T Nation

Black and Republican?


An interesting set of posts over at one of my favorite weblogs might make for an interesting debate. The catalyst was an op-ed in the LA Times implying that conservative/Republican blacks are beneath contempt.


[Eugene Volokh, March 20, 2006 at 6:03pm] 3 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks

Why Did He Steal? Well, Partly Because He's Black:

That, I kid you not, is precisely what an L.A. Times op-ed ( http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-kaplan15mar15,1,864710.column?coll=la-util-op-ed&ctrack=1&cset=true ) from last week says. Black conservatives are bad, the theory goes; also, being conservative is spiritually bad for blacks; and that helps explain why White House adviser Claude Allen committed fraud: "It's hard to imagine that such compromises and cognitive dissonance don't exact a psychological toll at some point, and Allen's alleged dabbling in crime might have been that point for him."

Oh, and quite a charming little reference to "house Negro[es]" a couple of paragraphs before, as well ? plus the old traitor-to-his-race line of "I don't support conservatism in its current iteration, and I support black conservatives even less." (I take this to mean "traitor to his race," since otherwise it makes no sense: Why would holding any view be worse if you're black, unless the theory is that somehow blacks ought not hold that view because it's supposedly bad for blacks?) When whites are called traitors to their race for supporting policies that are supposedly bad for whites, that's pretty roundly condemned as racism, and rightly so. Yet somehow condemning blacks as traitors to their race is seen by many as just fine.

Read the whole piece ( http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-kaplan15mar15,1,864710.column?coll=la-util-op-ed&ctrack=1&cset=true ), if you have a high tolerance for bile and schadenfreude. And ask yourself how "progressive" it is to condemn people differently for the same views based on their race, and how progressive or factually plausible it is to argue that someone has committed fraud partly because he's black.

[Jim Lindgren, March 20, 2006 at 10:31pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
Dispelling Ignorance About African American Conservatives.--

In reading Erin Aubry Kaplan's op-ed on black conservatives, which Eugene Volokh dissected, I was struck not only by the argumentation that so disgusted Eugene, but also by the level of ignorance about just how common African American conservatives are.

Last year I was working on an article or chapter on the subject. While in the last decade black conservatives are very common, roughly as common as black liberals, black Republicans are relatively few in number. My discussion started with an analysis of General Social Survey data:

[i] Except for a brief period in the early and mid-1980s, from 1974 through 1994, more African-Americans identified as liberal (35.1%) than identified as conservative (23.0%). Then in the last five GSSs (from 1996 through 2004), there has been no significant difference in self-identification: 27.6% of African-Americans identified as conservative, compared to a virtually identical 27.7% identifying as liberals. In the most recent 2004 GSS, there was also no significant difference (30.0% conservative v. 26.8% liberal). Thus, for about two decades there were more black liberals than conservatives, but according to the GSS, for about the last decade there were roughly as many of each.


Lest one think that the level of black conservatives in the GSS data is so high that it is an artifact of the database used, I examined data from six surveys from Pew Research Center, one from each year 2000-2005 (Chart 2). Overall in these six Pew Surveys, 28.8% of African-Americans identified as conservative, while only 23.4% of African-Americans identified as liberal. In none of these six individual surveys are the differences between black liberals and black conservatives significant. Yet combining the data from all six Pew surveys together, significantly more African-Americans identify as conservatives (28.8%) than identify as liberals (23.4%). In the most recent Pew Survey with released data [at the time I did this analysis] (the January 13, 2005 survey), however, the numbers of black conservatives (24.74%) and black liberals (24.70%) are virtually identical.


pre-election surveys), the most recently released years of ANES data. The ANES initially asks an ideology question in a way to encourage nonresponse: in 2002 of the 93 African-Americans placing themselves on a 7-point liberal/moderate/conservative scale, 42.4% identified as liberals and 33.0% identified as conservatives, a statistically insignificant difference. When asked if they had to choose would they choose liberal or conservative, again the differences in ideology were insignificant. Of the 146 African-Americans answering the question, there were no significant differences: 48.4% identified as liberal and 44.0% identified as conservative.

The 2004 ANES also shows no significant differences, but reverses the pattern in point estimates: in 2004 of the 106 African-Americans initially indicating their ideology, 20.9%% identify as liberals and 27.2% identify as conservatives, a statistically insignificant difference. When asked if they had to choose would they choose liberal or conservative, of the 184 African-Americans answering the question, there were no significant differences: 37.9% identified as liberal and 47.6% identified as conservative.

Thus in recent years, roughly equal numbers of African-Americans have identified as conservative as liberal. Of the five most recent General Social Surveys (1996-2004), six Pew Research Center studies (2000-2005), and the two most recent National Election Studies (2002 and 2004), none by itself reported statistically significant differences in the proportions of African-American conservatives and liberals. In these thirteen studies, ten reported insignificantly more black conservatives and three reported insignificantly more black liberals. If one combines these GSS studies together and these ANES studies together, still neither group is statistically significant. If one combines the Pew studies together, however, the differences are statistically significant and the direction of the effect is contrary to the stereotype: there are significantly more black conservatives than black liberals in the six Pew studies. One might also note that in the most recent studies released by the GSS (2004), ANES (2004), and Pew (January 13, 2005), there is not the slightest hint that black liberals are more numerous because all very slightly and insignificantly find more black conservatives.[/i]

I omit my discussion of unmeasured sources of likely error, but chiefly they are: (1) conservatives are more likely to be home to be surveyed, and (2) there are strong disincentives for black conservatives to self-report as conservatives (as the LA Times op-ed unintentionally illustrates).

Returning to the Erin Aubrey Kaplan's op-ed, it would be hard to be as wrong as the author is about the facts. Kaplan depicts black conservatives as both rare and exceptionally loyal, when the opposite is true: black conservatives are very common, but are far from loyal to the Republican Party; indeed, most self-identified black conservatives are Democrats.

[Eugene Volokh, March 21, 2006 at 1:59am] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks

Why Would Blacks Become Republican?,
some ask in response to my post about the "I don't support conservatism ..., and I support black conservatives even less" article -- and especially to my cross-post at Huffington Post ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eugene-volokh/why-did-he-steal-well-_b_17610.html ). They really do seem genuinely shocked at the prospect that any decent, intelligent black person would take such a ridiculous position.

How about the same reasons that anyone might become Republican? Imagine a black person who's pro-life, and who feels pretty alienated by the Democratic party as a result. Imagine that he's conservative on various other social issues, perhaps because he's deeply religious, and belongs to a denomination that takes such views. Imagine that he thinks we're doing the right thing in Iraq, even if he thinks we may have made many missteps there.

Imagine that he thinks government social programs tend to do more harm than good. Imagine that he believes in low taxes and low government spending, and thinks such an approach is ultimately better for the poor as well as for the rich (though he might be one of those Republicans who's not wild about the Bush Administration's spending record). Imagine that he thinks school choice programs, including those that would support parents who want to send their children to religious schools, are better than maintaining the government near-monopoly in education.

I'm not saying observers need to think this person is right. But is he really so implausible? And if those are his views, then even if he thinks that Republicans are wrong on some racial issues, it is really so implausible that his affinity with Republicans on the other matters (such as, for instance, abortion, which to many conservatives is a pretty important issue) would overcome his disapproval of the Republicans on racial ones?

Caring about moral or patriotic matters that go beyond one's own selfish interests, or one's identity group affiliations, is usually seen as a mark of nobility, not of folly, self-deception, or betrayal. Even if a black person supports a position or party that you think is bad for blacks, why not show him the same respect that you'd show anyone else? Why not assume that he must think that on balance some important consideration, perhaps an important moral principle that even rises to the level of life or death -- even if it's a consideration that you disagree with -- might outweigh what he sees as more parochial concerns?


Because of the past disenfranchising of blacks they have little experience in a separation purely based on class. But now as those doors are opening more and more it would appear that the conflict between those who have and those who want within the black community will only get worse.


I think the entire line of thinking in the articles posted here is retarded. I judge things by certain issues. I could care less about a label. People throw around "Conservative" as if it is some badge of honor simply because you vote a certain way. That's stupid. I'm black and I don't plan on being poor. I have material shit but I don't place much importance on "things"...aside from my motorcycle. My plans in life are to be successful and to stand out among many. I will not, however, turn my back on where I came from and if I can continue some community service as well as any "youth" affiliation, I will do so. I think people have lost their sense of self the moment they begin relating to a party line more than their individuality.

This isn't a football game. This is life. It seems far too many forget that.

I don't expect all black people to agree with me just like I don't agree with all black people.

For this article to even make an issue of those who choose to think along those lines shows that they really are no better.


Politics are not the NFL but retards would prefer we looked at it that way.


This seemed like a good thread to talk about Thomas Sowell, who recently was covered in a WSJ piece. Here is the link:


He has spoken and written on many topics, but I like this particular pronouncement on his experience as an educator:

"Mr. Sowell may be an unabashed free-market adherent, but he's proud to say that Professor Sowell left his personal views out of the classroom. In his 2000 memoir, "A Personal Odyssey," he relates an episode in which some students approached him after taking his graduate seminar on Marxian theory. They expressed appreciation for the course but added, "We still don't know what your opinion is on Marxism." He took it as an unintended compliment.

"My job was to teach them economics, not teach them what I happen to believe," says Mr. Sowell, who adds that efforts by some today to counterbalance the prevailing liberalism in academia with more right-wing instructors is not only an exercise in futility but a disservice to students. "Even if you succeed in propagandizing the students while they're students, it doesn't tell you much [about how they'll turn out]. I suspect that over half [of the conservatives at the Hoover Institution] were on the left in their 20s. More important, though, let's assume for the sake of argument that, whatever you're propagandizing them with on the left or right, every conclusion you teach them is correct. It's only a matter of time before all those conclusions are obsolete because entirely different issues are going to arise over the lifetimes of these students. And so, if you haven't taught them how to weigh one argument against another, you haven't taught them anything."

Fantastic observation. Schools should be teaching people how to think, not what to think, and Thomas Sowell says it well.


You wouldn't be in this predicament if you were a true black and not pseudo-black.


I'm getting tired of seeing umpteen pages of Volokh gracing these threads...


This is a ridiculous statement if I have ever seen one. Prof X is not black because he doesn't adhere to the liberal "Rev. Sharpton" line? Is Clarence Thomas not black?

Why do many think that all black people need to be in "lock step" agreement with the pseudo black leaders who seem more interested in lining their own pockets and protecting their own fame, instead of helping others like Prof. X has suggested? These same people are critical with the perceived "lock step" of conservatives, but once again, when it comes to liberals, they don't practice what they preach.

Good post Prof. X!


I assumed you were joking with this post. I will continue to assume this unless you say otherwise. The same "Southpark" that Scarface raps about is the same neighborhood I'm from...the same streets. The only thing that made me any different is my parents made a very strong effort to make sure I didn't go to schools I was zoned to. They chose the schools I attended based on testing scores and other factors. Being teachers, I guess they had that option.


I have always wanted to say that I think you would be an excellent example for young people, as someone who rose above the street mentality that so many kids fall into. I guess this is my chance. I don't always agree with you (and sometimes I do), but I have a great deal of respect for you. Shit, you are a practicing physician at an age where I was still working on a bachelor's degree in between bong hits. I hope you find the opportunity to serve in that capacity someday.


Of course I'm joking. Please see your and steveo's jillion or so posts on the christian threads for reference.

I'm very liberal on most social issues, but I find it incredibly offensive that someone would call a black man an uncle tom or a house negro because they disagree with his positions.

It's the same shoddy arguement that's been thrown out against any black political figure who steps out of line -- Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Michael Steele, Lynn Swann.

Is it possible to be black and conservative? To believe that less government is better and people should be taxed as little as possible and allowed to make their own decisions with their lives and money? Apparently not if you are black. If you don't toe the party line, you are a house negro, or "smokin' that crack" (says Spike Lee) or a "slave out to please his master" (thanks Harry Belafante) or an Oreo, etc.

Liberals need to learn to argue rationally and stop pulling out the race card whenever someone steps out of line. It's disgraceful.


Futuredave, I suspect you could have closed with "people" need to learn to argue better.

I really don't think it's just a liberal thing...

Political training for this era; repeat after me:

label, villify.
label, villify.
label, villify.
label, villify.
label, villify.

Seeing a pattern? Now go watch some talking head political figure...


It definitely isn't a liberal thing and that is what I was writing about originally. People do it on this forum daily. They throw out labels so they can avoid actually hearing what someone is really saying. They are eagerly waiting to stereotype someone's point of view before they even hear it. I am not a "Liberal". I am not a "Conservative". I'm a man who knows his own values and standards and just how much he expects society to hold the same. I see current mind sets as leading away from true freedom and leading more and more towards censorship...on both sides. I have no doubt that some are afraid to actually speak their mind in politics because it may not fall in lock and step with their party line. Then again, they are politicians, and every politician lies.


Powell was cheated into supporting Bush. He was given the impression he could make a difference. But he was lied to. In the end they used him to vent their lies to the UN and that really was the end for Powell. If ever anybody was betrayed by his government, it was Powell. And they most likely thought they could it, because he was black.

Condi Rice however is a different matter. I saw a broadcast about her once, and it was very favorable to her. You know, small black girl, growing up in the south and making it.
One of her white admirers reported this anecdote. Condi was checking out some jewelry at the store, and when she asked to see some very expensive piece, the saleswomen commented that she probably couldn't afford it anyway. After which Condi got a fit and threw in her face that she could.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that it's particularly disappointing to see a black republican.
Because after being treated as second rate citizens their entire life, the lesson they didn't learn is not that there's no such thing as a second rate citizen.
Instead, the lesson they learned is that, if they just make a lot of money, they can treat poor people like second rate citizens.

And that's why Condi went shopping for shoes while bloated black corpses floated around in New Orleans.


I think many white conservatives skip over this concept. They assume that noticing someone seems to have forgotten where they came from is the same as tearing them down simply because they are black and republican. The two are not the same. I have nothing but respect for Powell. My opinion is not anywhere near as solid for Rice.


Agreed. Powell is the man. Yeah, I know I don't have a vote, but I'd vote for him.

While I'm sure he feels like an ass for pushing shady facts, I think in the minds of the public his integrity will allow him to recover from it.

The question is whether he will himself.

At this point, especially watching him deal with interviews after those incidents, I still trust him to speak the truth (especially if he isn't in a position to be told what to do by someone else who is the president) and to do what he feels if right, both locally and internationally.

I guess I trust his judgment, because I don't believe the fiasco he was part of was based on his judgment.


This point isn't skipped so much as vehemently disagreed with.

Amazingly, it's only Republican or conservative blacks, in the political arena, that get labeled this way -- whether you choose "forgetting where they came from," or more pejorative terms. If they don't have the same outlook on policies, they are labeled -- it's just an exetension of the labels given to white conservatives, with the added little flavor of "forgetting your roots," or the worse stuff.

White conservatives don't care about the poor, or the downtrodden, or whatever -- couldn't be that they think other policies are in everyone's best interests... Black conservatives just get the extra venom, 'cause, apparently, they not only don't care, but they "should" have the correct views.


Maybe some of the black Republicans are just looking for something -- anything -- to change a cultural paradigm that has produced these results:


'Marriage Is for White People'

By Joy Jones
Sunday, March 26, 2006; B01

I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.

But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I've seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a "baby's daddy," when it came my time to mate and marry.

My time never came.

For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.

"Marriage is for white people."

That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.

"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."

"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."

And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."

He's right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.

How have we gotten here? What has shifted in African American customs, in our community, in our consciousness, that has made marriage seem unnecessary or unattainable?

Although slavery was an atrocious social system, men and women back then nonetheless often succeeded in establishing working families. In his account of slave life and culture, "Roll, Jordan, Roll," historian Eugene D. Genovese wrote: "A slave in Georgia prevailed on his master to sell him to Jamaica so that he could find his wife, despite warnings that his chances of finding her on so large an island were remote. . . . Another slave in Virginia chopped his left hand off with a hatchet to prevent being sold away from his son." I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin.

Traditional notions of family, especially the extended family network, endure. But working mothers, unmarried couples living together, out-of-wedlock births, birth control, divorce and remarriage have transformed the social landscape. And no one seems to feel this more than African American women. One told me that with today's changing mores, it's hard to know "what normal looks like" when it comes to courtship, marriage and parenthood. Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage. Moreover, in an era of brothers on the "down low," the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one's fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.

"A woman who takes that step is bold and brave," one young single mother told me. "Women don't want to marry because they don't want to lose their freedom."

Among African Americans, the desire for marriage seems to have a different trajectory for women and men. My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.

As men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table. Indeed, he may bring too much to the table: children and their mothers from previous relationships, limited earning power, and the fallout from years of drug use, poor health care, sexual promiscuity. In other words, for the circumspect black woman, marriage may not be a business deal that offers sufficient return on investment.

In the past, marriage was primarily just such a business deal. Among wealthy families, it solidified political alliances or expanded land holdings. For poorer people, it was a means of managing the farm or operating a household. Today, people have become economically self-sufficient as individuals, no longer requiring a spouse for survival. African American women have always had a high rate of labor-force participation. "Why should well-salaried women marry?" asked black feminist and author Alice Dunbar-Nelson as early as 1895. But now instead of access only to low-paying jobs, we can earn a breadwinner's wage, which has changed what we want in a husband. "Women's expectations have changed dramatically while men's have not changed much at all," said one well-paid working wife and mother. "Women now say, 'Providing is not enough. I need more partnership.' "

The turning point in my own thinking about marriage came when a longtime friend proposed about five years ago. He and I had attended college together, dated briefly, then kept in touch through the years. We built a solid friendship, which I believe is a good foundation for a successful marriage.

But -- if we had married, I would have had to relocate to the Midwest. Been there, done that, didn't like it. I would have had to become a stepmother and, although I felt an easy camaraderie with his son, stepmotherhood is usually a bumpy ride. I wanted a house and couldn't afford one alone. But I knew that if I was willing to make some changes, I eventually could.

As I reviewed the situation, I realized that all the things I expected marriage to confer -- male companionship, close family ties, a house -- I already had, or were within reach, and with exponentially less drama. I can do bad by myself, I used to say as I exited a relationship. But the truth is, I can do pretty good by myself, too.

Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man. A number of my married friends complain that taking care of their husbands feels like having an additional child to raise. Then there's the fact that marriage apparently can be hazardous to the health of black women. A recent study by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank in New York City, indicates that married African American women are less healthy than their single sisters.

By design or by default, black women cultivate those skills that allow them to maintain themselves (or sometimes even to prosper) without a mate.

"If Jesus Christ bought me an engagement ring, I wouldn't take it," a separated thirty-something friend told me. "I'd tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn't marry."

And here's the new twist. African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.

Still, does this mean that marriage is going the way of the phonograph and the typewriter ribbon?

"I hope it isn't," said one friend who's been married for seven years. "The divorce rate is 50 percent, but people remarry. People want to be married. I don't think it's going out of style."

A black male acquaintance had a different prediction. "I don't believe marriage is going to be extinct, but I think you'll see fewer people married," he said. "It's a bad thing. I believe it takes the traditional family -- a man and a woman -- to raise kids." He has worked with troubled adolescents, and has observed that "the girls who are in the most trouble and who are abused the most -- the father is absent. And the same is true for the boys, too." He believes that his presence and example in the home is why both his sons decided to marry when their girlfriends became pregnant.

But human nature being what it is, if marriage is to flourish -- in black or white America -- it will have to offer an individual woman something more than a business alliance, a panacea for what ails the community, or an incubator for rearing children. As one woman said, "If it weren't for the intangibles, the allure of the lovey-dovey stuff, I wouldn't have gotten married. The benefits of marriage are his character and his caring. If not for that, why bother?"


Joy Jones, a Washington writer, is the author of "Between Black Women: Listening With the Third Ear" (African American Images).


Let's discuss some of these policies that are in everyone's best interest and don't give the lower class the shaft. Are there any off the top of you head that are in everyone's best interest but only garner negative attention from blacks as far as black conservatives?


I am a little unclear as to why you posted this. Are you honestly about to pretend that divorces are on the rise...only in the black community? Not only that, but marriage has very little to do with the act of taking responsibility for and taking care of the kids that result from a sex act. I think a kid who has a "seperated" family but has the support of both parents is in a completely different situation than the kid who doesn't know who his father is.

I mean, this article is so one sided it isn't even funny. One of my assistants, who is WHITE, just got a divorce a year ago. I have to listen to her go on and on about how her husband won't show up for scheduled visits on time and other problems. But this is just a "black problem"?

There are no doubt problems in the black community, but how the hell did you come to the conclusion that it is the black conservatives that are effectively changing the situation or are the only ones who want positive change?

Could you please show how black concervatives are changing the culture for the better and black "liberals" are not?