Republicans Need to LISTEN to the Black Community

Imagine you go to the doctor and tell him or her about a pain or ailment that you have.  The doctor does a cursory check, doesn’t notice anything, and says it is probably just in your head.  That doesn’t help much, and the problem doesn’t go away.  So you go to a New Age healer to get some kind of relief.  Later, you come across your doctor and mention that you’re seeing a New Age healer.  Likely, the doctor would tell you about how New Age healers are just a gimmick and don’t help anyone.  But at this point, would you really care what the doctor said?  They dismissed your pain and didn’t bother to address it.

This is how we as Republicans seem to treat the black community, especially during the current moment in time. Republicans will often claim that the Democratic policies don’t really help the black community.  But why would the black community believe us?  Whenever they raise legitimate concerns about the issues they face, by and large Republicans just dismiss the concerns, and say they don’t actually exist.  Of course 90% of the black community is going to support the Democrats, because the Democrats are at least listening to them.

There are plenty of ways in which the traditional Republican agenda can greatly help the black community, but we have absolutely no credibility.  Things like working on programs to develop and encourage strong families, opportunity zones, supporting faith-based initiatives like the incredible social work done by traditionally black churches, making sure welfare programs are a “hand-up” instead of a “hand-out”, better accountability for failing schools.  These are standard Republican ideals that should help the black community.

In regards to the current issue of police brutality, I have a major problem with the Republican party being willing to abandon their convictions on public employee unions when it comes to police unions in order to claim the “law and order” mantle.  I just read this article from a conservative think tank that has great information about the issue and sums it up perfectly: “[Police unions] are teachers’ unions, but with tanks and endless get-out-of-jail-free cards.” I highly recommend that all Republican and right-leaning people read this data-driven, conservative-leaning article before making their minds up about the current protests.

But we as Republicans need to LISTEN to the black community instead of just telling them that our policies are better for them.  And we need to adjust our policies as necessary based on their input.  That doesn’t mean abandoning conservative principles, it means bringing it all together to find comprehensive solutions.

Instead, the voices on the right attack and dismiss those raising discontent about the struggles facing the black community.  People on the right will call “Black Lives Matter” a terrorist organization.  Regardless of someone’s feelings about the official platform and agenda of the BLM national organization, the vast majority of people protesting are simply using “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan to call for racial justice, not absolute allegiance to the BLM organization.  The “terrorist” slander is simply a way to dismiss and reject the call.  They bring up George Floyd’s past is a way to avoid facing the real problem of police brutality, which disproportionately affects young men of color.  “If they just listen to the police and don’t break the law….” which dismisses all the cases of innocent victims, as well as the fact that even criminals have a right to due process.

However, the most common, and dangerous, refrain on the right that systemic racism is a myth.

Here is the major problem with saying that systemic racism is a myth.  If you look at economic and criminal justice data (not anecdotes), it is obvious that there are major racial disparities:

All statistics from here.

  • The rate of imprisonment is five times higher for blacks than whites.
  • The median wealth of white families is ten times higher than the median wealth for black families.
  • 79% of black high school students graduate compared to 89% of white students
  • Black women are 3 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women
  • 41% of black families own their home compared to 72% of white families

If a child is consistently acting out or falling behind in the classroom, there are only two possible general explanations.  Either something is wrong with the child or something is wrong with the child’s environment.

Similarly, when we have this much racial disparity in our society, there are only two possible explanations: either something is fundamentally wrong with black people or there is something fundamentally wrong with our society regarding race.

If you try the claim that there is no systemic problems and that every individual is responsible for his or her own situation, while that might work anecdotally when you cherry-pick success stores, when the general population and racial disparity data is looked at as a whole, then you are saying that in general most black people are lazy, criminal, not that intelligent, whatever.  Otherwise, if it were truly up to the individual and if all races were truly equal, then there would be pretty much no racial disparities in the data.

But since there are disparities, that either means (1) it is not truly up to the individual or (2) the races are not truly equal.

If you believe the races are not equal and black people are inferior, I can at least respect your consistency with the data even if I don’t respect your opinion.

On the other hand, if, like me, you are willing to recognize that we do have fundamental issues on race that we need to address, then we can have conversations about how to fix those issues, and we can bring a conservative perspective voice to the table… but only AFTER we listen.

Now some on the right might want to throw out names like Candace Owens, or the Hodge twins, or Diamond and Silk, or Larry Elder, or other black conservative pundits that dismiss many of the standard racial justice talking points.  First of all, Larry Elder’s opinion is the only one in that group that I have any respect for.  In my opinion, the others seem preoccupied with making claims and statements that entertain, gain followers, and maintain their niche appeal in the alt-right community. I might go into details about that in a later post.  Second of all, this gets back to my “anecdotal vs statistical” evidence perspective.  Just because you can throw out a handful of black pundits and celebrities that support this right wing dismissal of racial injustice, when more than 2/3 of blacks believe being black hurts their ability to get ahead, we should probably listen to that vast majority, and that includes other black conservatives like Tara Setmayer or Tim Scott.   And finally, just to point out that parading token support from a community does not always give full credence to your position…  Hard as it may be to believe, there were Jewish groups in early 1930s that supported Hitler, even while he was spewing his anti-Semitic rhetoric. 

However, even those pundits, like Larry Elder, make the case for conservative policies that can benefit the black community.  As Republicans, we need to continue to support and push for those policies.  But first and foremost, we need to build partnerships with the black community.  And even if it means hearing things we might not like, building partnerships starts with LISTENING.

 

Independence Day Post: On Tyranny

In honor of Independence Day, I want to do this post about the concept of tyranny, specifically authoritarian and totalitarian governments.  Given the current circumstances, these terms are getting thrown around quite a bit.

First of all, let’s discuss some background regarding the nature of humans and the role of government.  In Federalist 51, James Madison wrote the famous quote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Basically, since we as people can’t be depending upon to do the right thing because of our self-interested nature, sometimes we need to be coerced, hence the need for government.  However, since government is made up of those same self-interested people, if left on its own, government would become tyrannical.  This is a major foundation of our government.

Conservatives recognize this (or at least they should).  Where, hyperbolically speaking, liberals might think that if we all just hold hands and sing “All You Need is Love” than the world will improve itself, or that on the other hand, if we just give the government more power, they can fix everything.  Conservatives (should) view both of these scenarios with extreme skepticism.  Unfortunately, many conservatives now seem to only focus on the second part, the limiting the government part.  Many seem to forget that ALL people operate in self-interest, and that’s why we need a government, and some rules and regulations, in the first place.  It’s the flip side of the same coin.

Now to move into the discussion of authoritarian and totalitarian governments.  We need to establish the difference between the two. Authoritarian governments control all aspects of civic operations without accountability, yet common people’s day to day lives can go on relatively normally.  Totalitarian governments attempt to control all aspects of everyday life for the citizenry, generally speaking.

History and common-sense show that for a totalitarian regime takes hold, it must first start as an authoritarian government.  (This is for governing one’s own country.  Invading and occupying forces are different.)  If a government comes to power and immediately tries to implement totalitarianism there will be too much resistance from the citizenry, unless civic operations are already under control.  For this reason, dictators and authoritarians almost always start out as populists.  They want to gain the support of the common people, so they don’t try to control them as first.  In the Roman Empire, this was known as “Bread and Circuses.”  The aim was to keep the general population fed and distracted, so they wouldn’t care about the accumulation of power within the upper echelons of government.  Machavelli adviced as much in The Prince, stating that it was better to keep the common folk happy than the nobles, because the nobles may want power and the common people can be turned against them.

This is why it would make no sense for a wannabe authoritarian to immediately enforce arbitrary and unpopular controls on the people.  It would erode their support and lose power before they ever solidified it.

A common discussion point is that the current crisis and the responses amount to tyranny of an authoritarian government.  So next, I want to look back at some history of how actual authoritarian/totalitarian governments responded to crises.

First of all, let’s look at a relatively minor or fake crisis being used to gain power.  The most obvious example is the Reichstag Fire in 1933, soon after Hitler became Chancellor.  He then blamed the Communists for the fire and used emergency powers to arrest Communist Party Members.  He also used his powers to switch out and install Nazi party loyalists at varying levels of government.  The Nazis did NOT use this to implement totalitarian measures on common citizens.  That did not happen until a few years later.  The goal was to solidify control of governmental institutions.  Another example was the Egyptian State of Emergency that lasted for over 30 years after the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Again, this was used to solidify political control, not control standard routines of life like shopping and non-political business.  Instead, it was used to target political enemies.

On the other hand is how authoritarian/totalitarian governments respond to actual crises where the citizenry are in danger.  A great example is the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union. In this case, the Soviet Union did everything possible to deny that a problem was happening, and when that story couldn’t be maintained, that they had everything under control.  The idea was to maintain calm so as not to lose support of the people and cause panic. They did not use the crisis as an excuse to crack down on common people.  Similarly, in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the local Chinese authorities went to the doctor that was trying to sound the alarm.  They reprimanded him and forced him to sign a statement that his earlier claims were false.  Again, they initially tried to deny that anything was wrong.  They didn’t implement draconian measures until it became obvious that they could deny it no longer.

China has learned from history and has realized that totalitarianism is a losing proposition.  They saw how badly it went for the Soviet Union and continues to go in North Korea.  After the Tianenmen Square protests and crackdown in 1989, they went for the “bread and circuses” approach.  The Chinese Communist Party has basically allowed the citizens to partake in capitalist consumerism and enjoy those fruits, so long as the people do not question how the government operates.  Thus maintaining power and control for the party.

As I’ve stated in an earlier post, it is extremely difficult (although not impossible) for a fractured federal system like ours to fall under authoritarian rule.  And trying to do so by forcing unpopular restrictions on the populace would almost certainly be doomed to fail.

This isn’t to say that the process has been perfect and that some officials may have exceeded their authority.  And those instances should be addressed and rectified.  However, in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, we need to come together and not get spun around the axle about process.  And we can’t rely on individuals to do the right thing, because as Madison knew, and as conservatives know, men are not angels.

To bring this together with Independence Day, it is important to remember the need to come together as a community.  One of the things we weren’t taught in school is how much the colonies/states-  argued amongst each other and were looking out for each individual self-interest.  In fact, the Continental Army was on the verge of desertion and disbanding because soldiers weren’t getting paid because the individual states were not doing their part to help the cause.  Washington was barely able to keep the army together to keep fighting through his personal connection with the men.  If it hadn’t been for that, the colonies self-interest and unwillingness to sacrifice for the common good may have led to us losing the war and us not celebrating our independence this weekend.  As Ben Franklin supposedly said when signing the Declaration of Independence:

“We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”