Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice

By Christopher Alan Bracey | Go to book overview

Introduction

Facing Reality: Black Conservatism's
Growing Appeal and Why It Matters

What exactly does it mean to be a black conservative, and why would anyone choose to become one?

This is the kind of question that rarely elicits a serious response. Depending upon the source, it can come off as cynical, accusatory, and politically loaded. Over the years, I have asked this question of selfproclaimed black conservatives in a variety of formal and informal settings—sometimes in jest, but mostly with earnest intention. Responses have been predictably wide ranging. The interminable pregnant pause. The wry smile. The incredulous glance. Mild deflection, followed by an inquiry into my own personal politics. The cautious and thoroughly caveated explanation. The full-blown ideological rant. Rarely, if ever, have I come away from such exchanges substantively and intellectually satisfied.

There was a time when the answer to this question was largely inconsequential. In the mid-twentieth century, black conservatives resided at the periphery of American culture and politics. The influence of black conservatives and the ideas they espoused had little demonstrable effect on the trajectory of American politics and race relations. Liberals commanded the black political and cultural stage, and the answer to this question, to the extent that it was ever asked, was largely ignored.

As twenty-first-century Americans, however, we find ourselves in a radically different posture. Black conservatives are quickly becoming the

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