Beware of the black CON-servative

An African-American Republican talks back to David Horowitz.

By C. D. Ellison
Published November 13, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

David Horowitz's patronizing portrayal of the black community in "Baa baa black sheep" suffers from a few misconceptions. First, the GOP is not concerned about what it can do for African-Americans; it is most concerned with what African-Americans can do for the GOP. But since the Republican Party is primarily composed of white people who can only know so much about black people, naturally they feel that simply throwing a black face before a national audience will attract black people, and more importantly, black votes. So they rely on the self-anointed "black right": lost black souls and "Sambos" of the right -- people I call black "CON-servatives" -- who have become Horowitz's chief sources of black wisdom about the party.

The GOP's shameless, futile reliance on such noted comedians of the right as Armstrong Williams, Alan Keyes, Ward Connerly, Ken Hamblin, Larry Elders and others has made them by default the black face of the Republican Party. One critical reason black people have not turned to the GOP is the devastatingly Uncle Tommish, shoe-shining, sorrowful image of the black CON-servative. Black people are sickened by their hypocrisy. They travel in small, exclusive packs of opportunists who enjoy being little black fish in a sparkling white pond, spreading vicious, vitriolic and uninspiring anti-black rhetoric (such as the title of Horowitz's column) that does little good, if any good be found.

Black leadership must realize and convey to black people that political parties are merely tools used within the grander process. As political winds change direction, so do the motives, intentions and stands of political parties. Political parties do not manipulate the system or certain groups of people -- they are manipulated by various interests who, through the party platform, tool, mold and sculpt the system being questioned and used. If black people wanted to, we could control and manipulate the Republican Party as easily as the Christian right does. And it is time we manipulate political parties for our interest and not wait for the party to shape itself as such.

That may seem somewhat unthinkable to those cringing within the cramped confines of convention and popular orthodoxy. But it is possible.

In early American history, the Republican Party was the most progressively black political advocacy organization in existence. Now, the Democrats are the perceived "party of the blacks." What do black people do once the Democratic Party shifts radically to an opposing ideology and interest? Do we throw all our fragile eggs into yet another basket? Or do we play it smart? Do we equally place and distribute ourselves in both parties? Do we finally and correctly decide, for once in our struggles, to shape our own political destiny, rather than be touted as a swing-voting bargaining chip for our white brethren's benefit? Will we, for once, see that it is about what we do, as opposed to languishing in the empty expectations of what our white friends will do?

While we wait for the Grand Old Party to stretch forth its arms or lower itself humbly on one knee for the sake of merely including us, we run the fatal and ultimate risk of being left behind. Black people must decide if they are to be tough-minded, competitive, aggressive political players -- we must stop allowing others to decide that for us.

In the quest for a strong black vote, the party of Lincoln must utilize the energetic voice and nerve of fresh new leadership that can motivate and mobilize through an emphasis on the message above. African-Americans must be inspired to succeed -- not to rely. Effective black leadership -- for both parties -- concentrates on developing the talents and resources of black people, rather than on patronizing, insincere government programs developed for the sole purpose of white deference and acquiescence to hollow, 400-year-old guilt.

In tailoring a positive, productive message, the GOP can benefit greatly from simply dropping the affirmative action debate. The focus instead should be a program that empowers. The Republican Party already has the program -- from broad, revolutionary tax reform supporting families, entrepreneurs and small-businesses to extensive education reform promoting a transfer of power from top-down bureaucracies to parents, through school-choice options, public school revitalization and local-based control and accountability mechanisms. The focus should be community renewal.

And rather than use the same set of over-40 suspects unfairly accusing black people of blind loyalty to Democrats, turn to younger black leadership that can feel the pulse of the community, 53 percent of which is under the age of 30. This is how the party can develop a platform, message and image appealing to hard-working, law-abiding, forward-thinking African-Americans.

Contrary to the beliefs espoused by black conservatives beloved by Horowitz, African-Americans have the resources, the ability, the competence, spirit and independence to exercise a considerable degree of power into the next century. The strategy is very straightforward and simple: We must make informed, calculated and rational political decisions. That is the true essence of being a conservative. But Horowitz and his get-fresh crew of black conservative scam artists wouldn't know about that.

C. D. Ellison

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