Confessions of a Colored Conservative
It is time I came out of the closet. My conservatism is a not so well kept secret. I am not one of those no hair on my face married to a white girl, just want to be around rich white folks, Uncle Tom conservatives, I am just a colored man who has a wife, two kids and took care of his responsibilities. I was cursed with hard working parents who both taught school and had an abiding faith in the things that made this country great; God, family, hard work and frugality.
My father was born in 1921 and lived through hard times. The depression wasn’t just in 1929… it lasted until the end of the WW2. My father was a patriot who, when I suggested I was leaving for Africa proclaimed, “ Boy you ain’t figured it out yet. All them niggers trying to get over here.” Every one that knew my old man knows he could say a lot by just saying a little.
He lived to see his grandson graduate from Harvard and his granddaughter go to Elon College. His was story of success on the football field that took him to Johnson C. Smith College where he is in their hall of fame. My mother graduated from Spellman in ‘44. After that it was the G.I. bill that helped him accentuate his degree and buy his first home.
He played guard in the single wing and felt that no matter how big a man is if you hit him right he will fall. He also felt that if you took advantage of the educational opportunities before you, worked hard and kept your nose clean you could be a success. Success meant you owned your own home and had a sweet pension and social security along with health and prescription benefits waiting for you.
Now if you jumped from job to job, had a bunch of babies out of wedlock that you didn’t take care of, had only one broke down car and rented somewhere, you were not a success to him. You could run an elevator hustle on the side, take care of your business or work at Crucible Steel as he did until they would hire a dark-skinned black man who then worked for the Board of Education for forty years, and be a great success.
My father swore by Adam Clayton Powell, Thurgood Marshall and Lyndon Johnson. He voted for Tom Kean who was the first republican I ever voted for. I must say here though I am conservative. I am a registered independent who has voted for both democrats and republicans. I voted for President Obama proudly twice. He is certainly no conservative but he was the best man for the job.
I am first and foremost for order and low taxes. I don’t believe in welfare for individuals or corporations. No free nothing!!! Simply put… them that don’t work, don’t eat.
As hard as that might sound that is how I truly feel. I want reparations for slavery. It could come in a lump sum payment or tax abatement. I am for gay marriage as a human civil rights issue. They have the right to be as unhappy as the rest of us. I want limited American involvement around the world. Unless it can be shown that it is directly in our geo-political-economic interests, why bother. I believe in limited immigration and a path to citizenship for those that can prove they have been here the longest. As for those 50,000 or so border children, they can go back the same way they got here.
You might ask what kind of conservative am I? The kind who has traveled enough to know that despite our problems, this is still the greatest country on earth. That is not to say that we don’t need to improve in any number of areas, but this is still a place of great possibility and redemption.
I don’t believe in the clay-footed gods of republicanism with their voodoo economics. Though I must confess a peculiar love for the Bushes. If I could have dinner with anyone it would be Barbara Bush. I would do a Morgan Freeman with her like in driving Miss Barbara. George Two, not so much, but I might vote for Jeb. Those people are true aristocrats educated at Exeter, Yale, Smith and real pearls. While George One, who was the real deal with impeccable credentials, real war experience, and C.I.A. tenure had to play second fiddle to the Reagans all those years. I heard Miss Barbara tell Jack Kemp, who was running against her husband after he had given a particularly effective speech, “Great speech Jack, the only way I would have enjoyed it more was if it had been given posthumously”. Whoa, this woman has seen and heard it all. I must also confess an abiding respect for James Baker, a man who gets things done. Yes it’s true… I said it!
I am not alone. My family could talk about our own trifling and just down on their luck relatives. “I worked my whole life and I can’t understand how somebody who never worked should have the same Medicare or Medicaid or whatever as me when they ain’t worked twenty minutes in their entire life.” He was talking about his own sister!
My grandfather would proclaim, “I ain’t make not naira one of them babies so why should I have to pay for they pampers and formula.” … when he was talking about welfare mothers.
They all felt Hitler had to be stopped but didn’t agree with wars like Korea or Vietnam and thought they were far too adventurous to lose the lives of our sons and brothers and the like.
I am a little more adventurous because though business as usual is what is required some times manifest destiny must rear it’s ugly head for the sake of commerce and cultural progress.
You may also ask why come out of the closet now or at all? These foolish Uncle Tom conservatives are giving us true conservatives a bad name. People of color are far more conservative than anyone wants to let on. We are not stupid. We know a lot of republicans don’t like us but I really don’t care because I don’t like them either. That doesn’t mean we can’t coalesce to work for lower taxes or legal medicinal weed.
I don’t like the democrats anymore than the republicans; they just seem to be more hypocritical. That being said… I don’t like most preachers, pimps, and politicians; you can include club owners on that list. If I were going to give my money to some one (though I wouldn’t… I am said to be so tight my butt squeaks when I walk) it would be the pimp. At least I would know what I am getting.
They all seem to be selling hope.
It was William Buckley with his brand of smart cynical “what’s in it for me Americanism” that first attracted me to conservatism, that and Jean Paul Satre and Albert Camus and the other existentialists who freed me from the bondage of group think. “As long as one of us is in the ghetto we are all in the ghetto.” That proclamation, and those like it, keep us all in some ghetto. As my father would say, “ You just make sure you’re not that one man left in the ghetto.” Though he himself bought his home in the suburbs and sold it for twice what he paid for it, then moved back to the ghetto where he still knew everybody. He wanted to move back south to North Carolina. He didn’t make it but I did make it here to Savannah
Buckley’s starve the beast economic solution to excess government spending always sounded right to me whether it is welfare or pentagon spending. Most libertarians fail to understand the interconnectivity of commerce and culture. Liberals can’t comprehend the fact that evil exists on this planet and must be stopped sometimes sooner than later. Most conservatives realize even though we would like to be respected, if only one choice could be made between respect and fear we would choose fear. Why? People will rob people they respect before those they fear.
I refuse to be swayed by the liberal or right wing media. The right has gone so far right the center is where the right used to be. There are so few progressives that their number is near meaningless. It is my contention that far more people of color are conservatives. Ask them how they feel about the Hispanics taking their jobs even though not one of them will return to the fields to pick anything.
Thus is our plight. Yes, the police and the courts have been the arms and fingers of an often pernicious power, they also set us free and finally let me go my own way when Lyndon Johnson, who was another of my father’s heroes, passed the civil rights laws and nominated Thurgood Marshall to be Solicitor General then made him a Supreme Court Justice.
People were not all created equal. There are pretty people and ugly people. There are smart people and stupid people. There are fast people and slow people. What they all deserve is equal opportunity. Though things are certainly not equal this country offers someone like me the best opportunity of any place I know of. That means something to me. Not to mention my African and Indian blood. I am like my grandfather before me, a red Georgia nigger. When searching for my family land down in Parrot, Georgia an old White man and an old colored man were whittling on the porch of the general store. This was in 2006 and these men were from a black and white Frank Capra film in the late thirties or forties. “You must be some of them Bridges people.” When I nodded my head and responded. “Yes sir. How did you know?” The Black one said. “You look like all of them.”
Right now if my four grandchildren showed up at that same store and those men were there they would get the same response from those whittling men since they have light skin, light straight hair and light eyes. We are what The United States has wrought.
The ends have always justified the means for me. I realize my beautiful garden is grown for every one of my relatives who wanted to grow flowers but had to grow vegetables just to stay alive. I nap most days for every slave who never got to know the beauty of a siesta in the heat of the afternoon. We are a family on both sides who work hard and own our own homes. Education has been and remains a requirement in our family.
I am a member of the brotherhood of early risers and late night creepers. My motto is still “Get funky… Make money… You don’t stop.” This is a country where that ideology can get you a pretty good life. Politics aside, democracy is messy. Building consensus through negotiation and compromise takes time and patience, both of which I am in short supply of.
My interactions with police usually begin with “Officer I am obviously wrong… this is your call.” Usually I am wrong, if however minutely and I am thinking, “Why don’t you go catch a thief or murderer or something.” But usually, since my papers are always in order, I get a “Mr. Fletcher, slow down… or Mr. Fletcher, could you try coming to more of a complete stop instead of just slowing down looking both ways and proceeding forward.” To which I reply, “Sorry officer and thank you for the warning.”
It wasn’t always like this but it is like this now, it is like that here and now in Savannah, Georgia. As I tell my students, you can’t treat these cops like they are substitute teachers or lie to them like they are your mommas. I continue to convey simple advice like, “Do your homework, take advantage of every educational opportunity you can create and make the most of it. Finish what you start. Remember... them that don’t work, don’t eat.” And like my father told me and I told my own children, and tell all my students; “Success is the best revenge.”