In A Conflict of Visions, Thomas Sowell discusses in great detail the underlying belief systems that manifest themselves as modern conservative and leftist ideologies. Among the most significant is that conservatives emphasize results in determining a policy’s value whereas leftists emphasize the motives behind whatever politician or policy. Thus, when discussing a policy failure like the War on Poverty, the leftist defense will often reflect a variation of “at least we tried to do the right thing (even if it made things worse)”, but Republicans can be dismissed out of hand because they don’t care as much as Democrats do.
You will repeatedly see Democrats deemphasize the likely tangible results of a given policy in favor of the noble goals whatever policy is meant to push forward, and how much the policy’s proponents care. Likewise, they portray our motivations as deriving almost entirely from evil instincts like hate and greed, thus framing out of the discussion whatever might result from what we advocate. Our rotten hearts alone merit dismissing whatever we have to say.
Unfortunately, when regarding the important issue of race, we unintentionally adopt the left’s premise of the overriding significance of the motives of political actors. To the left, as the basest of all human motivations, the very existence of any sort of racism residing anywhere within a political movement delegitimizes that movement in its entirety, no matter how peripheral to the core beliefs or membership of that movement. What actually happens to black people because of leftist policies is altogether irrelevant so long as the motives of certain Republicans can be questioned. Judging from the responses of many prominent conservatives to Trump’s recent comments on the violence in Charlottesville, many of us agree.
When we voraciously renounce racism, we signal that we care about blacks so much that we’ll use the strongest terms our vocabularies can muster to renounce those who want to keep them oppressed. However, how often do we use such terminology to renounce not those who hope to keep them oppressed, but those who actually do keep them oppressed?
Does the KKK hold back school choice programs and thus keep poor kids trapped in failing schools? Do white nationalists restrict firearms ownership in ways that stop law-abiding blacks from protecting themselves from the predators in their midst? Is Stormfront responsible for the stifling bureaucracy, regulations, tax laws, and licensing requirements in inner cities that discourage entrepreneurship and keep jobs out of poor neighborhoods?
Indeed, the actions of past racists set up much of the environment from which many modern problems sprang. However, is David Duke responsible for teaching blacks at every educational level that the deck is stacked so hopelessly against them that unless the Democrats vanquish the Republican Party at every level of government and banish conservative ideology (not just actual racism) from the public square that they’ve no hope of success? Who morphed the civil rights movement from one of “you should judge me by the content of my character” to one of “I blame you for anything wrong with our communities?” How can we expect any segment of our society to survive, let alone thrive, when its leaders foster the mentality that the entirety of its problems is somebody else’s fault?
Although we conservatives criticize leftists who augment such destructive policies and mindsets, we reserve our ire for the fringes of society who’ve no power or influence whatsoever compared to the likes of Maxine Waters or Al Sharpton. Perhaps the KKK would love to murder blacks by the dozens, but they can’t and don’t. Instead, policing policies caused by the likes of Black Lives Matter result in dramatically more actual murders of actual blacks, but we show how much we care by getting really mad at just the Klan.
Which leads me to believe that despite our protestations to the contrary, not seeming racist matters far more to us than actually doing anything that might improve the lives of blacks and other minorities. Indeed, any aggressive political or rhetorical steps we might take to combat the problems plaguing urban America will undoubtedly be met with an increase of “racism” accusations, so it’s safer to engage Keith Ellison in civil discussion than treat him like the oppressor he really is. We’ll blast to hell the people who’d like to destroy black America, but rarely those who actually destroy it, for the latter (occasionally) gets us patted on the back, the former will get us attacked. Thus, I find many of our attacks on evil racists as cover for cowardice, a way to trick ourselves into believing we care when we’d rather let Detroit rot than get called ugly names for trying to do something about it.
Thus, we’ve adopted the leftist frame that showing we care about blacks by renouncing the KKK matters more than neglecting to effectively oppose the policies and mindsets that devastate black society. We shun David Duke from polite society while viewing respectful conversations with the likes of Al Sharpton as some sort of outreach. We agree with the left that awful motivations matter more than awful results.
Yet we consider ourselves lucky if merely 90 percent of blacks vote against us in a given election.
We repeatedly apologize for any Republican who says anything racially insensitive. Like clockwork, we renounce anything David Duke says in support of us. We shrug our shoulders and meekly complain when vice presidents accuse our presidential candidates of wanting to put blacks “back in chains.” We’re downright mortified of being called “racist,” so we fail to directly confront any issue affecting blacks that might actually help improve their lives. We prioritize the hurt feelings resulting from Confederate flags over the deaths resulting from gang violence. On issues of race, we’re always on defense, never on offense, yet many of us complain that the first president we’ve had who doesn’t seem apologetic on racial issues is the reason we’re seen as insensitive. We play the left’s game on race in every way, yet find ourselves perplexed that the left keeps winning. It if has to do with race, we never so much as hint we might ever take a risk or do something bold enough to threaten the leftist monopoly on black votes.
What we’re doing, and what we’ve been doing for decades, simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for us electorally, it doesn’t work for blacks economically or socially. Yet we’re insistent that the key to keeping the “racist!” cries at bay is to renounce the same idiots we’ve been renouncing forever, that if we fail to renounce them blacks will start turning against us and we’ll be seen as monsters who want blacks to die in hurricanes.
How about we consider a different approach?