New Visions Commentary
The National Leadership Network of Conservative African-Americans
Black and Conservative in America
By Kevin Martin
I'm a conservative. I'm also black.
My political affiliation sometimes raises eyebrows among my liberal friends. They question my support for conservative values with shocked disbelief. They want to remind me of my race - as if it matters - saying, "But you're black." Another familiar retort is "there is no such thing as a black conservative - it's an oxymoron."
Oh, I think I get their thinking. As long as I am begging to be treated like a victim, that's OK. It's normal for me to accept and even rely upon government handouts. If I suffer a setback in life or don't get a promotion at the office, I'm expected to cry racism. Most importantly, I should give my votes to liberal politicians without question.
Is this what's expected of me as a black man in liberal America? I don't think I like that stereotype. In fact, I'm offended.
Liberals seem to wonder why I'd want to be another "Chocolate Cowboy" like Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma or "Uncle [Clarence] Thomas" on the Supreme Court or be the black man who sells out his brothers and sisters to racist conservatives? How can I turn my back on the Democratic Party ("your party," I'm told) - the one that allegedly gave blacks the right to vote, affirmative action and other government programs?
Can I not make my own political decisions? I've taken a good look at the issues, learned my life lessons and find that the free markets and freedom from government interference advocated by conservatives appeals to me. How dare anyone try to make me believe otherwise.
In my opinion, liberals really haven't given blacks anything. Handouts like welfare and affirmative action do more to damage us by destroying our ambition and focus. Preference programs need major overhauls because they are outdated and help promote unnecessary and hostile attitudes in the workplace such as last hired, first fired.
Racism is out there, and it unfortunately always will be. For liberals to use victims of racism as tools to further their own agenda, however, is as bad as anything they try to pin on conservatives. To those who tell blacks the Democratic Party is "your party," I ask them to remember when Ross Perot was criticized in 1992 for addressing a black audience as "you people." Your party and you people - what's the difference?
The Republicans may need to do some image housecleaning to appeal to black America, but remember that the Republicans were instrumental in passing the legislation of the civil rights era. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had the dream, and it was Republicans like President Dwight Eisenhower and Senator Everett Dirksen who made that dream the law of the land.
And to those blacks who look upon conservative brothers and sisters with spite and malice, I ask for a truce. We must address the problems facing our community before it's too late. Drugs, crime, homelessness, a lack of good jobs and a lack of good fathers in the home affect us all. If we are divided, we will continue to be the victims some want us to be. We must get rid of the victim mentality that plagues so many of us and work together to create a better tomorrow.
To recycle a phrase from the Clinton impeachment, we must end the politics of personal destruction. Congressman Watts has as much right to be a member of the Congressional Black Caucus as any other black member despite being a conservative Republican. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Kweisi Mfume need to stop injecting race into politics. Justice Thomas should be recognized for his accomplishments and not for black protests against his public appearances. Conservative or liberal, they all deserve the right to be heard.
I'm a conservative. I'm also black, but I'm not a victim. Respect me,
(Kevin Martin is a member of Project 21 working for an environmental
contractor in the Washington, DC area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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