The credibility of black conservatism

Posted: Jan 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Armstrong Williams' poor judgment in not revealing being compensated by the Department of Education to promote No Child Left Behind is unfortunate. With his stepping into the line of fire and acknowledging his errors, we'll be able to get this behind us and move on.

What impact, if any, will this incident have on the ongoing credibility of black conservatism?

Liberals, particularly black liberals, will claim this incident simply confirms what they have known all along. For them, black conservatives by definition are individuals on the make and on the take.

In their view, liberalism is coded into black DNA. It is a genetic impossibility for a black to actually believe that government should be limited and that every person, regardless of circumstance, must take personal responsibility for his or her own life. A black espousing such views, according to liberal thinking, commits an act against nature and betrays heritage and family. The only possible explanation for any black talking like a conservative is that the person is being paid to do it.

What is worse, to continue with this line of thinking, only whites can really be conservatives. So, black conservatives outrage black liberals not just because they are supposedly sellouts, but also because they are selling out to whites.

This mindset is quite common, unfortunately, among the black political class.

I think Williams' mistake will hurt a little as we try to make inroads in the black community with the conservative message. After all, trust is what carries the day in human relations, and trust is the biggest problem that conservatives have in winning over black hearts and minds.

However, I think the setback will be small because, in fact, the importance and relevance of the conservative message to the black community is real and more and more blacks are getting it.

An increasing number of blacks understand that their future lies in mending their communities, restoring traditional values, rebuilding the black family and helping inner-city black men get control of their lives and aspire to become husbands, fathers and breadwinners, rather than players.

The support for school choice is as strong in the black community as in the white community. As the national dialogue on Social Security reform proceeds, I am confident that increasing numbers of blacks will get the simple message that personal ownership rather than taxes and government will build black wealth and autonomy.

I am far more concerned with the ongoing destruction that occurs every day in the black community that directly reflects the politicization of African-American life that has been going on for the last 50 years.

The ploy of every political power broker is to deflect attention from real problems. We see it around the world every day as leaders of societies who live in poverty and illiteracy tell their populations that they suffer because of the Great Satan, America. If they didn't do that, they would have to allow freedom and ownership, build schools and maintain a system of law.

Last week, Jesse Jackson led of band of several hundred protesters in Washington to make claims about supposed vote-counting irregularities in Ohio. George W. Bush won Ohio by over 100,000 votes. He got 16 percent of the black vote in Ohio, 4 percent more than his take of the black vote nationwide. John Kerry knows he legitimately was defeated in 2004, which is why he conceded the election in a timely fashion.

Yet, Jackson hangs on. The politics of blame takes the heat off solving real problems. He'd rather politicize the profound social problems in the black community by claiming that Republicans steal elections rather than doing the real work of fixing black families and black schools.

The politics of deflection and blame, for which Jackson can claim significant responsibility, has rooted itself deep in black consciousness and has made our problems many times worse. John McWhorter discussed in his book "Losing the Race" the cultural resistance in black kids to education because learning and studying is "white" behavior.

This week we remember and commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. We must remember that King's message was that eternal truths and values transcend race.

Love, family, responsibility and education are values toward which every human being must aspire.

Armstrong Williams made a mistake. But the message that he received funds to promote - fixing our schools and system of education - was right.

I'm confident that the conservative message will continue to take root in the black community. It's really our only option for the future.