By now, anyone following the 2016 presidential preliminaries knows the name Donald Trump and most Black people have been exposed to his political ideologies that are not only riddled in sexism, racism and xenophobia — but has also galvanized support from poor Whites who feel disenfranchised and marginalized by minority success (like the election of Barack Obama). Sadly, Trump support isn’t only a White phenomenon. Malik Obama, Barack Obama’s half-brother declared he will be voting for Donald in the upcoming election, two female YouTubers, Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson of “The Viewers View” became viral sensations when they stood up in front of a Raleigh crowd to endorse Trump and even Black pastors have publicly endorsed the controversial candidate.
However, this conversation does not begin or end with Donald Trump. Support of any conservative or Republican politics is excruciatingly destructive to Black people and sadly some of these political platforms are given massive support by large swaths of America’s Black population — even though we know many Black people don’t necessarily politically align themselves with Trump. Conservatism and Republicanism are extremely problematic on many levels.
1. Conservatism undermines the realities of structural racism. A central pillar of conservative thought and rhetoric is “boot strapping” individualism and personal responsibility. Both Republicans and conservatives alike use these ideologies to avoid much-needed conversations about structural racism. A society that assumes someone’s basic goodness and value because they are a White American is altogether a different reality for someone who is not White. This is compounded when you are Black and the society has been conditioned for generations to view you through a classist subhuman lens. It is why serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw was barely indicted and Trayvon Martin is now dead. While Whiteness is always affirmed, whether in criminality or civility, Blackness is spurned by default and no amount or respectability politics are allowed to compensate other than to separate the house negro from the field hand.
At this point, we know personal success does not mean Black success. There have been successful Black people in America, even during the time of slavery (millionaire Madam C.J. Walker, for example) and that success prevails with the election of a Black president– Barack Obama and successful people like Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods, but none of these successes eradicate White racism and dominance. There are many “exceptions” to rules that are written to subjugate entire populaces and often times those exceptions are used as justification for the “rules” in the first place. After all, how many times have you heard that America could never be racist because a Black President was elected? It is no small irony then that Obama, despite demonstrating remarkable qualification for presidency, has had his personal and racial identity attacked by the Right looking to undermine his very citizenship.
2. Republicans and conservatives typically oppose government intervention to curb inequality. Conservatives– even Black ones– oppose government programs like Affirmative Action or attempts to close the Black/White wealth gap via reparations. Of course, without a redistribution of wealth that has created a Black underclass and White ruling class, there can be no “Black betterment”. Various studies have shown, time and time again, that poverty is transmitted through generations. A child who grows up poor, is more likely to be poor his/herself.
3. Though Christianity and the church has traditionally been an incubator for social and political movement in the Black community, it can also be an oppressive tool for White Supremacy. History tells us that the Bible and Christianity were used as tools to maintain control over Black slaves during slavery and sadly, much of that power dynamic prevails even today. By tying prosperity gospels to a pillar of gratitude, modern Christianity has convinced their congregations to give while practicing contentment with what they have. If you find it odd that the Christianity of lowly Jesus has minted mega-church millionaire pastors just remember that God wants you to be obscenely wealthy. If you aren’t that is simply His will for your life and the only way to better know God’s will is to give. Stay in your lane.
4. Conservatism reinforces patriarchy and misogyny. On its face conservatism is what its name suggests, a preservation of the old times however they have come to be remembered. As far as the Republican platform is concerned that usually entails a White heteronormative male orientation to the world to the detriment of everyone else. This prescriptive pecking-order of the sexes has been a bedrock of nearly all America’s cultural foundations and the evidence remains in Black culture. In order to heal and better the relationships between Black men and Black women we must free ourselves of debilitating patriarchal ideas and attitudes. As marginalized groups like women find new voices Conservatism has only further entrenched itself. For Black people this is not a way forward.
5. Conservatives view “assimilation” as a mode of upward mobility at the expense of Black culture. We all know that “assimilation into mainstream culture” is really coded vocabulary for assimilation into White culture. With Whiteness represented by the majority who have implemented the country’s social, political and financial hierarchies, the only way for Blacks to “assimilate” is to accept Whiteness as a default, which sadly we are all forced to do to varying degrees. Whites attempted to strip Blacks of their social and cultural heritage to enforce White dominance during slavery. Black families have fought for generations against that erasure yet it is still expected that the Black identity be abandoned to make ourselves more “mainstream.” To do so would be, in the least, a betrayal our heritage and at worst a recipe for cultural extinction.
6. Republicans are doing nothing to help end mass incarceration. With more African-Americans entrapped by the prison today than were slaves a decade before slavery ended, mass incarceration has been deserving characterized as the new Jim Crow by Ohio State University Professor of Law Michelle Alexander. Racist and draconian practices within the penal system have branded hundreds of thousands of young Blacks as felons for minor offenses. This criminal status follows incarcerated persons back into society where their ability to find work is severely inhibited. When viewed against a backdrop of America’s school-to-prison pipeline it is no small wonder that more than half of African-American men under the age of 25 have been arrested.
This crisis has been met with deafening silence from the Republican camp. While leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both taken care to incorporate the issue of mass incarceration into their platform, even passing recognition of the issue has been missing from the conservative end of the spectrum.