacks from the two organizations
although, here again, the Republican party does not openly say it does not want blacks as its members. But its unwillingness
to reach out to blacks and recruit them into the GOP achieves exactly the same objective.
It must also be emphasized that white extremist groups support the Republican party and its policies for very good
reasons, as much as Barry Goldwater appealed to these very same groups during his 1964 presidential campaign enabling him
to win all six southern states where opposition to civil rights for blacks was strongest.
That is why even the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups endorsed Ronald Reagan when he first ran for president in 1980.
And that is why white supremacists such as David Duke and others as well as their followers are members of the Republican
party. They know what they have in common: hostility toward blacks more than anybody else.
These are some of the reasons why some blacks have left the Republican party or have simply stopped to actively
participate in its activities even if they have not formally renounced their membership in the GOP; they should have known,
of course, even before they joined the party what the party was all about just like the majority of blacks know. Some, of
course, like Faye Anderson, have left the Republican party with a lot of noise, complaining about the racism within the party
and toward blacks. She made that clear when she left the GOP.
And a few years later when commenting on the forthcoming 2004 general election, she said "Republicans have a race
problem. The white swing voters will not support a party that appears harsh, so they use black and brown faces to appeal to
white voters, not to take care of those voters."5
Another defector who may also have gained notoriety in conservative circles for being a turncoat is Oklahoma journalist
and columnist Richard Dixon. Neither of them - he or Faye Anderson - may have been a political heavyweight even among fellow
black conservatives in the Republican party, let alone in the party itself where they don't even "exist" according to many
white Republicans who simply tolerate them. But the defection of both or of any other blacks from the party, if their departure
can be called a defection at all or simply a rude awakening to reality, dramatizes the plight blacks face not only within
the Republican party but in the country as a whole at the hands of Republicans especially when they are in power.
Blacks constitute only a small percentage of the Republican party membership. Therefore, even if all of them left
the party, it would not be an exodus, but only a trickle that went in, and that is now flowing out. It hasn't happened, of
course. But it is important to know what some of the black conservatives who have left the party have to say about their black
ideological compatriots. As Richard Dixon, who describes himself as "a former black conservative," stated in his article in
Black Oklahoma Today:
Black conservatism finds its roots in White conservatism. Its elements are a total belligerency to present day black
leadership, an indifferent attitude to the historic struggle of the African-American experience, an elitist view of the urban
poor, and a total disconnection with the black populace in general....
It is from a white elitist perspective that black conservatives like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and Shelby
Steele derive their notions about the state of Black America in this country. They harbor, embrace, and validate these notions
to the detriment of African-Americans and add fuel to a widening racial polarization.6
Whatever credibility black conservatives may have had in the black community, and that's highly questionable, has been
eroded, compromised or impaired, not by their lack of ideological clarity - other blacks know exactly what they are saying
- but by their ideological bankruptcy since they have nothing new to offer and have not come up with any innovative solutions
to address the problems of black America in a race-conscious society where the majority of whites put a premium on race as
they continue to harbor racist attitudes, and attitudes of superiority, toward blacks even if they are not overtly racist.
Such criticism of black conservatives does not come only from liberals, black and white, but also from some black Republicans
themselves. They include John Wilks, a prominent black Republican who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and who
dismisses the claim that black conservatives have generated new ideas and have become prominent in the media and in other
forums on merit and for their ideological contribution.
He had this to say about black conservatives, as quoted by The New York Times: "They merely
say they're conservative, say they're opposed to affirmative action and are immediately picked up by a right-wing white sponsor."7
Their emphasis on self-reliance is
nothing new to blacks. Black people have been self-reliant since slavery. They are survivors. They have survived the worst.
And they continue to survive, and thrive, without being lectured by whites, liberal or conservative. Black conservatives'
blistering attack on welfare dependency among blacks, as if most blacks are on welfare, is also misleading, even if valid
in a limited context.
Most blacks, even the poorest of the poor, work. They are not on welfare. Yet when many whites hear black conservatives
talk the way they do, they feel vindicated in their stereotypical view of "all" blacks as lazy, nursed on the welfare tit.
And their attack on affirmative action - contending, as white conservatives and many other whites do, that it is racism
in reverse - has no rhetorical or substantive appeal to the majority of blacks who, from cumulative and daily experience,
know that racism is an enduring phenomenon in a country where they are not fully accepted by whites as equal citizens for
no reason other than that they are black descended from slaves who were brought to America in chains to work for whites.
Little has changed in this asymmetrical relationship between blacks and whites in terms of perceptions: master versus
slave or servant; hence Derrick Bell's description of blacks as "faces at the bottom of the well," and Cornel West's "race
matters," and much more. Racial justice is an ideal that has yet to be attained. Black conservatives contend otherwise, setting
them apart from their brethren in the inner cities and elsewhere.
Even their attempts to claim some renowned black leaders as fellow conservatives have not been very successful,
if at all. For example, they claim that Malcolm X was a conservative like them because he taught self-reliance. Yet they forget
that he identified himself with the masses, the grassroots, the poor, while they don't. They are detached from their own people.
He was not. They are elitist. Malcolm X was not. They dismiss racism, saying it is not a serious problem in the lives of black
people. Malcolm X said it was. He took it very seriously and never believed that white people will ever accept
blacks as equals. He was down-to-earth, with the poorest of the poor in the ghetto. He never forgot his roots. That's why
he said, in one of his speeches, "I like small people."
The kind of conservatism black conservatives ascribe to leaders such as Malcolm X, and even Dr.W.E.B. DuBois and Booker
T. Washington, simply because they taught self-reliance, is political conservatism which ignores race as a fundamental reality
in the lives of black people; something these leaders never did.
They contend that black people have always been conservative; which is true in some respects. But they are social
conservatives, supporting strong family values as clearly demonstrated by their strong ties to the church among other things,
and the work ethic they have always upheld and cherished since slavery. They are not political conservatives
of the red-neck type like black conservatives are.
And because of their bitter experience at the hands of racists who wanted to uphold states' rights, so that they can
do whatever they want to do to blacks in their own states without federal intervention, the majority of blacks believe the
federal government has an important role to play to guarantee their rights as equal citizens in a country where they have
yet to be accorded full status as fellow Americans by millions of whites who don't consider them to be full human beings or
as their equal.
Therefore, much as black conservatives talk about self-reliance, they are seen by many other blacks as mere puppets
of white racists who couldn't care less if all blacks vanished from the face of the earth today. As Professor Sherri Smith
of the University of Alabama in Huntsville who, apprehensive of the black conservative phenomenon, studied black conservatives
for two years stated in "Blacks Wary of New Black 'Conservatives'":
Many so-called 'black conservatives' receive
the label simply because they believe in self-help. They don't say the system or the government should take care of everyone.
Thus, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others are erroneously labeled black conservatives....The
problem many African-Americans have with these 'conservatives' is that they appear to air the problems of the black community
to the entire nation without offering any real solutions.8
Perhaps no one exemplifies the anomalous
position of black conservatives, in relation to black America, as Glenn Loury. A professor of economics at Boston University,
formerly at Harvard, he was one of America's most well-known black conservatives whose role as a leading public intellectual
- he calls the term public intellectual "oxymoronic" - included testifying before Congress offering solutions to Black America's
He left the conservative movement and became "a progressive," as he put it; neither liberal nor conservative, although
he began to articulate views acceptable to liberals and, in fact, sounded like one, thus incurring the wrath of his former
colleagues in the conservative movement.
As a conservative, he was against affirmative action and even worked for the Reagan administration. After his ideological
change, he wrote a book, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality,9 in which he says the problem black people face is not just racial discrimination
but a much more complex problem of what he calls "racial stigma" because of the kind of image whites have of African Americans
as unequal. And this perception has a profound impact on policy far more than what blacks themselves really are.
Unlike in his previous years when he was a conservative, he now says in his book that color-blind policies cannot solve
the problem of racial inequalities because they do not take into account the harm caused to blacks as an oppressed minority
throughout their history in the United States when their mistreatment was an accepted way of life. And it still is, in many
The way whites view blacks only makes matters worse, reinforcing the stigma associated with being black - the racial
identity of a people who have always been considered inferior - thus justifying discrimination against them.
Therefore being black is a problem by itself. Loury now contends that the problems of black America will not be fully
addressed without taking race into account; a repudiation of his earlier position when he was a conservative. It also amounts
to acceptance of liberal orthodoxy which has always embraced race as part of the solution to America's racial dilemma, a democratic
nation yet which has not fully accepted blacks as equal citizens.
He has undergone quite a transformation from what he was before. He even supported the University of Michigan in its
pro-affirmative action case which went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
He may not call himself a liberal, but he now supports liberal policies on a number of issues including racial preferences,
in school admissions, for example, in spite of lower grades of the minority applicants; which explains why his former colleagues
in the conservative movement have been so harsh in their criticism of him and his new ideological position.
His reassessment of his earlier political beliefs, and the indifference of conservatives toward the plight of black
America especially the underclass, have led him to examine the attitudes of whites and the social patterns which reinforce
negative stereotypes of blacks as a people not worthy of trust and membership on equal basis in the American society. They
are "the other America," to use Michael Harrington's term - also the title of his book10 - in a slightly different
context; Harrington used the term to embrace all poor people across racial lines.
Loury says some people - whites in this context - see the problems of some groups - read, black people - face are part
of their nature. Therefore nothing can be done about them. Just ignore them. And that is one of the major problems blacks
face: society's unwillingness to help them solve their problems by providing them with opportunities including remedial measures
to correct racial injustice or mitigate its effects; hence the need for affirmative action and other race-conscious solutions
to the perennial problems of race in America.
It is a radical departure from his past. He says over the past 50 years, the United States has repudiated white
racism; he obviously starts with the Brown vs. Board
of Education US Supreme Court ruling in 1954 that
outlawed segregation. But such repudiation has been limited to overt racism without addressing a deeper problem: assumptions
about the nature of blacks which shape white attitudes toward African Americans as an inferior group. And that stigmatizes
blacks, limiting opportunities for them. He also concedes that he himself has been subjected to indignities because of his
racial identity as an African American.
His departure from the conservative movement occurred in the mid-1990s following publication of three books by
conservatives which he found to be deeply flawed intellectually. The first one was The Bell Curve11 by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray; Dinesh D'Souza's End of Racism,12 and America
in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible13 by Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom; the last book was published in
It was actually The Bell Curve, published in 1994, and The End of Racism, published in 1996,
which prompted his departure from the conservative movement, with the Thernstroms' work only adding fuel to the fire a few
years later. Publication of The End
of Racism led to Loury's resignation from the conservative
American Enterprise Institute which sponsored D'Souza's book. And he was highly critical of The Bell Curve which
he said was full of errors and contained "sweeping conclusions based on poor science." Finally, he said he was disturbed by
what he regarded as intellectual lapses and racist content of America in Black and White by the
On a personal level, his re-examination of conservatism was profoundly influenced by one of his relatives, Uncle
Fred, an elderly figure on the South Side of Chicago where Glenn Loury grew up in the black community. One day he said he
visited his uncle who was very uncomfortable with Loury's political orientation and conservative philosophy. The uncle said
to him: "I don't see us in anything you do. It's like we're the whipping boy for you, like you're exploiting your insider
status as a black to give comfort to all these people who hate us. Why are you doing that?"14
Although his break with fellow conservatives
may have been prompted by the publication of anti-black books in the mid-1990s, Loury said he had for many years been troubled
by the position articulated by his fellow conservatives on a number of issues involving race. Why he remained within the conservative
movement, with such doubts, is not fully explained. He says he did not have the courage to fully state his position, although
he did when left the conservative movement. Some people may feel that a plausible explanation is that he did not leave before
because he was still a conservative at heart despite his disagreements with fellow conservatives on race.
Yet, despite his ideological re-orientation away fom conservatism, Loury says his new position on race does not
contradict his previous analysis of the problems of race, personal responsibility and other issues, stating: "I still believe
in taking personal responsibility, in blacks dealing with the dysfunctional behaviors in their communities." But he also concedes
that there were "flaws in my earlier arguments."15
His admission that there were flaws
in his previous ideological position has drawn some of the sharpest responses from his former colleagues in the conservative
movement in which he was considered to be a leading black conservative intellectual. As Richard Higgins stated in "Breaking
Ranks: Glenn Loury's Change of Heart and Mind": "That explanation does not wash with most black conservatives, some of whom
have savaged Loury for his defection. In its review of The
Anatomy of Racial Inequality, The Wall Street Journal accused Loury of 'trashing his former black colleagues' and called the book a 'turgid 226-page effort
to intellectualize 'blame-whitey' explanations for the state of black America.'"16
Loury turned to neo-conservatism because
he was disillusioned with the civil rights movement. But he did not find a comfortable home in the conservatism movement because
he still cared about the poor in the inner cities and the racial predicament all blacks are trapped in, because of the unwillingness
of the white majority to live up to the ideals of liberty and equality for all, also embracing African Americans who are still
considered to be outcasts in their own country and the only one they have known as home. As Paul Krugman, in trying to explain
Loury's dilemma - trapped between the dogmatic left and the dogmatic right - states in his article, "Glenn Loury's Round Trip:
The Travails and Temptations of A Black Intellectual":
The dogmatic rigidity, left and right, that has left Loury without an ideological home is also why this nation has
such a hard time talking honestly about race.
Reading Loury's dissertation today, 22 years after he wrote it (in 1976), is a depressing experience
- precisely because the essays were so good and remain so relevant. In the first few pages, he stated the central dilemma
of race policy in modern America. He was willing to give American society the benefit of the doubt, to assume that in the
future, racism - direct economic discrimination - would no longer be a major force holding African-Americans back. But he
argued that this probably would not be enough; therein lay the dilemma.
On one hand, we all believe that individuals deserve to be judged on their own merits, not by who their parents
were or what group they belong to. On the other hand, anyone who imagines that a child growing up in the South Bronx has the
same chance to make it as an equally talented child growing up in Scardsdale is living in a fantasy world. So merely eliminating
current racial discrimination might very well fail to eliminate the effects of past discrimination.
Indeed, Loury argued persuasively that even a world of 'equal opportunity' might 'perpetuate into the indefinite future
the consequences of ethically unacceptable historical practices.' If you find that prospect unacceptable, you must support
some form of social engineering - which ultimately, no matter how you package it, means giving some people special consideration
based on the color of their skin as well as on the content of their character.
In a better world, Loury would have spent the last 22 years devising policies - working with other well-intentioned
people to come as close as possible to squaring this circle, finding ways to eliminate the legacy of past racism with as little
intrusion as possible on the colorblind ideal. But he has basically never been able to get off square one - because at no
point over the past two decades has he been able to find allies who are even willing to accept the reality of the dilemma.17
Loury's identification with conservatism started after the end of the civil rights movement when he felt that the
problems blacks faced also had to do with what was going on in the black community itself. Racism could not be blamed for
everything; nor could the past be blamed for one's failure to succeed in life. As he explicitly stated in 1990, in his book
One by One from the Inside Out when he was still affiliated with conservative organizations and think tanks,
"[we blacks] must let go of the past and take responsibility for our future."18 And that contradicted
You can't ignore the past. The present is the product of the past. Racism exists now as it did then and is an omnipresent
phenomenon, liberals contend. It penetrates every fibre of the American social fabric. Conservatives contend otherwise: racism
is not what it used to be. And where it exists, it does not impede progress because of equal opportunity now available to
That's a contradiction, of course. You can't have equal opportunity where racism exists. And if you insist that black
people have equal opportunity, you're saying racism no longer exists; or if it does, it is not a serious problem, if it's
one at all. That is the black conservative position. It is also the same position mainstream conservatives, that is white
conservatives and others on the ideological right, forcefully articulate, leaving them open to the charge that they are indifferent
to the plight of blacks people or simply don't care.
Ironically, it was a black liberal scholar, Professor William Julius Wilson at Harvard University,
a sociologist, who challenged liberal orthodoxy on race without being excommunicated from the liberal camp, mainly because
he continued to embrace liberal policies on many fundamental issues, including race itself.
In his book, The Declining Significance
of Race,19 written when Glenn
Loury was still studying for his Ph.D. in economics at MIT, Wilson contends that class is more important than race in the
destiny of blacks in the United States; a position equally and forcefully articulated by conservatives and Marxists, strange
bedfellows. As a true liberal of course, Wilson favors federal intervention in helping to alleviate the plight of the poor,
unlike conservatives including Loury when he was in the conservative camp.
Coincidentally, Thomas Sowell's Race
and Economics20 was published around the same time Wilson's book was, advancing similar arguments.
In his book, published in 1975, Sowell, a prominent black economics professor, contends that market forces, not race, are
the critical factor.
But whereas Sowell as a true conservative rules out race - for example, his contention in his book that employers hire
people on the basis of need and skills and not on the basis of race, thus levelling the playing field for blacks - Wilson
still sees race as a factor, but playing not significant a role as it once did; a thesis that comes pretty close to what conservatives
say. And that was Loury's position when came to be identified as a conservative, although with nuances to his argument about
race many people did not understand or simply ignored because he was in the conservative camp.
When Loury became a part of the mainstream conservative movement, many fellow blacks accused him of not caring about
the condition of his people trapped in poverty in the ghetto because of racism. Yet his conservatism was not of the color-blind
type even from the beginning when he moved to the right on the ideological spectrum; a point underscored by Krugman:
Loury's problems began with the left. Although his dissertation was written only a dozen years after passage of the
(1964) Civil Rights Act, he saw clearly that the problems facing African-Americans had changed. The biggest barrier to progress
was no longer active racism of whites but internal social problems of the black community. But black leaders, and to a lesser
extent liberalism as a whole, flatly refused even to contemplate that possibility. He also found powerful pressures - 'loyalty
tests' - operating against any black intellectual who tried to challenge the orthodxy.
To Loury's credit, he did not give in to these pressures. He said what he thought. In doing so, he found himself labeled
a 'black conservative' - and thereby exposed to new and dangerous seductions. Let's face it: Any articulate minority intellectual
who reliably espouses conservative positions is automatically offered a ticket to a very nice lifestyle.
No more rejections from picky academic journals or grubbing for sabbatical time. Instead there are cushy fellowships
at Hoover, guest editorials in The Wall Street Journal, and invited articles in Commentary - maybe even a regular
column in Forbes - and a steady stream of invitations to plush conferences in nice places. All
this and more lay before a bona fide academic star such as Loury. Until personal problems temporarily derailed him in 1987,
he was well on his way to high political office and all the rewards that brings in later life.
But at some point Loury made the discovery that eventually confronts every honest intellectual who gets drawn into
the political arena. The enemies of your enemies are not necessarily your friends. The Glenn Loury who wrote that 1976 thesis
was not a conservative. He criticized the simplistic anti-racism of the liberal establishment because he wanted society to
tackle the real problems, not because he wanted it to stand aside.
His seeming allies on the right, however, turned out to be interested only in the critique, not in the next step. According
to Loury, 'When I told one gathering of conservatives that their seeming hostility to every social program smacks of indifference
to the poor, I was told that a surgeon cannot properly be said to have no concern for a terminally ill patient simply because
he had moved on to the next case.' Loury found out that the apparent regard for his ideas by conservative intellectuals was
entirely conditional. Any questioning of conservative orthodoxy was viewed as an act of betrayal, giving aid and comfort to
the liberal enemy. It was the loyalty test all over again.
The final straw was surely the grotesque affair of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. This book came close to claiming that, given your genes, it makes no difference
to your economic success whether you grew up in Scarsdale or the South Bronx. The implied subtext was that this absolves society
from any responsibility to do something for children growing up in the South Bronx.
Since The Bell Curve was published, it has become clear that almost everything about it was inexcusably
wrong: suspect data, mistakes in statistical procedures that would have flunked a sophomore - Murray (Herrnstein is deceased)
clearly does not understand what a correlation coefficient means; deliberate suppression of contrary evidence, you name it.
Yet conservative publications such as Commentary, which was always happy to publish Loury when he criticized liberal evasions,
would not grant him space to critique The Bell Curve.
So Loury is now on his own, or rather, at the head of a small movement of like-minded people, centered on his new
Institute on Race and Social Division: rejected by the black political elite, which still wants to blame everything on white
racism, and equally rejected by a conservatism that wants to do precisely nothing about continuing racial inequality. And
the dilemma Loury identified so clearly 22 years ago remains not only unsolved but also unconfronted.21
With his dramatic shift to the liberal camp on fundamental issues of race, poverty, employment and education, to name
a few, one would assume that Loury would be fully embraced by liberals.
But there seems to be no such thing as accepting the return of the prodigal son probably among a significant number
of them because they don't feel that he has fully embraced liberal policies on all problems the way
they have, especially on race. As he stated in "Leadership Failure and the Loyalty Trap" in his book, One by One from the Inside Out, published in 1995 after his acrimonious debate with his fellow conservatives the previous year following
the publication of The Bell Curve which they defended, despite its intellectually and scientifically indefensible
thesis that black people are less intelligent than whites and members of others races because they have weak genes, a conflict
that led to his departure from the conservative movement:
They [black leaders] are fearful of engaging in a candid, critical appraisal of the condition of our people because
they do not want to appear to be disloyal to the race. But this rhetorical reticence has serious negative consequences for
the ability of blacks as a group to grapple with the real problems that confront us.
Moreover, it represents a failure of nerve in the face of adversity that may be more accurately characterized as
intellectual treason than racial fealty. After all, what more important obligation can the privileged class of black elites
have than to tell the truth to their own people?22
Still, despite such vitriolic condemnation of black leadership, which is mostly liberal, even after he left the conservative
movement, Loury is no longer the outcast he once was, and even made a dramatic re-entry into the liberal camp, at least in
public, at a place considered to be one of the main centers of liberalism, Harvard University, which also has a highly influential
institute of African American studies staffed by some of the most renowned black liberal scholars in the nation.
He was invited by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., head of the African-American Studies Center at Harvard, in
2000 to deliver the W.E.B. DuBois Lectures which were published by Harvard Universy Press as a book, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, which has become one of Loury's most influential works.
After his ideological shift, Loury conceded that the conservative analytical framework ignores the history of racism
in the United States, including contemporary racism. As he states: "Contemporary American society has inherited a racial hierarchy
- the remnant of a system of racial domination that has been supported by an array of symbols and meanings deleterious to
the reputation and self-image of blacks."23
But why did it take him so long to
realize that? He contends that nothing that he says or does now contradicts his earlier position. That is a contradiction
since he also says he has re-evaluated some of the things he said in the past and has found flaws in some of his arguments,
especially about race.
He obviously knew all along about the devastating impact racist white America has had on black America but still
believed that individuals, hence the title of his book One
by One from the Inside Out, would by sheer effort
be able to climb out of the quagmire of misery and poverty in the ghetto, from deep inside, in spite of racism.
That is probably why in 1990, as a true conservative, he testified before Congress against proposed civil rights legislation
that sought to introduce stronger legal measures against employment discrimination.
The proposed legislation did not even address the issue of the underclass in the ghetto, yet Loury linked the two,
arguing that such legislation would not solve "the real problem" which has to do with "drugs, criminal violence, educational
failure, homelessness, and family instability."24
But after his ideological conversion, he now states in The Anatomy of Racial Inequality:
"The 'conservative line' on race in America today is simplistic. [S]uch 'pathological' behavior by these most marginal of
Americans is deeply rooted in American history....[W]hile there may be a grain of truth in the insistence by conservatives
that cultural differences lie at the root of racial disparity in the United States, the deeper truth is that, for some three
centuries now, political, social, and economic institutions that by any measure must be seen as racially oppressive have distorted
the communal experience of the slaves and their descendants."25
Although he does not unequivocally state that he has embraced liberalism, some of the positions he has now taken after
his break with the ideological right are within the liberal tradition he once rejected and perhaps even despised because of
the intellectual myopia of its proponents, black and white, whom he then felt did not fully address, confront or understand
the problems of the underclass - a loaded, and often disparaging term preferred by conservatives - in the ghetto, and of black
people in general in a white-dominated society.
What he also probably did not understand was the irrelevancy of black conservatives and their solutions - including
his when he was in the conservative camp as a leading black conservative intellectual - to the problems of black America then
The refusal of blacks to vote for black Republican candidates - not one has ever won a congressional seat from a predominantly
black district - is just one example of the pariah status of black conservatives in the black community. They are an anomaly.
And their opposition to affirmative action and other programs supported by the majority of blacks sets them even farther apart
from their own people, while they remain anchored at the far end of the ideological spectrum characterized by right-wing ideology
insensitive to the interests of blacks and other minorities and the poor.
Even black conservative publications such as Headway, formerly National
Minority Politics, which drew a clear conservative
ideological line have never gained wide readership in the black community. Obviously, many blacks see them as "trash" or nothing
but propaganda by right-wing ideologues who don't care about blacks and simply use black conservatives to try and destroy
their own people.
That is one of the reasons, if not the main reason, why the black conservative journal
Headway ceased publication. If black people don't want to buy it, why continue publishing it?
Black conservatives have offered nothing new to black America. Self-reliance, which they preach so much and which is
probably their only rallying point for black support for their conservative agenda, has not helped them to win support in
the black community for one simple reason: most blacks are self-reliant, and they don't need to be taught self-reliance since
this virtue is deeply rooted in black American history since slavery. Besides their irrelevancy to the black community, if
they have any hidden agenda, it is no longer hidden. The majority of blacks see them as being insensitive to the racial problems
black America faces.
They also see them only as puppets, being used by white racists as attack dogs to insulate whites from charges of racism,
make their own people look bad by harping on "lack of values" in the inner cities, and blame the victims - blacks - for all
their problems including racism. The Republican policies they advocate are anathema to black America. They have, in fact,
condemned themselves to irrelevancy. And as Professor Cornel West states in "Unmasking the Black Conservatives":
The publication of Thomas
Sowell's Race and Economics in 1975 marked the rise of an aggressive and widely visible black conservative
assault on the traditional liberal leadership of blacks in the United States. The promotion of conservative ideas is not new
in Afro-American history. George S. Schuyler, for example, published a witty and acerbic column in an influential black newspaper,
the Pittsburgh Courier, for decades, and his book Black and Conservative is a minor
classic in Afro-American letters. And Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most renowned Afro-American woman writers, wrote reactionary
essays - some of which appeared in the Reader's
Digest - and gavce her allegiance to the Republican
party - facts overlooked by her contemporary feminist followers. Yet the bid for conservative hegemony in black political
and intellectual leadership that was initiated by Sowell's book represents a new development in the post-civil rights era.
The bid is as yet highly unsuccessful, though it has generated much attention from the American media. Besides
Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, other prominent figures
in the black conservative movement are Glenn C. Loury, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; Walter E. Williams,
a professor of economics at George Mason University; I.A. Parker, president of the Lincoln Institute for Research and Education,
Inc.; Robert Woodson, president of the National Association of Neighborhood Enterprises; and Joseph Perkins, editorial writer
for The Wall Street Journal. Though there are minor differences among these people, they all support the
basic policies of the Reagan administration, including the major foreign policies, the opposition to affirmative action, the
efforts to abolish the minimum wage, the proposals for enterprise zones in the inner cities, and the vast cutbacks in social
programs for the poor.
These publicists are aware of the irony of their position - that their own upward social mobility was, in large part,
made possible by the struggles of those in the civil rights movement and the more radical black activists they now scorn.
But they also realize that black liberalism is in a deep crisis. It is this crisis, exemplified by the rise of Reaganism and
the decline of progressive politics, that has created the intellectual space that the black conservative voices - along with
the non-black ones - now occupy.
The crisis of black liberalism and the emergence of the new black conservatives can best be understood in light of
three fundamental events in American society and culture since 1973: the eclipse of U.S. economic and military predominance
in the world; the structural transformation of the American economy; and the moral breakdown of communities throughout the
country, especially among the black working poor and underclass.
The symbolic events in the decline of American economic and military hegemony were the oil crisis, which resulted principally
from the solidarity of the OPEC nations, and the military defeat in Vietnam. Increasing economic competition from Japan, West
Germany and other nations ended the era of unquestioned U.S. economic power. The resultant slump in the American economy undermined
the Keynesian foundation of postwar American liberalism: economic growth accompanied by state regulation and intervention
on behalf of disadvantaged citizens.
The impact of the economic recession on Afro-Americans was immense. Not surprisingly, it more deeply affected the black
working poor and the underclass than the expanding black middle class. Issues of sheer survival loomed large for the former,
while the latter continued to seize opportunities in education, business and politics. Most middle-class blacks consistently
supported the emergent black political class - the black officials elected at the national, state and local levels - primarily
to ensure black upward social mobility. But a few began to feel uncomfortable about how their white middle-class peers viewed
them. Mobility by means of affirmative action breeds tenuous self-respect and and questionable peer acceptance for many middle-class
blacks. The new black conservatives voiced these feelings in the form of attacks on affirmative action programs, ignoring
the fact that they had achieved their positions by means of such programs.
The importance of this quest for middle-class respectability based on merit rather than politics cannot be overestimated
in the new black conservatism. The need of black conservatives to gain the respect of their white peers deeply shapes certain
elements of their conservatism. In this regard, they simply want what most Americans want - to be judged by the quality of
their skills, not the color of their skin. But surprisingly, the black conservatives overlook the fact that affirmative action
policies were political responses to the pervasive refusal of most white Americans to judge blacks on that basis.
The new black conservatives assume that without affirmative action programs, white Americans will make choices
on merit rather than race. Yet they have adduced absolutely no evidence for this: Hence, they are either politically naive
or simply unconcerned about black mobility. Most Americans realize that job-hiring choices are made both on reasons of merit
and on personal grounds. And it is this personal dimension that is often influenced by racist perceptions.
Therefore the pertinent debate regarding black hiring is never 'merit vs. race' but whether hiring decisions will be
based on merit, influenced by race-bias against blacks, or on merit, influenced by race-bias, but with special consideration
for minorities as mandated by law. in light of actual employment practices, the black conservative rhetoric about race-free
hiring criteria - usually coupled with a call for dismantling affirmative action mechanisms - does no more than justify actual
practices of racial discrimination. Their claims about self-respect should not obscure this fact, nor should they be regarded
as different from the normal self-doubts and insecurities of new arrivals in the American middle class.
It is worth noting that most of the new black conservatives are first-generation middleclass persons, who offer themselves
as examples of how well the system works for those willing to sacrifice and work hard. Yet, in familiar American fashion,
genuine peer acceptance still seems to escape them. In this regard, they are still influenced by white racism.
The eclipse of U.S. hegemony in the world is also an important factor for understanding black conservatives' views
on foreign policy. Although most of the press attention they receive has to do with their provocative views on domestic issues,
I would suggest that the widespread support black conservatives receive from Reaganite conservatives and Jewish neoconservatives
has much to do with their views on U.S. foreign policies. Though black conservatives rightly call attention to the butchery
of the bureaucratic elites in Africa, who rule in the name of a variety of ideologies, they reserve most of their energies
for supporting U.S. intervention in Central America and the U.S. alliance with Israel. Their relative silence regarding U.S.
policy of 'constructive engagement' with [apartheid] South Africa is also revealing.
The black conservatives' stance is significant in light of the glacial shift that has occurred in black America regarding
America's role in the world. A consequence of the civil rights movement and the Black Power ideology of the '60s was a growing
identification of black Americans with other oppressed peoples around the world. This has had less to do with a common skin
color and more to do with shared social and political experience.
Many blacks sympathize with Polish workers [in communist Poland]and Northern Irish Catholics [in Northern Ireland]
- despite problematic Polish-black and Irish-black relations in places like Chicago and Boston - and more and more blacks
are cognizant of how South Africa oppresses its native peoples, how Chile and South Korea repress their citizens, and how
Israel mistreats the Palestinians.
This latter identification especially worries conservatives. In fact, the radical consequences for domestic issues
of this growing black international consciousness - usually dubbed anti-Americanism by the vulgar right - frightens the new
black conservatives, who find themselves viewed in many black communities as mere apologists for pernicious U.S. policies.
The new black conservatives have rightly perceived that the black liberal leadership has not addressed these changes
in the economy. Obviously, the idea that racial discrimination is the sole cause of the predicament of the black working poor
and underclass is specious. And the idea that the courts and government can significantly alleviate the plight of blacks by
enforcing laws already on the books is even more spurious. White racism, though pernicious and potent, cannot fully explain
the socioeconomic position of the majority of black Americans.
The crisis of black liberalism is the result of its failure to put forward a realistic response to the changes in the
economy. The new black conservatives have highlighted this crisis by trying to discredit the black liberal leadership, arguing
that the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus and most black mayors are guided by outdated and
ineffective viewpoints. The overriding aim of the new black conservatives is to undermine the position of black liberals and
replace them with black Republicans, who downplay governmental regulation and stress market mechanisms and success-oriented
values in black communities.
Yet the new black conservatives have been unable to convince black Americans that conservative ideology and Reaganite
policies are morally acceptable and politically advantageous. The vast depoliticization and electoral disengagement of blacks
suggests that they are indeed disenchanted with black liberals and distrustful of American political processes; and a downtrodden
and degraded people with limited options may be ready to try any initiative. Nevertheless, black Americans have systematically
rejected the arguments of the new conservatives.
This is not because blacks are duped by liberal black politicians nor because blacks worship the Democratic party.
Rather, it is because most blacks conclude that while racial discrimination is not the sole cause of their plight, it certainly
is one cause. Thus, most black Americans view the new black conservative assault on the black liberal leadership as a step
backward rather than forward. Black liberalism indeed is inadequate, but black conservatism is unacceptable.
This negative reaction to black conservatives by most blacks partly explains the reluctance of the new black conservatives
to engage in public debates in the black community, and their contrasting eagerness to do so in the media, where a few go
so far as to portray themselves as courageous, embattled critics of a black liberal establishment - while their salaries,
honorariums and travel expenses are paid by well-endowed conservative foundations and corporations.
The new black conservatives have had their most salutary effect on public discourse by highlighting the breakdown of
the moral fabric in the country and especially in black working poor and underclass communities. Black organizations like
Jesse Jackson's PUSH have focused on this issue in the past, but the new black conservatives have been obsessed by it, and
thereby given it national attention. Unfortunately, they view this urgent set of problems in strictly individualistic terms,
and ignore the historical background and social context of the current crisis.
The black conservatives claim that the decline of values such as patience, hard work, deferred gratification and self-reliance
have resulted in the high crime rates, the increasing number of unwed mothers, and the relatively uncompetitive academic performances
of black youth. And certainly these sad realities must be candidly confronted. But nowhere in their writings do the new black
conservatives examine the pervasiveness of sexual and military images used by the mass media and deployed by the advertising
industry in order to entice and titillate consumers.
Since the end of the postwar economic boom, new strategies have been used to stimulate consumption - especially strategies
aimed at American youth that project sexual activity as instant fulfillment and violence as the locus of machismo identity.
This market activity has contributed greatly to the disorientation and confusion of American youth, and those with less education
and fewer opportunities bear the brunt of this cultural chaos.
Ought we to be surprised that black youths isolated from the labor market, marginalized by decrepit urban schools,
devalued by alienating ideals of beauty and targeted by an unprecedented drug invasion exhibit high rates of crime and teenage
My aim is not to provide excuses for black behavior or to absolve blacks of personal responsibility. But when the new
black conservatives accent black behavior and responsibility in such a way that the cultural realities of black people are
ignored, they are playing a deceptive and dangerous intellectual game with the lives and fortunes of disadvantaged people.
We indeed must criticize and condemn immoral acts of black people, but we must do so cognizant of the circumstances into which
people are born and under which they live. By overlooking this, the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming
black people for their predicament.
The ideological blinders of the new black conservatives are clearly evident in their attempt to link the moral breakdown
of poor black communities to the expansion of the welfare state. For them, the only structural element of political-economic
life relevant to the plight of the black poor is the negative role of the state and the positive role of the market. An appropriate
question to these descendants of slaves sold at the auction block is, Can the market do any wrong?
They claim that transfer payments to the black needy engender a mentality of dependency which undercuts values of self-reliance
and the solidity of the black poor family. The new black conservatives fail to see that the welfare state was the historic
compromise between progressive forces seeking broad subsistence rights and conservative forces arguing for unregulated markets.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that the welfare state possesses many flaws.
I do believe that the reinforcing of 'dependent mentalities' and the undermining of the family are two such flaws.
But simply to point out these rather obvious shortcomings does not justify cutbacks in the welfare state. In the face of high
black unemployment, these cuts will not promote self-reliance or strong black families but will only produce even more black
cultural disorientation and more devastated households.
Yet even effective job programs do not fully address the cultural decay and moral disintegration of poor black communities.
Like America itself, these communities are in need of cultural revitalization and moral regeneration. There is widespread
agreement on this need by all sectors of black leadership, but neither black liberals nor the new black conservatives adequately
speak to this need.
At present, the major institutional bulwarks against the meaninglessness and despair rampant in Afro-America are Christian
churches and Muslim mosques. These churches and mosques are indeed fighting an uphill battle; they cannot totally counter
the pervasive influence on black people, especially black youths, of the sexual and violent images purveyed by the mass media.
Yet I am convinced that the prophetic black churches - the churches that have rich cultural and moral resources and
a progressive politics - do possess the kind of strategy it takes to meet the crisis of black culture. That is, churches like
Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Herbert Daughtry's House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn,
Charles Adam's Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, and Frank Reid's Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los
Angeles are able to affirm the humanity of poor black people, accent their capacities, and foster the character and excellence
requisite for productive citizenship. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these institutions to overcome the cultural and
What then are we to make of the new black conservatives? First, I would argue that the narrowness of their viewpoints
reflects the narrowness of the liberal perspective with which they are obsessed. In fact, a lack of vision and analysis, and
a refusal to acknowledge the crucial structural features of the black poor situation, characterizes both black liberals and
conservatives. The positions of both groups reflect a fight within the black middle-class elite. This parochialism is itself
a function of the highly limited alternatives available in contemporary American politics.
Second, the emergence of the new black conservatives signifies a healthy development to the degree that it calls attention
to the failures of black liberalism and thereby encourages black politicians and activists to entertain more progressive solutions
to the problems of social injustice. Finally, I would predict that the next area for black conservative attacks on the black
liberal leadership will be that of U.S. foreign policy.
The visible role of the NAACP and black elected officials in the antiapartheid movement will probably come under a
heavier ideological assault. This attack can only intensify as black liberal leaders find it more and more difficult to pass
the conservative litmus tests for pro-Americanism in foreign affairs: uncritical support for U.S. policy toward Israel and
U.S. intervention in Central America.
Perhaps the widening of the split between black liberal leaders and black conservative critics will lead to a more
principled and passionate political discourse in and about black America. I am confident that with more rational debates among
conservative, liberal and leftist voices, the truth about the black poor can be more easily ascertained. The few valuable
insights of the new black conservatives can be incorporated into a larger progressive perspective that utterly rejects their
unwarranted conclusions and repugnant policies.
I suspect that such a dialogue would unmask the new black conservatives as renegades from the critics of black
liberalism who have seen some of the limits of this liberalism, but are themselves highly rewarded and status-hungry ideologues
unwilling to question the nature of their own illiberalism.26
Society, white society, must accept its share of the blame for the plight of black America. And it must be willing
to help and even sacrifice in order to solve the problem.
Black America must also accept its share of the blame. Absolving society of the blame, as black conservatives do, is
not going to help solve black America's problems but will only exacerbate the condition leading to increased racial polarization.
Nor will self-neglect by blacks themselves in their own communities help improve their condition by expecting to extract concessions,
and may be even unconditional help, from white America guilty of past and contemporary racial oppression.
Millions of whites don't feel guilty. And even some of those who do, don't even think about helping black
America. Therefore blacks must continue to play their part, helping themselves, as they always have done. But they still need
help from white America because of the magnitude of the problems they face.
The message of black conservatives has not resonated well across black America for obvious reasons. And it probably
never will, unless they fully address racism, including
ingrained stereotypical attitudes toward blacks
among most whites, and exhort society to play its role in helping black America solve its problems.
Racism is a perennial problem. And it is a major one. It is impossible to have equal opportunity where racism exists.
Why this eludes black conservatives, who are black themselves, defies rational explanation.
Black Conservatives in The United States