Before I begin this next article in the series, I want to point out that, judging from some of the responses to my initial posts in this series, there are still a lot of people out there who think if they shout loudly enough or respond viscerally to my statements, I will either be cowed or won over to their side.
What many of these folks fail to realize about me and most black conservatives is that we were not born with the worldview we currently hold. We used to be them. There is no argument or ad hominem attack directed toward us that we haven't heard before, or used ourselves. Bob Parks, who thinks conservative/GOP outreach to the black community is an utter waste of time, put it this way:
I’ll venture to say that most black Republicans weren’t born that way. It took some life-altering revelation and a good amount of cojones to put oneself into the pariah column. Remember, blacks may be the only group in this country not allowed to have a diversity of political opinion. It’s Democrat or be damned. If you become a Republican, you can (and will) be ostracized by friends and family and be called racist names by the political left with impunity.
For that reason, GOP “outreach” in the black community is an exercise in futility that also puts the Republican Party in a position of weakness. Why would you be expected to reach out to a group that has consistently maligned your character?
I understand Bob's frustration, but I'm stubbornly pressing ahead in the hope that I will break through to enough people to prove it can be done. He likens the transition from liberal to conservative for a black person to "a kind of spiritual conversion," so a lot of prayer is involved as well!
Mark Twain famously said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” One lie that has made more revolutions around the globe than the International Space Station is the one that claims the Tea Party movement in America is primarily motivated by its opposition to a black man in the White House.
You mean the black man who got a higher percentage of white voters than any Democrat not named Jimmy Carter (1976) or Bill Clinton (1996) since Lyndon Johnson, the last Democrat to win a majority of the white vote? The black man whose approval rating two weeks before he took office and actually started doing things was at 82%?
The black man who was the most revered political figure since the assassinated John F. Kennedy, and was essentially deified by his supporters, so much so that the search “Obama Messiah” brings up some of the most audacious and ridiculous words and images one can imagine, worshipping a mere human being?
That black man?
Grow up. It wasn’t until he started doing things that people began to oppose him, and while the list of policy disagreements the Tea Party has with the president is long, I can fundamentally sum them up in one paragraph.
According to U.S. Treasury numbers, President Obama has increased the national debt by an amount higher than the accumulated debt of the first 41 presidents, from George Washington, who took office in 1789, to George Herbert Walker Bush, who stepped down in 1993 – and President Obama’s first term is not even complete. President George W. Bush added $4.9 trillion to the national debt during his eight-year term, which was a record. In 31 months, President Obama added 4 trillion to the debt and will surpass President Bush’s record in less than half the time. According to a CBS News report, “It's the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.”
To most Americans, this is an irresponsible and reckless spending spree that expands the role of government in our economy and our lives to unprecedented and unacceptable levels, shifts the balance of power in America away from the states and the people, in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and threatens to bring an end to America as we know it. We don’t want our nation to go bankrupt, we don’t want to be servants to government, and we don’t want government doing for us what we can do for ourselves. Race has nothing to do with it.
But what if I told you that when it comes to the role of government and federal spending, in the minds and hearts of most black Americans, it’s all about race?
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said what most black Americans believe when he equated “big government” to black people. “Big Government is us by another name.”
If you listen to the video, which is admittedly difficult because, if you’re like me, demagoguery and false accusations set you on edge, you will discover some deeply held beliefs that will make it clear to you how we’ve gotten to this place where racial tension is higher than anyone expected it to be following the election of the nation’s first black president.
The first one is this: “States rights” is a codeword for slavery and Jim Crow.
Current presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry discovered this when he made himself into a spokesperson for federalism, which is essentially the one-word description of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I have written several articles on this topic, most recently a few months ago, for I believe federalism is a sound and moral concept. Power corrupts, and diffusing power so no single entity has more of it than any other is the only way to protect liberty.
Federalism even has roots in the Catholic social teaching, which I addressed in another article:
Catholic social teaching captures the essence of lanes in the role in the principle of subsidiarity, “according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.’”
In America, the states preceded the federal government, and created it with specific and limited duties, reserving rights for themselves and the people.
If you haven’t read them in their entirety, I encourage you to read my articles, “Pleading the 10th” and “Lane Violation,” They will give you a solid foundation on which to build your understanding of federalism and its virtues.
Here’s where the divide begins, however.
Federalism – “states rights” – is what history tells us led some states to keep slaves and treat them as property rather than human beings.
“States rights” is what led some states to institute legal barriers that segregated and disenfranchised black Americans, and exposed them to a reign of terror where black lives were at the mercy of white people who, according to “progressive” writer Hamden Rice, “occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them” and “also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.”
A political offshoot of the Democratic Party, colloquially referred to as the Dixiecrats, was officially designated the States Rights Party.
Can you understand why black Americans don’t share the Tea Party’s affection for federalism?
Gov. Perry experienced a backlash from the black community for his embrace of federalism, and I quoted a black leader from Texas to encapsulate the reaction of the black community:
Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas chapter of the NAACP, speaks of the mindset of most blacks toward calls for greater state sovereignty:
I realize it was the federal government that freed my ancestors. It was the federal government that got rid of Jim Crow. It was the federal government that seeks to protect my right to vote. So these things are really sacrosanct. So that states’ rights thing does have a really negative connotation.
This brings me to the second barrier that separates us: The federal government saved us.
Yes, the federal government brought an end to slavery in America. The federal government declared blacks were entitled to all the rights of American citizenship. The federal government offered jobs to a largely unskilled black workforce suffering from the Great Depression. The federal government intervened and ended legal discrimination across the nation. The federal government enforced the integration of public schools, integrated the armed forces, and created affirmative action programs to increase the number of blacks in public jobs. The federal government employs a significant number of black Americans compared to other demographic groups.
The federal government also put off resolving the issue of slavery in America and allowed it to continue until the nation could no longer bear it, and it took the blood sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of young Americans in battle to bring it to an end.
The federal government also walked away from the South after Reconstruction and looked away while that region embarked on a reign of disenfranchisement and terror that left black people afraid and helpless. This led to the great migration of blacks to the North, where they struggled against European immigrants for jobs and housing. Historian Robert A. Gibson was unflinching in his condemnation of the federal government's actions at that time:
Immediately following the end of Reconstruction, the Federal Government of the United States restored white supremacist control to the South and adopted a “laissez-faire” policy in regard to the Negro. The Negro was betrayed by his country. This policy resulted in Negro disfranchisement, social, educational and employment discrimination, and peonage. Deprived of their civil and human rights, Blacks were reduced to a status of quasislavery or “second-class” citizenship. A tense atmosphere of racial hatred, ignorance and fear bred lawless mass violence, murder and lynching.
It took a civil rights movement that originated not with the federal government, but at the grass roots with women like Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man, men like Oliver L. Brown who, along with twelve other parents in Topeka, Kansas, challenged school segregation in the Brown vs. Board of Education case, and eventually struck down the "separate but equal" precedent of Plessy vs. Ferguson, and leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., who resolved to be the conscience of a nation when the federal government stood mute.
The federal government didn't save us. If anything, they failed to live up to their charge in the Declaration of Independence to "secure these rights" for all people, and they allowed the 10th Amendment to be used by the southern states to violate the 14th and 15th Amendments, despite the fact their duty was to enforce them all. This is why I find the black community's dependency on the federal government so disturbing. If we are looking to them for salvation, then we worship a false god.
So what saved us? We were saved by an idea, first brought to life with the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This idea hovers over America, inspired the great freedom movements of our history, from the abolitionists to the suffrage movement to the civil rights movement, and will not let us rest as long as there is a threat to liberty. I made a similar point in my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom's Porch:
I don’t see the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the end of Jim Crow laws and the ascension of a black man to the White House as steps taken reluctantly, but rather the inevitable consequence of a nation whose constitutional law is ordered to the dignity and worth of the individual human person.
Our Founding Fathers were troubled by slavery even as they drafted the U.S. Constitution, and although they made concessions in the interest of preserving the Union, they knew it was a moral evil that could not long survive in a nation founded in liberty. America’s history tells me that its good-willed citizens are always straining, stretching and clawing toward the ideal under which our nation was founded, and we will not cease until that ideal has been reached.
Most importantly, though, we were saved by ourselves and our faith in a just and powerful God. Government moved only because we became its moral conscience, not because government is inherently good and therefore worthy of our worship, as I also pointed out in my book:
Blacks who believe they owe their allegiance to the federal government because of its intervention on their behalf against slavery and discrimination are missing this point. Government’s intervention when justice is denied is a constitutional duty, not a gift that was given to us. My wife doesn’t reward me for household chores—they are my obligation for living in a shared household. Neither do I reward government for doing its job, nor should you.
Our black forefathers understood that government wasn't our savior, and one of the most famous retorts to the notion that government needed to "help" us after the Civil War came from none other than Frederick Douglass.
This man who overcame bondage, racism, a lack of formal education, and a complete absence of family to become one of the greatest orators, writers and statesmen in American history, had every reason in the world to decry the circumstances he had to endure to reach the pinnacle of success. Moreover, he still lived in a time when racism was prevalent and socially acceptable. Yet, he exploded in anger over a simple question from well-meaning white people:
“Everybody has asked the question, … ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!”
"Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us." Douglass resented the question, because it smacked of the same paternalism and condescension that declared slavery essential to black well-being because they were like children who couldn't care for themselves. I challenge anyone to tell me how today's insistence that the black community is helpless without the intervention of government is any different.
When black elites began flirting with international socialism and communism because they were frustrated with the pace of change in America, other black leaders warned against a philosophy that gave government more dominion over us. Black historian G. Carter Woodson said:
If the excited whites who are bringing to the Negroes such strange doctrines are insane enough to believe them, the Negroes themselves should learn to think before it is too late.
History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning. Even if the expected social upheaval comes, the Negro will be better prepared to take care of himself in the subsequent reconstruction if he develops the power to ascend to a position higher up after the radically democratic people will have recovered from their revelry in an impossible Utopia.
To say that the Negro cannot develop sufficiently in the business world to measure arms with present-day capitalists is to deny actual facts, refute history, and discredit the Negro as a capable competitor in the economic battle of life. No man knows what he can do until he tries. The Negro race has never tried to do very much for itself. The race has great possibilities. Properly awakened, the Negro can do the so-called impossible in the business world and thus help to govern rather than merely be governed.
In the failure to see this and the advocacy of the destruction of the whole economic order to right social wrong we see again the tendency of the Negro to look to some force from without to do for him what he must learn to do for himself.
Woodson warned us that "it looks silly to see them taking up the cause of others who pretend that they are interested in the Negro when they merely mean to use the race as a means to an end." Amen to that.
There is a term in psychology that I think is instructive in teaching us how to "work out our own salvation," to use a Biblical phrase.
"Locus of control" speaks to the extent to which individuals believe they control events that affect them. Those who place their locus of control externally believe they are controlled by people, institutions or powers outside of themselves. Those with an internal locus of control, conversely, believe they have control over their behavior and actions.
A healthy balance is one in which we understand and acknowledge that we do not control everything in our world, but we do control ourselves and our response to the world. Our ancestors had an unshakable faith in what we, the black community, could do in America because they themselves overcame the impossible to do great things. To read the history of blacks in America is to read a story of strength, persistence and triumph in the midst of adversity, and were many of the great black leaders of the past here today, I suspect they would tell us to "man up" and stop waiting for government to act on our behalf.
Big Government is not me by another name. I am a unique individual, "fearfully and wonderfully made," and I am a child of God who "created my inmost being" and "knit me together in my mother's womb."
It is when we encourage our full development and potential as the individual human beings God created that our entire group ascends. When we demand conformity, we bring ourselves down to the lowest common denominator in the group, and this "crab bucket" mentality holds us in a place of dependence, where government rushes in to fill the vacuum we created for ourselves.
Next: What my parents taught me.