February 2, 2012

I'm Really Trying to Understand Black Conservatives

Only a few weeks into the new year, and it seems that black conservatives made their way out of the gate on the wrong foot.
That’s not to say that they ever were on point, in my estimation. But these days, they seem particularly off their game, out of place, out of step and isolated. When the Republicans were a center-right party with a semblance of a big tent, black conservatives were useful tools – pawns who were willingly exploited to put a black face on regressive social and economic policy. And I’m sure they did it all for a chicken wing and a bowl of grits. Now, at a time when the GOP is tea party-owned and steeped in 100 percent pure corporatism, greed, intolerance and white supremacy, they are simply useful idiots.
Case in point: the lieutenant governor of Florida, Jennifer Carroll, said that she couldn’t think of anyone who epitomizes the values and vision of Martin Luther King more than Gov. Rick Scott. That would be Rick Scott, the anti-union, voter disenfranchising corporate fraudster, and perhaps the worst governor in the country, which is no easy feat.
Ward Connerly, the former California regent and anti-civil rights crusader, is accused of financial impropriety and is being investigated by the IRS. He earns around $1.5 million a year at the American Civil Rights Institute, accounting for half of the nonprofit’s budget. The person leading the charge against him is none other than Jennifer Gratz, the white plaintiff in the University of Michigan affirmative action case that struck down programs of inclusion in that institution. Gratz later worked for Connerly, but no longer does. And Connerly is portraying her as disgruntled former employee. So, a man widely regarded in the black community as a race-based con man who pimps colorblindness and quotas for personal profit is now being accused by his own supporters of being just that – a race-based con man who pimps colorblindness and quotas for personal profit.
And in an apparent case of buyer’s remorse, Juan Williams, Fox News’ resident black apologist, received a proper verbal beat down from Newt Gingrich at a recent GOP presidential debate in South Carolina. Williams appropriately exposed Gingrich for his comments on food stamps and the poor – including his remark that “black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps” – saying the words were “intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities.”Black tea party spectacle Jesse Lee Peterson said he agrees with Newt Gingrich that blacks lack a work ethic. Peterson’s solution is to send blacks back to the plantation, literally, not figuratively. Doubling down on Newt’s racial rhetoric, Peterson said “one of the things that I would do is take all black people back to the South and put them on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working. I’m going to put them all on the plantation. They need a good hard education on what it is to work.”
Don’t get me wrong, Juan was right to attempt to put Gingrich in his place. But that was not the job for which Fox – and by extension the Republicans - pay Juan so generously. They pay him to be different from the rest of us, to engage in self-loathing and attacks on black people, poor and working people, liberal thought and progressive values. So for a moment, Juan forgot where he was, and that’s why the crowd booed him. I don’t know what caused Mr. Williams to lose his way, but if this is a sign he has found it, we should embrace him. But he must realize that a GOP debate is the wrong venue to address Republican racism and scapegoating of the poor. The base wants to hear about doing away with child labor laws, about forcing black and Latino kids to clean the toilets in their school for pennies, and about calling Obama a food stamp president.
As for the black conservatives who are embracing this ignorance in the era of the 99 percent, they are really just a sideshow oddity. It is likely the loneliest job in the nation as a person of color, to sell your soul to a nearly exclusively white-extremist-fringe movement, one that truly hates everyone who looks like you, and works hard to scapegoat you for political gain. It’s as if they’re turning their back on the mama who raised them.
Meanwhile, J.C. Watts - who has returned from obscurity after apparently not suffering enough abuse in the party – says that Republican candidates need black strategists at the table to help them win over black voters and avoid controversial remarks. “Somebody that looks like us needs to be at the strategists’ table to say ‘I know what you’re trying to say, but I wouldn’t say it like that,” Watts said at an even hosted by black tea party darling, Rep. Allen West (R-Florida). West said that blacks have conservative views but don’t vote Republican.
Watts and West are missing the point. Having a black face at the Republican race-card table never changed the game, and they are proof of it. They are the only ones who don’t realize that they are the punch line to this offensive joke, and the joke’s on them.


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