Conservatives, liberals & blacks

By Walter Williams

During the first Reagan administration, I participated in a number of press conferences on either a book or article I’d written or as a panelist in a discussion of White House public policy. On occasion, when the question-and-answer session began, I’d tell the press, “You can treat me like a white person. Ask hard, penetrating questions.” The remark often brought uncomfortable laughter, but I was dead serious. If there is one general characteristic of white liberals, it’s their condescending and demeaning attitude toward blacks.

According to a Washington Times story (July 14, 2004), Democratic hopeful Sen. John Kerry, in a speech about education to a predominantly black audience, said there are more blacks in prison than in college.

“That’s unacceptable, but it’s not their fault,” he said. Do you think Kerry would also say that white inmates are faultless? Aside from Kerry being factually wrong about the black prison population vs. the black college population, his vision differs little from one that holds that blacks are a rudderless, victimized people who cannot control their destiny and whose best hope depends upon the benevolence of white people.

Have you watched some white politicians talking to black audiences? It’s bad enough to watch the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson do an imitation of Flip Wilson’s Rev. Leroy. But to watch Al Gore and Bill Clinton do it is insulting at the least. They don’t talk to white audiences that way. As a matter of fact, Sharpton and Jackson don’t talk to white audiences that way, either – talking about going from the outhouse to the White House and from disgrace to amazing grace and other such nonsense. By the way, after addressing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s 95th annual convention in Philadelphia, Kerry gave the audience the black power clenched-fist salute. I wonder whether his white audiences get the black power salute as well.

On July 23, President Bush gave a speech to the National Urban League. Unlike so many other white politicians speaking before predominantly black audiences, Bush didn’t bother to pander and supplicate. He spoke of educational accountability and school choice and condemned high taxes, increased regulation and predatory lawsuits. He defended the institution of marriage. He didn’t see blacks as victims in need of a paternalistic government to come to our rescue. He saw blacks needing what every American needs – an environment where there’s rule of law, limited government and equality before the law. The most important question President Bush left with the audience was whether blacks should give the Democratic Party a monopoly over their vote and take their votes for granted.

Sen. Kerry and others have criticized Bush for snubbing the NAACP convention. Here’s my question to you. If you were president, would you speak before a group whose president, Kweisi Mfume, said, “We have a president that’s prepared to take us back to the days of Jim Crow segregation and dominance,” or whose chairman, Julian Bond, said, “[President Bush] has appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and has chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection”?

It’s always been my contention that the conservative vision shows far greater respect for blacks than the liberal you-can’t-make-it-without-us vision. For decades, there have been buy-off-the-black-vote presidential appointments like secretaries of labor, health and human services, education and housing. But it’s been conservative presidents who have appointed blacks to top positions of responsibility and authority such as secretary of state, national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Republican presidents didn’t make these appointments to buy off the black vote. They chose the best people around, who just happened to be black Americans.

Maybe it’s guilt that motivates white liberals. That’s why I’ve graciously offered a Certificate of Amnesty and Pardon.