Published on May 28th, 201315
Chidike Okeem: The Black Conservative Intellectual Civil War
The leftist assessment of the black conservative is that such a person is angered and frustrated at being born black, which leads to the adoption of conservative views in order to compensate for this perceived “congenital deficiency.” While this is a preposterous accusation to make against all black conservatives, it is intellectually dishonest to pretend as though this characterization of the black right came into existence wholly out of left field. Indubitably, there are some black conservatives whose proclamations and behaviors lend credence to the stereotypical leftist view of black conservatives.
Black conservatives are not intellectually monolithic, and we certainly do not read from the same script of talking points. Essentially, black conservatives can be divided into two groups: solution-oriented black conservatives and fame-oriented black conservatives. Solution-oriented black conservatives prefer to use their platforms to intellectually engage with people and offer serious ways to move black people forward. Inevitably, this encompasses astutely criticizing both the left and the right when criticism is required.
By contrast, fame-oriented black conservatives feign interest in issues regarding black progress, when, in reality, popularity among white conservatives and profit are their fundamental goals. Fame-oriented black conservatives never see an opportunity to bash black people and black liberal leadership that they do not take, but they conveniently manage to turn a blind eye to every shortcoming and malfeasance of white conservatives. Fame-oriented black conservatives are the right-wing versions of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons. They are people who care more about their bank accounts than bettering the lives of black people.
There is a civil war occurring between the intellectual, solution-driven black conservatives and the fame-oriented, pseudo-intellectuals on the black right. The winners of this war will determine the political future of black America. If the black conservative continues to be identified as a self-hating person who is simply a puppet for white conservatives, black people will never associate with the Republican Party or American conservatism. However, if this war is won by black conservative intellectuals who are truly about black elevation—and not the elevation of their personal bank account balances—black conservatism has a chance of truly permeating the inner cities and changing the voting behaviors of black people.
The most identifiable feature of fame-oriented black conservatives is their absurdist addiction to the inconsequential issue of whether or not blacks choose to identify as African American or just American. They call this the “unhyphenated American” movement. While this issue is unimportant to regular people, it is deeply important to pseudo-intellectual, fame-oriented black conservatives, because it is the key issue that they use to ingratiate themselves with white conservatives.
When “Rev.” Jesse Lee Peterson—a darling of the white right and “unhyphenated American”—argued that blacks being carried on slave ships is equivalent to traveling on coach airplanes, before earnestly thanking white people for slavery and removing his forefathers from Africa, he was not making an argument to reach out to other blacks. Rather, Peterson was talking to a certain white conservative audience that enjoys such rhetoric—particularly coming from a black man. It is no wonder why Sean Hannity comfortably sits on the board of Peterson’s organization dedicated to the supposed “advancement of black men.”
Similarly, E.W. Jackson is another black conservative whose fundamental goal is to be seen as a black hero by white conservatives, rather than to be a serious thinker articulating ways of bettering the lives of black people. His political proclamations are more geared towards bashing President Obama and liberals with vituperative and exaggerated language. Jackson’s slash-and-burn approach to political rhetoric is not designed to appeal to the human capacity for ratiocination. It is designed to get headlines, which, in turn, will endear him to the white right.
Liberals are quick to promote black conservatives like Jesse Lee Peterson and E.W. Jackson, because they fit the stereotype of black conservatives that is beneficial to the left. When men like Peterson and Jackson are held up as the black conservative standard, liberals do not need to offer counterarguments. Rather, all they need to do is point and laugh. White conservatives, too, promote these black conservatives, primarily because they say the outrageous things that white conservatives have in their minds but dare not say. Meanwhile, solution-oriented black conservatives are marginalized because such black conservatives do not exist for the sole purpose of making white conservatives feel good—and the arguments from solution-oriented black conservatives are often too logical for leftists to refute.
There is a tendency on the right to unwaveringly support every person who claims to be a conservative. It is almost as though a good conservative has the duty to be less critical of other conservatives’ shortcomings and only focus on attacking people who hold different ideologies. This is incredibly damaging, inasmuch as it allows people to go under the radar and use the cloak of conservatism for all sorts of nefarious goals. Solution-oriented black conservatives need to understand that the fame-oriented black conservatives are not on our side. Whenever and wherever possible, we must expose them in order to protect the intellectual health and reputation of the black conservative movement.
Fame-oriented black conservatives will win the intellectual civil war if they are not exposed for their use of black conservatism as a means of personal enrichment. They are the people who allow the leftist caricature of black conservatives to have believability. Creating an unmistakable distinction between solution- and fame-oriented black conservatives is an important step to improving the image of conservatism among black people. Once this occurs, black people will be more receptive to hearing about the superiority of conservative ideas to the dull liberal ideas that have failed black America for many decades.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chidike Okeem is a writer. Born in Nigeria, raised in London, England, and now living in California, he writes about race, culture, religion, and politics. You can find contact information and read more of his writings at www.voiceofchid.com.