It is an oft-heard meme trumpeted by conservatives that black Americans are natural Republican voters. It’s not that Republicans are racist or racially insensitive which prevent blacks from crossing the partisan divide, Republicans contend. It is that Democrats have some sort of irrational hold on blacks achieved by racial fear-mongering.
Republicans are not ambivalent to the historical experience of blacks in America. Democrats have just blinded blacks from recognizing their true and ancestral political home.
The response of a few Republicans in the Tennessee blogosphere to a post by a black woman author illustrates, I think, why black Americans who hold conservative values are reticent to join up with today’s conservative movement.
On Aug. 11, Genma Holmes, a black female blogger, wrote a post about teaching her teenage son to respect police officers.
Her approach was unorthodox. Being familiar with the history of interactions between black males and cops, Holmes warned her son that when detained by police he should not appear standoffish or act as if the officer had stopped him unjustly. Such behavior, she warned, can lead to “unfair treatment, embarrassment, humiliation or in many cases ‘accidental’ death.”
However, Holmes son wasn’t listening to her warnings — so she decided to get dramatic. She enlisted the help of a police academy graduate to conduct a phony traffic stop designed to test the patience of her young son.
“As my son started to lose his composure and show his annoyance, the officer became more “aggressive” my son said later,” Holmes recounts. “Consequently, he ended up on the hood of his SUV faced down and was told to address the officer as ‘Mr. Officer, sir’.”
Uninformed that the stop was a ruse, Holmes’ son was livid about how he had been treated. Holmes, however, wasn’t interested in the perceived slights. She wanted to know what her son had done to escalate the situation.
“I could hear the disbelief in his voice as he tried to repeat the sequence of events. I was not interested in the cop’s behavior but his responses to the cop. I saw the white hot anger on his face. I remind him that his exasperation was what others experienced daily,” she explained.
Of course, this is sad commentary on our society. No mother, black or white, should be afraid her flesh and blood will meet his death for mouthing off to a traffic stop.
However, the lesson attempted here is fundamentally conservative. Life is unfair. Just because you feel entitled to certain treatment does not mean you will get it or deserve it. Authority deserves the benefit of the doubt. Manners and decorum should be maintained in the face of disrespect. These were the lessons Holmes was attempting to impart.
However, confronted with Ms. Holmes’ unique tale of parenting, a few online conservatives were up in arms.
Jim Boyd, a perennial conservative candidate for office, said, “For your efforts, your son has now earned the victimhood you paid to have installed.”
Kay Brooks, a home-schooling advocate, offered a similar rebuke.
“Certainly let him know this happened in the past …but why abuse your own child in this way? Just so he can walk around …expecting abuse from cops…?”
The former communications director for the TNGOP, Bill Hobbs, also weighed in.
“[Holmes] deliberately set up a fake situation designed to teach her son to not trust police and to encourage her son to view police through the lens of race and to view himself as a target and a victim,” he stated in a comment.
Now, I’m not naive or obtuse. One of the reasons Holmes taught her son this lesson was because as a black male, police may be on “higher alert” around him. This is taken as given, a fact of life.
Holmes is not taking away anything from the injustice of the fact, but she is not crippled by it either. She moves forward.
This is the essence of conservatism. Certain things are intractable. Life is nasty, brutish and short. Human nature is inherently wicked. And, yes, sometimes law enforcement officers cut more slack to white men than black.The lesson here is that being right is never a bulletproof vest. Every injustice need not be fought at the very time and place it is perpetrated.
A liberal or radical critique of Holmes instruction would be understandable. But a conservative one? Republicans argue the reason blacks are not Republican is because they cannot see past petty racial politics to the conservative principles they share with the GOP.
On this occasion, it seems, it was the Republicans who failed to recognize a woman with clearly conservative instincts because she operated on the assumption, for good reason, that law enforcement may render harsher judgments on black suspects.
No party or ideology, it would appear, has the market cornered on petty racial grievances.
Kleinheider is NashvillePost.com's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at http://postpolitics.net