Politics & Policy

Black Voters Are White Progressives’ Battered Spouse

Protesters call for the ouster of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in December. (Scott Olson/Getty)

To hear the radical Left tell it, three of America’s most powerful institutions are in the grips of malignant, systemic racism. The country’s major cities — led by Chicago — have declared “open season” on black males. Its universities perpetuate a climate of oppression so stifling that only large-scale student protests can spur reform. And let’s not forget our vile movie business, with its #OscarsSoWhite disregard for black actors.

Yet are there any sectors of American culture more dominated by the progressive left than our urban enclaves, college campuses, and entertainment industry?

America’s largest cities are governed by overwhelming progressive majorities and have been for decades. As I’ve noted before, Evangelical churches are more politically diverse than entire Democratic cities. By 2014, there were exactly nine Republican mayors in the nation’s 100 largest cities. If you’re a conservative with political ambitions, your only hope is to move to the suburbs.

On college campuses, conservatives are an endangered species. In multiple disciplines, liberals outnumber them by more than 25 to 1, and in some disciplines, the conservative point of view is all but extinct. Here, for example is a plot of the views of social psychologists on nine key “culture-war” issues, including abortion and gay marriage:

The academy was always liberal, and it just keeps moving left.

What about Hollywood? While there’s a lively debate over whether directors and producers actually “blacklist” conservative actors, no one credibly argues that the movie industry is anything but faithfully progressive. Yet these same progressives now face a budding boycott over allegations that they “whitewashed” the Oscars.

#share#Stupidity abounds. From their undisputed cultural heights, progressives have sold the American people on a fantasy that says America is racist unless every demographic group enjoys the benefits of its life and shares its burdens in exact proportion to their numbers — except, of course, when it comes to areas of the culture dominated by African-Americans. It’s perfectly fine for hip-hop or jazz to be overwhelmingly black, but if psychology departments aren’t carved up with demographic precision, then it’s time to swarm the administration building.

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Writing in Rare, my wife once summed up this mindset as it applies to feminists: “Men and women are the same, except when women are better.” The same analysis applies to race. White progressives have established that black and white are the same, except when black is better. That means any area of disproportionate black success is grounds for celebration, while any area of disproportionate black failure is not just evidence but proof of racism.

Yet life will never break down so neatly along racial lines. Race, culture, religion, and history mix in extraordinarily complex ways, and focusing merely on numbers reduces the diversity of human experience to a mere math problem. If people self-consciously form and celebrate a distinct culture, doesn’t it stand to reason that people from distinct cultures will make different life and career choices from others? There’s a dearth of black singers in country music. Does that mean that modern Nashville is a hotbed of racism, or does it mean that a combination of history (that, yes, includes racism), culture, and simple matters of taste means that there just are not that many young black men writing songs about drinking whiskey on the tailgate of their F-150?​

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Worse yet, rather than rejecting this artificial, white-progressive construct, elite black radicals foolishly double down. They look at 40 years of liberal bean-counting, and rather than decrying its futility and destructiveness, they demand more government coercion, more social engineering, and more liberalism. In cities and universities, the threat to Democratic rule comes from a Left that isn’t so much reimagining solutions to the challenge of persistent economic inequality as it is claiming that inequality persists because the standard white-progressive solution hasn’t been implemented with enough force and fury.

#related#At the end of the day, however, that’s simply not true. White progressives have been implementing the same policies in inner cities forever, and black voters — their principal victims — keep coming back for more. Breaking the cycle is a matter of mutual responsibility. Yes, conservatives need to pursue black voters and sell them on a different vision, but to blame the problem entirely on their failure to do is to deny agency to African-Americans. Black voters are not pawns to “messaging.” They’re human beings fully responsible for their own mistakes, and ever since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s horrifying death, a collection of race profiteers and carnival barkers have exercised wildly disproportionate influence over African-American politics. That’s not white America’s fault.

Progressivism works for tenured professors, Hollywood directors, and Rahm Emanuel. It’s the path to riches for black radicals. But for black voters, progressivism is a one-way road to continued stagnation and despair. If you care about continued oppression, take a good, hard look at who’s doing the oppressing. See any conservatives?

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.

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