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:
- 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.