Issues that challenge a black conservative
As a conservative, I hold to Judeo-Christian social values, fiscal responsibility, and limited, constitutional government. As an African-American, I hold to the racial identity of my family and the heritage of my ancestors.
In today’s political climate, these two tenets seem to be irreconcilable.
That is why, in an effort to bring about mutual understanding, I have, to varying degrees, written previous articles that describe why so many African-Americans have differing socio-political views than I do.
For many of my African-American family members and friends, I believe it simply boils down to the belief that their party is more compassionate because of their advocacy of government, social programs, and the mistaken belief that conservatives are mean racists who don’t care about people.
But the positions taken by some of my fellow conservatives at times have also presented some challenges for me.
The first challenge pertained to the recent printing and subsequent online comments and articles over the letter to the editor, “Fayette’s soon-to-be inner school.”
While I greatly respect the editor of this paper, I have to admit my emotional reaction to the parent’s letter was similar to that expressed by Mr. Presberg, and I did question whether or not it was wise to print this letter. I was equally disturbed by many of the online comments that followed.
However, I do profoundly disagree with Mr. Presberg’s point that the “only” reason one would consider publishing such a letter is to, “... try to divide our community through fear. ... By printing an editorial like this, the newspaper is providing a forum for, and feeding racist attitudes.”
Mr. Beverly had a valid point in his response as he defended the freedom of the press and how citizens, no matter how unflattering their opinion, have the right to be heard. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that in reading the anonymous letter and many of the subsequent comments, I felt like I was being punched in the gut.
Second, I have been challenged by the recent ruling of the federal judge ordering that Fayette County move from all-county voting to district-only voting.
On one hand, conservatives argue that such a judgment strips citizens of their right to vote for all their county representatives. On the other hand, leading local African-Americans claim that moving to district voting will enable African-Americans to have representation in offices.
While I understand the desire to have racial representation, I do not think it is a logical step to assume that someone of the same race will better serve the needs of constituents than someone who is of a different race.
Nor do I see where there have been systemic, racial injustices in how areas of our county are served or resourced. Having lived in both New York and Miami, I have seen neighborhoods that were woefully under-served and this is not the case in Fayette County.
However, this may not be the case when it comes to how our county’s school and voting maps are drawn. While for the most part, the maps make sense in terms of population size and geography, there are some small boundary lines that don’t make sense to me, and on the surface appear to be drawn to preserve pre-existing racial and/or socio-economic areas. However, I will have to explore further to draw such a conclusion.
Finally, I have been challenged by a series of small, self-perceived injustices I have experienced. Because of past injustices, it is almost imbedded in the collective consciousness of many African-Americans that when we experience something we deem unfair or unjust, to ask the question, “Is this because I am Black?”
As a conservative, I have to fight this impulse, because I know how it can cause one to consciously or subconsciously resent fellow citizens for having, at least statistically, a socio-economic advantage.
I also recognize how damaging it is to see oneself, or the world, in only racial terms, and have that racial identification always tied to something negative.
It makes one feel angry or hopeless, and gives way to a perpetual victim mentality. I simply refuse to have this concept of myself or my children.
By the grace of God, I strive to evaluate others based on their actions and demonstrated character, or, as Martin Luther King puts it, “not ... by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This kind of evaluation is prescriptive for all people. And I know my conservative friends feel the same way.
So, to my fellow citizens, regardless of our backgrounds, I simply ask that we remember there are people with equal intelligence and integrity who may view things differently.
And as we grow as a community we must never stop trying to have respectful debates, points of mutual agreement, and a desire to celebrate the American values that bind us together.
For I am convinced that the strength of our community comes not from its political parties, natural resources, or even its schools; the strength of this county comes from the integrity and character of its citizens who endeavor to make this a wonderful place to live.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]