Although I have been a so-called ‘black’ American and a social conservative all my life – and found the two aspects of my identity to be remarkably congruent – I am always surprised when confronted with some of the vitriol that I and my fellow black conservatives face when addressing the black community. I have often wondered why it is ok for other groups to maintain a diversity of political viewpoints – whether they are Asians, Latinos, or Jewish Americans – but black Americans seem to believe that anyone who does not vote the party line is a traitor to his or her race.
Why is it that among African Americans anyone who does not support the Democrats or liberal causes is labeled a sell-out, or a ‘self-loathing’ black person? Are we not as diverse in our thinking as other groups? We should really avoid chastising each-other for thinking differently. Instead we should appreciate and celebrate our wonderfully diverse community. We should welcome diverse perspectives as an asset, not a liability. The more we do this, the faster we will grow as a community and attain mainstream success in America.
Case in point; many were quick to chastise the pastors who opened the door for Donald Trump’s message to the black community; but where are those same people when it comes time to chastising the murderers in Chicago that are killing people? When it comes to Donald Trump though, it seems there is a special kind of disrespect. People hate Trump so much – and by default some of his black surrogates – that the discussion gets overheated before we even get a chance to discuss the issues. Now, I’m not going to pretend that Trump hasn’t been a magnate for controversy, whether intentionally or not, but surely we don’t all have to lose our heads just because something outrageous that might have been said by a candidate on the campaign trail.
Since when has merely having a conversation become a prohibited act? The attitude in some parts of the black community seems to be, ‘I can’t even talk to you because I can’t understand how you can support Trump.’ But for business-people and others within the black community, we look at a guy like Donald Trump and we see an opportunity. Perhaps Trump’s not a perfect guy – who is? – but surely we can have a conversation about the things we have in common.
For example, what about Obamacare? I own businesses with over a hundred employees. Obamacare has increased the overhead costs for health coverage significantly in my company. It has reduced the number of people (including African Americans) that I can afford to hire – and taken away more opportunities from blacks than it has provided. I feel that I have a legitimate grievance about the excess costs imposed on my business, and my company’s employees.
But even more fundamentally, what are we really arguing about? How much of a difference politicians of either party actually make in the everyday lives of most people? What is the most impactful factor in our lives – who we elect as President, or the choices we make every day? I would argue that the freedom to change one’s life is far more valuable than any benefit the government can possibly provide (usually at the expense of freedom).
But perhaps the most fundamental reason to celebrate these differences is that we should not put all of our eggs in one basket. What if Donald Trump wins the election? We need people on the inside who are trusted by the new administration, who actually care about the black community and can negotiate on our behalf. That is a major reason why I have come to support Dr. Carson’s efforts to bring Donald Trump to the black and a wider community. Whatever you may think about Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson is not out of touch, and he has demonstrated his connection with the black community time and time again. As a candidate he was the only one of the sixteen Republican nominees to visit inner city Baltimore in the wake of the riots there. And as an ally and highly trusted advisor to Donald Trump – he personally introduced Mr. Trump to inner city Detroit, where Carson grew up.
The bottom line is that the mission of black conservatism is not antithetical to the interests of the black community. We are not as far apart as some would have you believe. We are in fact one nation and one community – with a thousand different points of light. While each individual may have different aims – Dr. Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon, and I am an entrepreneur – but we all want what is best for our families and our communities.
I urge African Americans to consider the ultimate price for limiting diversity of opinion within the community. The very person you are alienating today with harsh words and closed minds, may in fact be the very person you may need tomorrow to negotiate on your behalf. Keep an open mind and an open heart. Even though there are matters over which we may disagree, we should all agree that we are God’s children and equal in His sight.
Williams is Business Manager to Dr. Ben Carson and the largest minority owner of Broadcast TV stations (seven) in America, including WEYI NBC in Flint Michigan.