STANDARD DEVIATIONS

Black conservatives amaze me. Seeing black commentators parroting Trent Lott's talking points causes the same reaction I had the first time I attended a live Rocky Horror screening. I stare in slack-jawed wonder and ask myself, "Who in the hell are these people, and what could have gone so wrong in their lives to make them like this?" Staring at a freakshow is usually entertaining, but this is…this is too many standard deviations away from normal. A student writing a doctoral dissertation on personality disorders could have a field day with Larry Elder, Armstrong "On the White House Payroll to Pimp NCLB" Williams, Star "Abortion should be illegal now that I've had four of them" Parker, Thomas Sowell, Fox News pinup girl Angela McGlowan, or La Shawn Barber. That could fill several hundred pages before we even got to Alan Keyes.

When I read something like Walter Williams' latest – and I'm convinced that Intellectual Chernobyl syndicates WW for the sole purpose of making Star Parker look smart in comparison – I end up conflicted over the motives and mindset of the average black conservative pundit/politico. Try crawling inside the head of a black person who would write the following:

Most politicians, and probably most Americans, see health care as a right. Thus, whether a person has the means to pay for medical services or not, he is nonetheless entitled to them. Let's ask ourselves a few questions about this vision.

Say a person, let's call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab's and Dr. Jones' services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?

You say, "Williams, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay." You're right.

There can be but a small number of explanations for such fatuousness.

1. An African-American version of the "self-hating Jew" phenomenon. Society scapegoats and marginalizes them to the point that they snap and turn on not only their own people but themselves. Their self-flagellation happens to be a valuable commodity in the marketplace of ideas.

2. They are extremely savvy businesspeople who don't really believe what they say but realize that one can make a handsome living as The Black Guytm in a monochromatic conservative movement desperate for diversity. Race provides them a competitive advantage in the marketplace because they can say all kinds of phenomenally racist shit, including comparing lots of things to slavery, but it can't be racist if a Black Guytm says it! Can it? Sure can't!

3. This is some sort of Dadaist performance art, a minstrel show for the 21st Century. Bill Kristol pounds out ragtime tunes on an old piano while Larry Elder and the rest of the crew shuffle around on stage for our sick amusement.

4. They are either not smart enough or not reflective enough to realize that, you know, it's a little weird for a black columnist to be so ideologically aligned with people who are closet, or in Limbaugh's case explicit, racists. I'm sure there are lots of black people who believe in things like smaller government or outlawing abortion, but it's hard to imagine anyone believing them strongly enough to overlook the entire southern wing of the party and the attitudes of its white media figureheads.

Is it bad that I often consider #3 the most plausible?

It's no secret that 95%-plus of African Americans run from the GOP like it is an incontinent, fire-spewing dragon with a thousand heads. The party grasps at non-stories like the Kenneth Gladney thing "like a rope ladder over a stream of crocodiles" simply because they know the movement has absolutely nothing to offer black voters except a bunch of white people with pre-1960 attitudes toward them. Those who don't run leave us to ask the same question that comes to mind every time Michael Steele steps in front of a camera – is he a dupe, a self-loathing basketcase, or a particularly shrewd and amoral person who sleeps well at night as long as he's raking in the cash?

29 thoughts on “STANDARD DEVIATIONS”

  • I'm pretty sure #2 is the answer. My sense is that Black Conservatives are amitious African-Americans who for one reason or another won't or can't work their up through the traditional AA power structure (which is a typical patronage system, putting in a lot of work and slowly rising through the ranks), and they get sucked in by the get-rich-now package deal being offerred across the street. It's a tempting arrangement: just produce a steady stream of recycled talking points about "the Democratic plantation" and entrepreneurship and how black people are to blame for their own problems and you get book contracts and speaking fees and a radio show and a series of positions at right-wing "think" tanks and foundations and regular appearances on the Fox network and all the rest.

    One of the few things I do like about Steele is that he has no illusions about the GOP. He understands that they're cynically using him and his skin color, so he uses them as well – treating his job as head of the RNC as primarily an excercise in promoting Michael Steele and only secondarily about advancing the fortunes of the Republican party. So he spends his time giving paid speeches on the side and writing books on company time and awarding contracts to his friends and saying ridiculous things with the seeming intention of having someone pay him to go away. Steele's all about getting paid, and why not?

  • Oh come on now, African-American conservatives are far more confused and conflicted than your average Rocky Horror participant.

  • I think that this is a valid inquiry, but most often, it veers off course. Black conservatives do seem shocking in the same manner as self-hating Jews. However, to not accord to them the fact that they may legitimately believe what they say without having a mental issue, is to deny them any sort of agency as political actors of color. Being black, I do think it is odd sometimes, and I do wonder why a person can ally themselves with a political party that, on the surface, appears to be contrary to their well-being. But we should also remember something.

    First, many blacks have been members of the Republican party because it stands/stood for what they believed in socially. For example, my mother, was a staunch conservative. She only changed to being independent when she grew dissatisfied with George II's leadership. Her more important values include being pro-life, pro-creationism, and pro-unfettered free market capitalism. These things aren't a part of the Democratic party's priorities. These 'belong', for lack of a better term, to the priorities of the Republican party.

    Now, I'm not trying to make excuses for black conservatives. I think the Republican party's non-religion based priorities are anathema to black people. However, I think it is important to recognize that some black people can and do have legitimate reasons for membership in the Republican party. Whether or not it is a good idea is not for any of us to say. That is solely for those people who are caught between the rock of "being black" and the hard place of "being conservative" to determine.

    There is another level that should be addressed in this particular writing. That is, to assume that there is only way for black people to exercise agency is, in itself, pretty stereotypical and a bit distressing. I'm not out to call anyone racist, but the action of lumping a group of people together, not acknowledging that their actions may be legitimate, and drawing the assumption that because 95% of people do something that the remaining 5% must do it also is rather distasteful. This pattern is the same as that thrown about in the standard media. Blacks as a whole are lumped into one of two groups (the educated or the criminal/shiftless/lazy), whose actions are either helped along through the interference of the government (affirmative action), or forced upon them by poor circumstances (both of which remove their agency as individuals). And then, generalizations are rendered as to what black people on the whole are like, and from this, what the group is or ought to be doing. In all of this, the individual agency of the black actor fails to be recognized, which disempowers blacks as a group.

    I usually like reading Gin and Tacos, but for the first time, I've found a post that resonates in a negative manner. Next time, you can continue to set yourself apart from other bloggers by double checking your statements to ensure that you are presenting your viewpoint in a manner that is free from undue bias towards others.

  • Aww, Ed… you made someone sad. I hope you are appropriately shamed.

    You really shouldn't be surprised, because this was your first post ever that could have conceivably offended anyone.

  • I saw Roland S. Martin speak at my college last year. He seemed like he was disgusted with the behavior of many well-known Democrats and left-wingers, and specifically referenced John Edwards. I would have mentioned Mark Sanford, but they weren't taking questions or comments from the general audience.

  • "Next time, you can continue to set yourself apart from other bloggers by double checking your statements to ensure that you are presenting your viewpoint in a manner that is free from undue bias towards others."

    Bitch, please.

    Also, I don't know exactly why A-As in the GOP are there, I'm sure their reasoning is as varied as the member. However, they strike me as being just like my mother's Irish Setter, Finnegan, who thought he was a cat, complete with jumping onto furniture, etc. It was bad for all concerned, though the cat usually found it pretty amusing.

  • I think you missed the mark on this one by a little bit, Ed.

    Black conservatives probably fall into the GOP in various ways, some of them for each of the reasons you outlined. But to deride the whole concept of a black conservative is mistaken–they may have beliefs just as legitimate as any other person and genuinely feel that the Republican party is the one that sticks closest to those beliefs, whatever they are. It seems strange, but I agree with Macattaq that they shouldn't really be singled out as a group needing separate explanations for their voting behavior. To treat them otherwise, and to compare them to dogs who think they are cats, seems unnecessarily condescending. WE (i.e. white liberals) think that our policies benefit the black community more than those of conservatives, and most black voters apparently agree to some extent or another, but I don't think any differently of a black voter who aligns himself with the GOP.

    And hey, let's face it: Republican policies don't benefit many white voters either. Yet those voters return, again and again, for whatever mystifying reason.

  • Macattaq,

    I'm black, and I get what you're saying, but I think this has been made more complicated than it is.

    Conservativism, Modern Republicanism, whatever you want to call it is simply the church of "Fuck You, I've got mine.", and there have always been black people who have 'made it' (at this point the majority of them are the kids of someone who did all the work) who REALLY hate poor black people. These are the black Republicans you see on TV or get columns somewhere because they fit right in with the rest of Republican media and leadership.

    I know plenty of black Republicans who want nothing to do with the southern rump of the party, resent the racial stuff and turn down the attempts at being used as windowdressing. What sucks for them is that they're always tilting at windmills trying to change the party from within. Never. going. to. happen.

    I guess I'm just saying there are different strata of black Republican.

  • Don't get me started on Gay Republicans. I have a close friend who is one. The twisted logic that comes out of his mouth is enough to make anyone insane.

  • I am not insinuating that if 95% of people do something the other 5% must do the same. I am insinuating that the 5% who choose to ally with an ideological movement full of people who think they are genetically inferior have some bizarre motivation worth probing.

  • The "fuck you, I've got mine" attitude seems especially on point.

    I wonder similar things about people like Ann Coulter, who is a clown, I know, but she is a wealthy one, and she says shit like how she thinks women's right to vote ought to be rescinded.

    Or Phyllis Schlafly, attorney, public speaker, influential national presence for, like, centuries, whose entire shtick is based on how all women who aren't her should be at home doing homey things for their husbands and children. Gah.

    So yes, Mike, I agree that there are different strata. I also think we underestimate the strength of religion in the lives of many black Americans (especially those of us who aren't black, like *moi*, and have no religious affiliations). That can often link up tightly with beliefs against non-discrimination towards gays, and gay marriage. And abortion. I do not know, but I suspect and kind of assume that there is a significant and influential conservative component to black American social and political discourse, one that doesn't match up very neatly with the overwhelmingly white Republican stance, but that meshes with it on some critical issues.

    Also, I disagree with Macattaq's last paragraph, but find the rest of the comment interesting and worthwhile.

  • I think that people of color and other marginalized groups who choose to register as Republicans have their own varied reasons for doing so. Some of them honestly agree with one or more of the planks espoused by the GOP, or they feel stigmatized by the portrayal of Democrats who espouse affirmative action rather than pure merit. (We were talking about affirmative action in my political philosophy class last summer, and most of the other students who offered their opinions commented to the effect that minorities should be embarrassed to get college admissions, job offers, promotions, raises, et cetera, under affirmative action policies as opposed to their own merit. My comment was that I don't like quotas either, and I really don't want to see someone getting into, say, medical school just to fill a racial quota. But affirmative action is the only yardstick we have to ensure that a college admissions officer isn't just rejecting minorities out of hand while claiming there are no qualified minorities, or only letting in one or two "token minorities" as window-dressing and exclaiming, "Look how open-minded and diverse we are!")

    I should note here that I am a non-white minority myself, and I have voted Republican in the past although I have never registered with the GOP. But getting back to what I was going to say, years ago I knew a neo-Pagan who had a lifetime membership with the NRA and was a registered Republican. Proudly drove a gas-guzzling SUV, too, but gas was really cheap back then and I haven't come across him in years. As I recall, he was one of those who thought he could help to "change the party from within" and advocate for the Bill of Rights (all ten of them) with his GOP activism.

  • Identification with the oppressor for material gain: check.
    Minstrel show: don't go there.
    The questions asked by Walter Williams prior to idiotic slavery reference: good ones that have yet to be answered, and which are not the exclusive province of conservatives.

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    I know plenty of black Republicans who want nothing to do with the southern rump of the party, resent the racial stuff and turn down the attempts at being used as windowdressing. What sucks for them is that they're always tilting at windmills trying to change the party from within. Never. going. to. happen.

    I know a Roman Catholic who is trying to do the same with the church. He's staunchly anti-violence and often will go to anti-war protests, etc. The problem is often he's stuck face-to-face with some priest who is in cozy with the neo-con establishment and often pisses them off with his non-violent viewpoints. I doubt he'll ever change them.

  • As a Marylander, I've watched Mr. Steele for a while; I used to think that he actually managed to believe the patently untrue BS he put forth for his Republican officers as a way to salve his conscience, perhaps in the same way Mac's mother managed to believe the words of the GOP rather than looking at the Party's actions. Over the past decade, though, I've changed my mind. I think he really is just out for Michael Steele first, last and only, and he really doesn't care what he says or does as long as he's either moving up the ladder or geting paid a bit more every year. I really don't think he's very bright, either, but of course that's not a drawback in a politician.

  • The point has been made elsewhere–which won't stop me from rehashing it here, naturally–that in terms of "values," many minority-Americans are much more in sync with the GOP than with the Dems. This is particularly true of those who derive their ideology from their religions. Latinos who come from a traditional Catholic background, African Americans who come from a Baptist background, Muslims of every sort–these people are anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-feminist, pro-God, pro-family (whatever the fuck that means)–in short, they're Republicans. Or they would be, if the GOP wasn't still and always the party of Fuck The Poor and Fuck The Darkies. And I still think that non-white values voters could get past the first part–it's the second that just flat out kills their ability to join up with a party whose social agenda (and let's face it, the GOP no longer *has* a political or fiscal agenda) they wholly endorse. Nose, Face, Spite–use these three words in a sentence that correctly describes the modern GOP.

  • I doubt the GOP position is that dark-skinned folks are genetically inferior.

    But the GOP certainly takes actions not in the interest of black Americans.

    There are many cases of a segment of a group acting in conflict of their own self-interest. (See http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Matter-Kansas-Conservatives-America/dp/080507774X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268344843&sr=8-1)

    There are several explanations for this, including:
    – self-loathing
    – prostitution (they don't hold these positions, except so that it pays them handsomely—see, believe it or not, Rush Limbaugh's early career)
    – stupidity and ignorance
    – "noble" commitment to the good of the collective, rather than self (not necessarily applicable in the case of the GOP, clearly)
    – strong utility for the values they share, rather than the values that conflict. [e.g., a greater desire for a "free market" than for equal rights]

    I don't imagine performance art explaining more than a few individuals.

    Or maybe it's learned helplessness?! Sort of like the Nazi prisoners who volunteered to clean the gas ovens, figuring they couldn't win, and that volunteering for the most unpleasant jobs would gain them favored status among the underclass.

  • Yes, my people (Black and Latino) are socially conservative in a historical/traditional sense, but at the same time we don't all worship at Baptist churches for crying out loud!

    I want to be intelligent and think that individuals have the right to belong or not belong to whatever party they choose. I really do. But Black Republicans, Latino Republicans, female Republicans and gay Republicans just fucking baffle me.

    True, plenty of poor whites vote against their best interest, but the modern Republican party consistently makes their hatred for people of color, women, poor people, immigrants, etc., so painfully clear during every election, when they block progress on certain issues in Congress and attack policies. I can't understand how a Black person could be aligned with a party that hasn't done right by Blacks since Lincoln (and we know the real deal with that).

    Quite honestly, marginalized groups of all stripes should question BOTH parties for their exploitation, abuse and general bus-throwing-underness that they've committed over the years in an effort to gain political power.

  • I've often wondered about black conservative pundits too, now, I just hate them with a burning passion. Really, I do. They are the foot-shuffling, yassuh-bossin', ass-kissing, uncle Tom house negroes of our generation. They make my blood boil. I believe that they are working against the interests of black people and are doing so knowingly.

    But I do know some black people that are conservative in their politics and do or would support the Republican party. Being black, like being gay or being Jewish, isn't a hobby. It's not something that we do, it's just something that we are. Black, gay, Jewish people whose politics align with the Republican party have to decided whether the party's antipathy toward them is a deal breaker given that the GOP is the party that most reflects their beliefs.

  • I think you're all over-thinking it.

    Sure a black and/or gay Republican makes you wonder what the attraction can be, in a way that a poor white tea-bagger doesn't. But it's really the same phenomenon. I can come up with two explanations.

    1) Ignorance and/or stupidity. I think mostly of the tea-baggers here.

    2) Conservatism does not derive from any kind of logical thought process. It is a personality characteristic. (Or, in my opinion, a personality defect.) The Conservative mind set is based on ignorance, prejudice, magical thinking (hence the religious right), and fundamental intellectual dishonesty.

    Abe ought to have said, "If you are a totally unprincipled shaman or charlatan, you can fool enough of the people enough of the time to get them to consistently vote against their own self interest."

    WASF,
    JzB

  • Conservatism per se isn't a personality trait: that's the extreme right-wing stuff you're thinking of. (I asked my husband what the right word for "more than conservative", and he replied, "idiocy?"). But whoops! I guess the extreme stuff really is the subject here, isn't it? Moderate Republicans are scarce on the ground these days.

    As to the tea-baggers, now, they truly, really baffle me. More so than conservative Black folk or Catholic gays. And those disabled,elderly poor folk demonstrating–in complete hysterics–against Obama-care? There is not enough psychology in the world to explain that.

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