Black Conservatives: Uncle Toms or Legitimate Voices?

Reply Wed 14 Jan, 2004 02:51 pm
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Black Conservatives: Uncle Toms or Legitimate Voices?
By C. Stone Brown


January 06, 2004

Their conservative viewpoints on affirmative action, tax cuts, welfare, or military spending can readily be found on the editorial pages of major daily newspapers, on the airwaves of nationally syndicated talk-radio and cable television shows.

They are black conservatives -- the likes of Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Armstrong Williams, Ken Hamblin, Shelby Steele, Walter Williams, Dana White and Alan Keyes -- a growing number of African-American men and women who media watchdogs and liberal critics say receive an inordinate amount of media attention.

Are black conservatives simply exploiting the novelty of being black and conservative? Or do they offer a legitimate alternate viewpoint that is gaining currency in the African-American community?

The easy answer to why black conservatives get more media access above their liberal counterparts is because they are seen as a novelty in politics where the majority of African-Americans lean left of center on social and economic issues and overwhelmingly vote Democrat.

"Some of the things that they are saying, the community is saying 'I agree with you,'" said, Nancie Teeter McPhail, senior producer for the "The Right Side With Armstrong Williams," a nationally syndicated radio and television program. "People are coming into a realization about values … we have so much in the media that is taking us away from our basic value system and I think people are listening to the black conservative viewpoint."

The market is simply saturated with an African-American liberal perspective, said Craig Deluz, an African-American conservative candidate for City Council in Sacramento, Calif. "It's not something that is going to surprise and shock you, but if you have an African American who is writing and supporting President Bush, that may be something of a novelty. The problem I would say with black liberal columnists is they aren't writing anything that thousands of other liberal columnists aren't already saying. So a lot of it may be just market factor, in that they got enough people writing about it," he said.

Lionel K. McPherson, former writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a New York-based liberal media-watchdog group, and author of "The Loudest Silence Ever Heard: Black Conservatives in the Media," said there is more that explains why black conservatives get a disproportionate amount of media access.

"As I wondered back in '92, why are these people who are vastly outnumbered getting such an over-representation of their view in the media … novelty isn't enough, to the extent that an overwhelmingly minority viewpoint deserves that much attention, this seems to involve some sort of value judgment," said McPherson, who also teaches philosophy at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

"I've been told at least 50 times that I could write my own check as a syndicated columnist or a talk-show person if I would stop being liberal. Syndicates have told me this," said Barbara A. Reynolds, a liberal African-American, and founding editor and former columnist for USA Today.

Reynolds, who has made appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Politically Incorrect," C-Span and CNN, and is the author of several books, said her access to the media has shrunk because there is little if any requests for a liberal perspective.

"It's not 'rocket science' to understand why black conservatives have become popular. The issue is money, the white Republicans will fund their mouthpieces, the white Democrats rarely do, and that is the simplicity of it," said Reynolds, citing Ward Connerly, a high-profile black conservative and member of the University of California Board of Regents who has opposed affirmative action. "He gets millions of dollars to fight affirmative action, but if I wanted to fight for it, there wouldn't be any money for me out there to do that."

Teeter-McPhail, who worked with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he chaired the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the early '80s, said it's a widespread assumption among liberals that white conservatives are funding the rhetoric of black conservatives. "We don't get any funding from the Republican Party whatsoever … People think 'Oh, Armstrong says that because he gets Republicans to fund his rhetoric.' He doesn't get one dime, Armstrong's opinions are based on his values and the way he was brought up," said McPhail, who has known Williams for more than 20 years.

Deluz said the popularity of black-conservative media personalities by media executives mirror a slow shift in African Americans moving right of center on certain issues. "Many African Americans are moving from Democrat to declining to state the party affiliation, and you are starting to get some who are moving to the Republican Party."

Voting in the last presidential election doesn't support Deluz's claim that African Americans are slowly moving away from the Democratic Party. President Bush received less than 8 percent of the African-American vote in 2000.

Reynolds, who said she helped Williams early in his media career, cautioned not to lump all black conservatives together, adding they aren't all "Uncle Toms."

"I don't have any problems with people who are legitimate … some will just go against everything that blacks stand for because they know there are funds out there to do that," said Reynolds.
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Reply Wed 14 Jan, 2004 03:21 pm
please allow me the very basest of statments in saying the following: some are legitimate, some are uncle toms. personally, I'm dead center ...not all the way liberal, not all the way conservative. Once, a while back, one of my 'sistahs' told me that I should have been born in the 50s-60s, white and male....because in this day and age I think like an old white man...now, while that is certainly far from the actuality, she said this because I have a lot of views concerning the black community that are not in line with the way, my guess is, the liberal view taken by her and a lot of other black men and women I know. My voter's registration card says democrat, because I don't want to be left out of ANY voting...but my vote cast is not always (not even half the time) liberally so...
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Reply Wed 14 Jan, 2004 07:40 pm
McGentrix, how could you? You left out Joseph Perkins, my personal favorite columnist.
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