The Heroes–and Hope–of Our Time
by Harry Stein
Thomas’s entire public career stands as a rebuke to left/liberal group think—which is why no one on the public scene has been the target of more scorn and abuse. Having come to widespread public notice as a result of a vicious smear by ideological foes desperate to keep him off the High Court, (and defeating it by calling the attack the attempted “high-tech lynching” that it was), in the years since he has been regularly derided as everything from an Uncle Tom and race traitor to an intellectual lightweight. Yet, unfazed—indeed, the very model of self possession and personal integrity—he has worked for the nation’s good, helping shape Court decisions that defended constitutional principle and fended off the would-be excesses of the federal government. Even Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the liberal New Yorker magazine, recently had to concede that “Thomas has emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court… Rarely has a Supreme Court Justice enjoyed such broad or significant vindication.”
Thomas Sowell (@ThomasSowell)
Few write with the combination of passion and intellectual firepower of Sowell, an economist based at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. For while he always relies on facts and data to make his case, he speaks also from personal experience. Harlem-born, having spent a lifetime watching the dramatic and wondrous shifts in America on race, he has zero patience for liberals who, refusing to look at reality, cling desperately to the lie that white racism is responsible for all the ills of the black community. Here he is, for instance, in a 2011 column on the liberal outrage over the fact that a disproportionate number of blacks are suspended or expelled from school. “In other words, if a school suspends more black males than Asian females, that is taken as a sign of discrimination. No one in his right mind really believes that, but it is part of the grand make-believe that pervades our politics and even our courts. For years there have been stories in New York and Philadelphia newspapers about black kids beating up Asian classmates. But do not expect anybody to do anything that is likely to put a stop to it. If these were white kids beating up Hispanic kids, cries of outrage would ring out across the land from the media, the politicians, the churches and civic groups. But it is not politically correct to make a fuss when black kids beat up Asian kids.”
Walter E. Williams
Like his close friend Sowell—and a fair number of other prominent black conservatives—Williams, the influential author and Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, started out on the left. “I was more sympathetic to Malcolm X than Martin Luther King because Malcolm X was more of a radical who was willing to confront discrimination in ways that I thought it should be confronted, including perhaps the use of violence,” as Williams told the Wall Street Journal of his early student years. But then he started studying economics under “tough-minded professors who encouraged me to think with my brain instead of my heart. I learned that you have to evaluate the effects of public policy as opposed to intentions.”
Allen West (@AllenWest)
When the retired lieutenant colonel and tough as nails veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan was elected to Congress from Florida’s 22nd CD, liberals everywhere were apoplectic. And West has since given them plenty more to be upset about, from the outset proving himself a very different kind of black congressman. Indeed, when attacked by so-called ‘civil rights activists’ for his independence of mind, he’s done what few Republicans before him, black or white, have dared: counterattacked, hard. Joining the Black Congressional Caucus—on the grounds that someone had to directly stand up to this group of purported leaders who reflexively identify racism as the cause of every ill faced by the black community—he’s publicly called out such arch race-baiters Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) as contemporary versions of the “plantation boss”; and, even more provocatively, termed himself a “modern day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”
Ward Connerly (@WardConnerly)
If Clarence Thomas is Black Conservative Enemy Number One, not too far down the list is anti-race-preferences crusader Ward Connerly, whose work likewise profoundly challenges the victim/dependency mentality. It has been this way since 1996, when as a member of the California state university system’s Board of Regents, businessman Connerly took on California’s powerful liberal and educational establishments to lead the successful fight for passage of state Proposition 209, banning race preferences in college admissions and state hiring. In the years since has gone on to head similar campaigns in five other states. Along the way he has often had to contend as much with Republican indifference—or fear—as with liberal hostility. More times than he cares to count, he’s observed, he’s spoken before an audience knowing that 99 of 100 people agree with him. “But if there’s one angry black person in the audience who disagrees,” he says, “that person controls the room. He’ll go on about the last 400 years, and institutional racism, and ‘driving while black,’ and the other 99 will just sit there and fold like a cheap accordion.”
The daughter of a cop, Gratz was among the top students in her blue collar suburban Detroit high school class with a 3.8 GPA, as well as a gifted athlete and the Student Council Vice President, so as a graduating senior she was startled to be turned down by the University of Michigan while minority friends of hers who were lesser students were accepted. When it was subsequently revealed that U of M ran a parallel admissions system for minorities, requiring markedly lower grades and test scores, the young woman filed the lawsuit that eventually resulted in the landmark Supreme Court decision Gratz v. Bollinger, declaring that system illegal. Since this proved only a pyrrhic victory, with institutions of higher learning able to continue to racially discriminate on other grounds, Gratz worked with Connerly to spearhead a 2006 ballot measure in Michigan that finally banned race-based admissions and government hiring practices in the state.
A New Haven, Connecticut firefighter, Ricci was one of nineteen city firefighters—seventeen of them white, the other two Hispanic—who sued the city after they’d passed a rigorous exam for promotion, then saw the tests ruled invalid because no black firefighters had scored high enough to qualify. Ricci was an especially compelling and sympathetic figure since not only had he already amply demonstrated his leadership skills on the front lines in a field where competence matters more than just about any other, but he is dyslexic, so had had to study with special intensity to prep for the exam, and spent more than $1,000 to have books read onto audiotapes. Like Gratz, Ricci and his confederates prevailed in the Supreme Court, (though, again, by just a 5-4 margins), but the ruling scarcely gave pause to government diversicrats, who continue to devise set-aside programs in localities across the country.
Star Parker (@StarParker)
Few argue more effectively than self-described former welfare queen Parker that the problem for many blacks struggling in America is not racism but the values that prevail in the inner cities—and the liberals who refuse to face that fundamental truth. One of the most charismatic of today’s black conservatives, she counts herself as having been saved by welfare reform, which nudged her toward personal responsibility and what writer Daniel Akst rightly describes as “the aristocracy of self control.” “On the form they made sure you didn’t work, you didn’t save and you didn’t get married,” she recalls. “And for that you got two checks every month, on the first and fifteenth. Food stamps, too, and all your medical expenses. And daycare for your kids, so I could hang out at Venice Beach all afternoon. Why work? It’s so much easier to take than to work.”
Alveda King (@AlvedaKing)
The niece of the legendary civil rights leader, King, the director of African-American outreach at Priests for Life and the founder of King For America, has taken the extraordinary step of calling out race-baiters Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for “stirring up the people without positive solutions,” and publicly urging “them to remember the man that they say that they followed, to remember that his message was nonviolence and very loving” and “not to incite people with that race card that they are very good at playing.”
A brilliant Hoover Institution scholar, Steele has nailed the source of liberals’ deeply condescending attitude toward racial minorities more succinctly than anyone in the two word title of his most important book: White Guilt. It is the widespread guilt over the terrible inequities of the past, (and to a lesser extent, the obvious hardships faced by many blacks in the present), that causes white people, especially those who identify themselves as ‘enlightened’ or ‘progressive,’ to over and over, ad infinitum, give blacks a pass on behaviors and attitudes they would regard as unacceptable and even abhorrent in their own kind. This guilt has repeatedly, in fact, induced liberal whites, and even some not so liberal, to embrace policies that institutionalize not fairness but its opposite so as to appear to be on the right side of the racial divide. “The great ingenuity of interventions like affirmative action,” Steele writes, “has not been that they give Americans a way to identify with the struggle of blacks, but that they give them a way to identify with racial virtuousness quite apart from blacks.”
Herman Cain (@THEHermanCain)
Early on during the Republican primaries, when Cain was atop the polls, race-obsessed liberals were sure they knew why. “Herman Cain is probably well-liked by some of the Republicans because it hides the racist element in the Republican Party,” as the loathsome Janeane Garofolo put it, adding that it was conservatives’ chance to say “’Look, we have a black man.’” The truth? The lifelong businessman’s no-nonsense pro capitalist message, delivered with unaffected good humor; and, perhaps even more, his passionate love of country, grounded in personal experience, struck a chord with conservatives everywhere. His, indeed, was the ultimate American success story: that of the son of a janitor and cleaning lady’s son who rose to the very top of his field and argued more effectively than any of his rivals that getting ahead in a free society is a matter of hard work and perseverance. While his presidential run was doomed by a combination of policy inexperience and personal shortcomings, his campaign inspired many—not least, other black conservatives, who will surely rise to future positions of leadership.