08 April 2010

Black Tea and Oreos?

A local paper this week ran an Associated Press story about the travails of black conservatives in the age of Obama. They're complaining about being called "oreos," "Uncle Toms" or worse, and insinuate that such attacks, which have been a constant for ideologues of their complexion in modern times, have gotten worse with the election of the first black President. They also resent the charges of racism lobbed against white Tea Partiers with whom they feel a growing affinity, or from whom they seek votes in upcoming elections. Their own endorsement of the TPs' economic beliefs, they imply, should outweigh the allegedly minimal presence of racists at the parties.

Groupthink is a distasteful notion, and it seems wrong to assert that there's an appropriate ideology for blacks. After all, blacks were once as rigidly Republican as they now seem dogmatically Democratic. It was only in the 1930s that blacks began to cross the bipolarchy divide, attracted by the (often ill-fulfilled) promises of the New Deal and repelled by the apparent indifference of Republicans to Depression poverty. As late as 1960 as iconic a black celebrity as Jackie Robinson could endorse Nixon over Kennedy. But the unholy alliance of entrepreneurial conservatism and Southern racism tipped the balance apparently beyond recovery at the same time that the racists crossed the divide in the opposite direction, some after a third-party sojourn under George Wallace's standard. When the Republican party decided that state's rights mattered more than individual rights, they imposed a heavy handicap on themselves with blacks. But Obama's election may have convinced many people, blacks included, that the civil rights struggle is over, whatever inequalities remain. It's inevitable that some blacks, especially if they become entrepreneurs and acquire the pathological mindset to which that class is so susceptible, will question why they should base their political loyalties on old news. It stands to reason that blacks are just as likely as any group to look around them and resent other people getting "breaks" for being "lazy" that they don't see themselves getting. It stands likewise to reason that black entrepreneurs would learn the same contempt for mere working people or the unemployed that their counterparts of other races so often feel. It is probably a form of wishful racism to assume that blacks might have some innately greater sense of social solidarity or more entrenched hostility to the every-man-for-himself ideology of entrepreneurial Republicanism than other demographic groups. One might still assume so as long as entrepreneurial Republicans remain a wretched minority in their midst, but we should definitely avoid any impulse to call them race traitors -- especially if we don't belong to the race in question. But blacks, too, should avoid the temptation. If people like that are traitors to anyone, it's to all of us.


Anonymous said...

I still insist that the only way for the right to prove it is not racist is to expel every member of a known racist organization from their ranks and publicly denounce all forms of bigotry, including homophobia.

Samuel Wilson said...

If black rightists affirm that their white colleagues (or most of them) aren't racist, would you take their word for it? Of course, they might have their own forms of bigotry (you suggested at least one) to answer for, but let's deal with one thing at a time.

Anonymous said...

No, I am enough of a cynic to think that there might be minority members of the right who are every bit as unwilling to admit to the faults of the right as their "white" counterparts. But I would be less cynical if the GOP and other rightwing groups publicly denounced bigotry and expelled any known member of a racist/bigoted organization.