Uncovering the Black Conservative Movement (extracts)
By Justin Roberts, from Uncovering the Right on Campus, 1997
Excerpted from Uncovering the Right on Campus, copyright 1997 by the Center for Campus Organizing (CCO) ISBN 0-945210-07-8. The complete bound paperback book, 134 pages, illustrated, with a color cover, can be yours for only $8 plus $2 postage! ($13 outside the US.) Please send payment to CCO, Box 748, Cambridge, MA 02142. All proceeds support campus organizing!
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Polls show that black Americans are consistently more liberal than white Americans on issues involving poverty and race-relations. However, black conservatives are often highlighted as spokespeople for Black America. For example, Star Parker gives conservative speeches on campuses around the country and is listed in the Young America's Foundation guide as "one of the nation's top new leaders in representing black Americans." How could a black conservative speaker claim to represent most black Americans, who are liberal? The answer: money, power, and media coverage.
Monetary Support for Black Conservatives
One reason for the prevalence of black conservative voices on campus and in the media is the monetary support they receive from conservative organizations. In 1975, Thomas Sowell published Race and Economics, and according to Cornell West, began a "visible and aggressive" black conservative movement. Sowell's research and writing, particularly against affirmative action, has been primarily funded by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.
According to the Political Research Associates, many other white conservative organizations fund black conservatives. Included in this group are the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation (which has even implemented a minority outreach program), the Olin Foundation, the Scaife Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. On campus, the Young America's Foundation is a primary supporter of black conservative speakers. For the past few years, YAF has sponsored "alternative black speakers" like Clarence Thomas, J.A. Parker, and Walter Williams to speak on topics such as, "How Liberalism Helped Destroy the Moral Fabric that Produced the Civil Rights Movement," "Welfare: 20th Century Slavery," "Affirmative Action Follies," "The Truth About Multiculturalism," and "Failures of Affirmative Action Policies on Campus and in the Nation."
Stephen Carter, in Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, provides a reason for this rash of monetary support to black conservatives. "When the black folks get out of hand... many white folks think that it is nice to have another black person to shut them down." This is especially the case when the issue is race relations. White conservatives like to have black people denounce affirmative action, welfare, and multiculturalism because blacks are less likely to be called racist and because it makes their platform appear more legitimate; hence the bounty of monetary support for the likes of Sowell.
The Illusion of a Large Black Conservative Movement
In choosing which black speakers to highlight, conservative groups are not particular about academic credentials. The Young America's Foundation sponsored an international relations expert (Alan Keyes) to speak on "How Liberalism Helped Destroy the Moral Fabric of the Civil Rights Movement," a government professor (William Allen) to speak on "The Truth About Multiculturalism," and a marketing major (Star Parker) to speak on "Race Relations in America." Other black speakers promoted by the Foundation emphasized law and economics. Not one of the Foundation's "alternative black speakers" on race-related issues specialized in race relations.
This is just one example where black Americans are taken out of their areas of expertise to act as "experts" on race relations. This adds to the racist idea that black Americans can only be experts on race and contributes to the illusion of a large black conservative movement.
Both liberal and conservative black organizations are supported by white foundations. However, the major difference between the two groups is their constituency. Liberal black organizations usually reflect the ideas of the majority of black Americans, while conservative black organizations find their support, funding, and the origins of their ideas within the ranks of the white conservative movement. Both claim to represent the views of black America, and both receive media coverage and support for speaking tours. However, only one group has a large constituency within black America: black liberals. The large black conservative constituency is merely an illusion.
Conservative Organizations and Individuals
Although black conservative thought is widely overrepresented in the media, some influential organizations and individuals deserve mention. One organization is the Lincoln Institute, which was described in The Public Eye as "the bastion of black conservatism." Another is Black PAC which, according to Political Research Associates, "worked for Jesse Helms's re-election, and to oppose the 'terrorist outlaw' African National Congress and 'extremists' such as Jesse Jackson and the Congressional Black Caucus."
Black conservative publications include National Minority Politics, Diversity and Division, and The Lincoln Review, a quarterly publication by the Lincoln Institute. Political Research Associates described The Lincoln Review as "anti-choice, pro-death penalty, anti-affirmative action, pro-defense spending, anti-Martin Luther King national holiday, pro-school prayer, anti-Washington D.C. statehood...and uncritically supportive of Israel."
Individual representatives of these organizations include Clarence Thomas, a member of the advisory board for The Lincoln Review from 1981 to 1990; William Keyes, the founder of Black PAC; and J.A. Parker, past treasurer of Black PAC, current president of the Lincoln Institute, and current editor of The Lincoln Review.
These organizations and individuals represent a minority of the views held by black Americans on issues like welfare, affirmative action, and multiculturalism. However, their money, power, and media coverage lends the illusion of a large black conservative movement. Progressive individuals and organizations should see through the subterfuge and continue to challenge conservative dogma, regardless of what color the spokespersons happen to be.
This article is extracted from the CCO Web Site, Uncovering the Right page, at: http://envirolink.org/orgs/cco/right