Eighteen months ago, I went on national television to discuss black America’s biggest problems with ten noted civil rights leaders. Thanks to the diligent coordination of the host, Tavis Smiley, The State of the Black Union 2006 was a stellar success.
For weeks after the event, people talked about it so much that I asked myself, “Why do black Americans even want to talk about social problems and race in America anymore? Shouldn’t we be disgusted with unaccountable leaders and their endless rhetoric and moral hypocrisy?”
Perhaps the answer is that the average black American believes that fundamental changes in our nation are possible. Many feel that America can be the greatest nation in the world by making just a few minor adjustments. So we listen to conversations, discuss problems, and pray that something can be changed which will help us move into a new dimension.
As a result of the broadcast, I initiated a dialogue with people of goodwill around the nation --- black and white. I’m convinced that we can achieve a practical, common ground in order to solve many of our nation’s most pressing problems. My solution involves a unique blend of conservative thinking and common sense.
I am a “black conservative” --- which sounds like a strange twist of words to the average American. I believe the simplistic monikers of “liberal” or “conservative” are outdated and meaningless. These terms describe ideologies, concepts and worldviews which are not often backed up by clear, consistent action. Instead of making ourselves accountable to change specific problems, both liberal and conservative sides have fallen into the trap of political name-calling. In this name-blame atmosphere, intelligent people critique intellectual approaches instead of assessing practical output and results. The current test for the black community will be which political ideology will actually create solid programs, policies, and problem resolutions that change lives.
The 2006 campaign debates were the epitome of this war of ideas. We heard articulate speeches about different approaches. Most Americans were tired of business-as-usual. A year later, people from every party understand that the art of implementation is where America is failing the most. Therefore, we need a new way of talking and a new way of walking.
America stands at a crossroads in terms of thought and political ideology. Today is when the conservative movement can win many converts from the black community. To accomplish this, conservatives must understand the real concerns of the average African American. Let me explain how I arrived at this conclusion.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.