The Enigma of the Black Republican

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In her authorial debut, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, Harvard historian Leah Wright Rigueur meticulously traces the development of black Republican politics from the New Deal era through Ronald Reagan’s presidential ascent in 1980. Rigueur’s book is commendable not just as an authoritative treatise on a group notably neglected by historians, but as a compendium of actionable recommendations for black political engagement. Rigueur’s narrative expertly delivers a close look at the intersection of race and politics within the context of the Republican Party, and provides intimate details of the unwavering African Americans who sought to use the GOP as a vehicle for civil rights.

The enigma of the black Republican has fascinated political observers for decades. Taking at face value the fact that roughly 90 percent of black voters now identify with the Democratic Party, many understandably assume that blackness and GOP affiliation are inherently discordant concepts; yet black Republicans do exist and have been around for almost as long as the GOP itself. In fact, as Rigueur observes, blacks formed strong cultural attachments to the GOP long before the Democrat Party established its apparent hegemony of the black community. Indeed, writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass once exuberantly declared, “I am a Republican—a black, dyed-in-the-wool Republican—and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.” Douglass wasn’t an anomaly. Blacks revered the “Party of Lincoln” as a liberator of black people—that is, until the 1936 presidential election of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who seized 70 percent of the black vote.

How should we make sense of the shattered relationship between the black community and the Republican Party? Pundits and scholars of all political stripes have long held that blacks rejected the GOP in favor of Roosevelt’s New Deal liberalism. But this analysis is inadequate. Though the Democrat-led New Deal effort promised socio-economic uplift, it doesn’t sufficiently explain black voters’ increasing distrust of the Republican Party. Rigueur rightly posits that significant ideological shifts emerged in the Republican Party in the 1930s. Republicans started to embrace a colorblind ethos, as prominent black Republican senator Edward Brooke later opined, that prioritized “states’ rights” over civil rights. This shift, as Rigueur explains, exacerbated over time and deepened the chasm between blacks and the GOP.



Does Sheriff David Clarke Think Black Lives Matter?

Republicans cannot keep complaining about the seemingly unbreakable Democratic hegemony of black communities so long as they continue to promote callously unaware characters like Sheriff David Clarke. Since conservatives and Republicans continue to prop up people like David Clarke who assert that black grievances are fictional, they deserve their reputation as the political wing that is insensitive to the needs of blacks.

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Last Friday, POLITICO reported that the White House is considering Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. for a position at the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the report, “Clarke is in line to be appointed as assistant secretary at DHS’ Office of Partnership and Engagement, which coordinates outreach to state, local and tribal officials and law enforcement.”

This announcement should come as no surprise to those who have astutely observed Sheriff Clarke’s recent dramatic rise to national notoriety since coming out as a vociferous supporter of Donald Trump.

It is worth noting that Clarke’s claim to fame as a vocal Trump surrogate was bolstered considerably by his outspoken stance on gun rights, and his constant incendiary denunciation of the Black Lives Matter movement (Clarke often dubs the movement, “Black ‘Lies’ Matter”). In fact, it seems that the more inflammatory his rhetoric about BLM became, the more frequently Clarke was rewarded with media airtime.

In the wake of the tragic 2015 shooting death of Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth, Sheriff David Clarke–capitalizing on the publicity of the high-profile event–appeared on Fox News alleging that BLM activists’ “war on cops” rhetoric was directly responsible for the officer’s death:

“I’m tired of hearing people call these people black activists, they’re not activists, this is black slime and it needs to be eradicated from the American society and the American culture…stand up and start pushing back against this slime, this filth.”

These comments are manifestly heinous, and a proper analysis of this rhetoric should take place within a broader critique of the BLM movement.

There are numerous legitimate criticisms of BLM, not the least of which are its disorganized and misdirected leadership, and its affinity for propping up unsavory personalities like limelight activist DeRay McKesson and unrepentant race huckster Shaun King. Additionally, the movement utterly lacks a robust intellectual vehicle for achieving its ostensible goal: ending the extrajudicial killings and brutality of blacks at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes. In fact, until just last year when they released their “list of demands,” BLM failed to articulate any concrete, clear objectives in support of their primary goal.

What exactly does BLM want, and how do they plan to accomplish it? Few people can answer this question. Further, what exactly is the difference between BLM, the movement, and the closely related, Campaign Zero? Even fewer people have an intelligent answer to this question, and this is wholly BLM’s fault.

To say that BLM has a messaging problem is certainly an understatement.

However, BLM leaders do not seem especially concerned about the fact that the movement is largely bereft of a cohesive strategy. In fact, BLM seemingly prides itself on being an indistinct and amorphous organization with no discernible form of centralized leadership. At, they declare:

“The Black Lives Matter movement is a ‘leaderfull’ movement…#BlackLivesMatter is an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement…Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes…Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.  It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.  It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”

What began organically as an explicitly anti-brutality movement in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin (the movement gained steam following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri) has morphed into a shambolic campaign for LGBTQ advocacy and Black Liberation through broadly-defined “social action and engagement.” Meanwhile, its inaugural issue–police brutality– has been effectively back-burned.

The movement clearly lacks focus.

As a result of these deficiencies, leaders and representatives of the movement have had tremendous difficulty distancing themselves from several extremist spin-offs or latch-on groups that condone or encourage detestable behaviors, such as rioting or violence against cops. BLM members and affiliates have also been known to engage in undisciplined and unproductive activities, such as disrupting travel at airports and on congested roadways. The lack of direction and strategic leadership plaguing the movement has been the most significant impediment to its success. Notwithstanding the many valid critiques of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sheriff David Clarke deserves scathing criticism for his comments.


Should We Abolish Black History Month?

To the extent that ignorance and dismissal of the myriad contributions of blacks to society continue to be pervasive, a mechanism for redressing these deficits is still desperately needed. Black History Month, if executed as intended, is indeed the most optimal mechanism for achieving this goal. Instead of advocating its abolition, we should be working to reorient Black History Month toward its original intent.

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Each year, the notion that Black History Month should be abolished is enthusiastically resuscitated under the pretense of promoting racial harmony. Those who emphatically oppose the institution of Black History Month tend to argue that it amplifies division between ethnic groups by serving to elevate blacks above everyone else.

Black History Month, the argument goes, should be eradicated because it promotes racial separatism. The protestation that, “it isn’t fair that blacks get a month to celebrate ‘how great they are,’ while no other race is afforded such a privilege,” is vehemently raised by “equality” advocates. This annual 28-day celebratory period, these advocates posit, is, therefore, antithetical to the goal of achieving racial reconciliation in America, and should consequently be abolished.

There are valid criticisms of the manner in which Black History Month is celebrated today. In many ways, Black History Month as practiced today doesn’t live up to its inaugural intent. It is unquestionably true, for instance, that Black History Month celebrations tend to unabashedly promote hero worship of a handful of notable Civil Rights leaders (such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks) rather than engage in a more comprehensive recognition of historical black achievement, and holistic celebration of black cultural heritage.

That said, it is one thing to say that Black History Month celebrations often miss the mark and should be improved. On this point, I will offer wholehearted agreement. However, it is entirely absurd to proffer the historically illiterate sentiment that Black History Month’s very impetus promotes black separatism or black superiority. It is equally absurd to assert that Black History Month’s less-than-ideal attributes and accouterments merit its abolition. Further, the idea that Black History Month takes attention away from the history of “other races” is merely a regurgitated white nationalist talking point.


The Decline of Truth: Trumpism Is the New Conservatism in the Age of the Naked Emperor

The truth still matters. Inasmuch as the decline of truth signals the atrophy of a society’s moral standards, serious conservatives must possess the moral fortitude to resist the duplicity endemic to Trumpism, lest it consumes the conservative movement.

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The White House is now home to a new emperor, and judging by some of the deceitful actions of the Trump administration within just the first few days of his presidency (and all throughout the campaign prior to election), it is clear that we are about to be ushered into the age of the naked emperor.

Over the next four years (at least), we can expect to witness his ministers and sycophants attempt to convince the rest of us that he is fully clothed even when discernibly undressed.

Those who still have the integrity and audacity to call the emperor naked when he is perceptibly so—who remain steadfast in their commitment to the truth—will become part of an ostracized faction forced to the margins of the conservative movement. We will hear arguments asserting that lying for the emperor is the morally superior thing to do, and that ensuring that the emperor tells the truth is secondary to “winning,” however undefined.

There will be efforts to persuade those of us who still believe in common decency that deception is actually a commendable political tactic, no matter the ramifications. Gone are the days when we all acknowledged, yet abhorred the fact that politicians lie routinely. It will be revealed that many people hated lying not because it was inherently immoral, but because it was being done by those who hold opposing political ideals.

The Gaslighting BrigadeTM, chaired by Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, will launch concerted campaigns to legitimize the emperor’s entitlement to “alternative facts” about even the most trivial things, such as presidential inauguration crowd sizes, in order to assuage his bruised ego and gratify his narcissism. One wonders whether an individual with such a fragile self-image (that press conferences must be held to defend it) can be trusted to ethically handle more serious situations that will pose much greater threats to his perceived popularity. One wonders whether the same people defending this campaign of lies would come so ferociously to Trump’s defense had his administration lied about YouTube videos causing the death of four in Benghazi.


White Supremacist Ideas Must Be Challenged, Not Ignored

The notion that white supremacists must be vociferously challenged, not apathetically ignored, is one upon which we all should agree.

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Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who massacred nine black parishioners during a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June last year, was convicted by a federal jury in Charleston, S.C. last Thursday. The jury, who took just 2 hours to deliberate and return with the verdict, found Roof guilty on all 33 charges in his indictment, as reported by the Washington Post.

When the jury reconvenes on January 3 next year, they will determine whether the 22-year-old should be sentenced to the death penalty or life in prison for his horrendous hate crimes. According to Joseph Meek, Dylann Roof’s childhood friend, Roof didn’t always harbor racist views, but started spewing racist white nationalist and white supremacist ideas in the months leading up to the horrific Charleston attack.

White nationalism in the United States is an ideology that espouses the belief that America’s strength as a nation lies in its founding as a “white European” country, and that white identity is presently under attack and must be preserved. White supremacy—from which white nationalism stems—is the belief that whites are superior to all other races. Many would argue that white supremacists use the label “white nationalist” to distance themselves from the negative connotations associated with being white supremacists. The terms are practically interchangeable in everyday conversation.

Meek, who himself faces up to eight years in prison on charges of withholding knowledge of the details of a crime, among other charges, stated that he and Roof often had sleep overs as kids.

Roof, a high school dropout who reportedly attended seven schools in nine years, was self-radicalized when he started reading white supremacist websites. That Dylann Roof apparently acquired his racist views not from his parents or friends, but from online outlets is a fact that is all too often ignored in discourse about this case. The fact is that in the 21st century, largely due to the advent of the internet, ideas—both good and bad—can be disseminated at a frighteningly rapid rate. The question that should be at the forefront of our minds at this point is, what should be the prevailing response to the proliferation of particularly bad ideas, like white supremacy?