There is great confusion over the issue of conservatism among Black folk. I endeavor to demystify the concept in a series of articles by describing conservative views, distinguishing between types of conservatism, highlighting some important conservative ideas, and citing how we actually benefit from selective conservative principles. I will also describe the limitations of conservative politics for Black people.
We must understand that a person can hold conservative views on some issues and more liberal views on others. For example, one can be conservative (against abortion) on reproductive issues, and more liberal/progressive (pro union) regarding labor issues.
Politics – like human beings – have simple core urges or motivations that manifest in sophisticated and complex ways.
Demagogues on both sides of the ideological divide like to oversimply opposing political frameworks into neat, bite-size morsels of half-truth which are easily digested in quick media sound bites for a notorious ignorant American public.
The truth about Black people and conservatism however is not so easy to fit into either/or categories. Nor can we Nationalists or political leftists take accurate political inventory of all Black people who say they are “conservative,” because conservatism like all ideologies, has different branches.
First, what beliefs constitute conservative thought or politics? Broadly defined, conservatives believe in defending and promoting individual rights, effort, responsibility and development. They frown upon bloated government that meddles in the affairs of citizens, exerts too much power over individuals, and too responsible for solving problems of the country. They are likely to support small business, entrepreneurship, strong family values, and personal responsibility.
This skepticism of large, centralized government is not new. In the U.S. context, it dates back to the colonists-turned-founding fathers’ bitter recollections of King George III. If you remember from social studies class, Britain oppressed the 13 colonies through over taxing them, denying them adequate political representation, invasive searches of their homes, and unfair court practices among other things. They realized that an all-powerful central government could become repressive and corrupt. This led them not only to fight a revolutionary war for independence, but to create a Bill of Rights and combination of state and federal government to guard against the corruption and oppression they faced under Britain’s rule. Students of history might remember the intense debate held about this issue via the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. To be continued…