Why are black conservatives so despised in the black community?
Guest columnist Walter Backstrom writes about the challenges of being a black conservative.
Special to The Times
MY father died six weeks ago and I still miss him. During the last few weeks of his life we had several conversations. In one, he expressed criticism that I did not support Barack Obama.
I remember that particular discussion because I had just mustered enough courage to ask him if he was proud of me.
Unfortunately, I never got to ask him. I had lost my courage and all I could say, sadly, was that I didn't support his policies and I didn't hate him.
That moment spurred me to wonder: Why are black conservatives so despised in the black community?
The majority of my life, I was a loyal Democrat, never questioning my leaders. Heck, everyone in my family was a Democrat, so I assumed they were right. However, the older I got, there was just a nagging feeling about the Democrats that somehow did not seem right.
In the Democratic Party, you can't be pro-life, against gay marriage, religious or a black conservative.
My conversion to conservatism was a long time ago, or so it seems. I remember that night like it was yesterday. It was late, rainy, I was alone and I was afraid just like being in a scary movie. The difference was that there was no monster, it was just one of the quiet moments ... a come-to-Jesus moment that inevitably changed my life. I didn't know then the cost, but I would soon find out.
I had just finished working on a hard-fought campaign. The candidate was a white Republican running against a black Democrat. I personally believed that the white guy would have been better — it was just politics, nothing personal. During the course of the campaign, and because of my choice of candidates, I was threatened, called a "traitor," an "Uncle Tom." I began to wonder, why all the anger toward me? I was just a campaign adviser doing my job and supporting the issues I believed in.
It dawned on me that I had committed the ultimate betrayal. I had given aid and comfort to the "enemy" — a white, conservative Republican.
The cost of my transgression? I was no longer authentically black, said some. I had become a "house Negro." One of the tragic legacies of black slavery is that solidarity and sticking to the group means everything. I violated that.
Black conservatives are a different breed. I left the Democratic Party but I am not totally accepted by the Republican Party. However, black conservatives often tell the truth about race and are not burdened by political correctness or the need to please the overseers. White liberals perceive black conservatives as being ungrateful and black liberals perceive black conservatives as self-loathing people who deep down inside hate their mothers. To set the record straight, I don't hate myself and I adore my mother.
I respect Herman Cain and I agree with most of his positions. What I very much disagree with is the comment "racism doesn't keep black people from succeeding." That statement, as troubling as it is, is just not true.
What is more tragic and just as troubling is that some in the black community continue to play the race-victim card and believe the main reason they haven't made it is because they are black. There is nothing more shameful than believing that your life is determined by someone else, because it is just not true.
I must confess, had I known the price of being black conservative, maybe I wouldn't have changed ... maybe I would have kept my mouth shut.
Maya Angelou, the great black poet, said, "Courage is the most important of all virtues because it makes all other virtues possible."
I guess I will never know if my father was proud of me. What I want to believe is that he was proud of the fact that I stood up for what I believe in. No excuses.Walter Backstrom is a longtime South King County resident.
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