Post Politics: Why conservative blacks seldom become conservatives

Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 11:44pm

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's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at

22 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 8/24/09 at 5:15

This is not about just treatment of blacks by a police officer. This can happen to anyone.

Put yourself in the position of a police officer. All your life you have been a nobody. But you wanted so badly to have some recognition and respect that you take a job as a police officer at pay that is two notches above a store clerk. But what you get for the first time in your life is the option to take out all your life's failures on ANYONE who refuses to humble themselves before you.

By: chiefpayne568 on 8/24/09 at 7:42

Seems to me the woman was trying to teach her son respect for authority...not to abuse him or to expect abuse from the law.

I know a Tennessean who had a son who was caught for public drunkeness in Florida on a 3 day weekend. The man didn't go right down and bail his son out but instead let him sit there the whole 3 days, then came down with a lawyer to go to court with him. Needless to say the son never drank like that again.

BTW, I purposely did NOT put in the race of the man and his son. Why? Because I'm curious - if the people making comments in the article didn't know the race of the lady and her son, would they still have claimed she was promoting victimhood or that she was "abusing her son"? I truly wonder if they would have said the same thing if the woman and her son were caucasian rather than African American. I suspect not.

By: Kosh III on 8/24/09 at 8:21

Right Chief. Had it been a white Republican, they probably would have praised the ingenuity of the demonstration.

Most cops are good but don't count on it.

By: dprice45 on 8/24/09 at 9:56

African Americans don't vote Republican because the modern Republican party and broader conservative movement formed in reaction against the Civil Rights movement, desegregation, and black empowerment. Black people haven't forgotten this legacy. Nixon and Reagan's "southern strategy" profoundly changed the Republican party, which was a very different party before the '60s (i.e. they still had moderates and even "liberals" in their ranks.) This strategy banked on transforming the old southern Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond and their supporters into Republicans, smoothing out their profoundly racist, anti-federal gov't rage into a new political movement dressed up in the language of "conservatism." And it worked. Why do you think the Republican party is now essentially a white, southern party? This is why African Americans don't become Republicans, history and politics that lined up against them, and which continue to do so. "States rights" is just a code phrase with a long history, for "we don't want to the government telling us our kids have to go to school with blacks."

By: Loner on 8/24/09 at 10:20

No LTE's today? I hope this is just a fluke. Professional writers are fine, theyr'e informative and articulate; but the amateurs seem to be more entertaining to read, IMO.

Mr. Kleinheider is a good writer and supports his arguments well.

Black Americans may be more conservative than commonly portrayed. Support for gay marrige, for example, is lower in the black population than in the white population, according to the surveys that I have seen.

Black folks are oftentimes people of faith. Atheism and agnosticism are very rare in the black community. Many, if not most black folks seem to take the Judeo-Christian Bible very seriously. When it comes to playing the religion card, the conservatives always claim to hold trump.

Support for America's military is generally high in the black community, Tens of thousands of black Americans have had stellar careers of the military. Again, this speaks to the claim that black Americans are fundamentally conservative by nature.

If being a conservative has anything to do with conserving anything, then the black experience in America has honed such values, in the black population, to a fine edge.

When you are on the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, one learns to "make do", with whatever resources are available. Ingenuity and creativity are survival skills and black folk seem to be blessed with such talent.

I think that Genma Holmes unorthodox approach to parenting is a bit extreme and risky (things could have gone terribly awry); but, if it works, then she should be commended and saluted for her efforts.

By: Loner on 8/24/09 at 10:26

Bravo, dprice45, you hit the nail squarely on the head. When the Party of Lincoln embraced the Confederate flag-waving segregationists, black folks saw the light. Some whites were and remain in the dark, thanks for spotlighting that critical bit of political history.

By: Loner on 8/24/09 at 10:35

One other thing, the article states, "She enlisted the help of a police academy graduate to conduct a phony traffic stop designed to test the patience of her young son."

Isn't impersonating a police officer, to the point of stopping someone for a traffic infraction, a felony crime?

Oh, the intent was good...tell that to the judge. If things had gone down badly, and they easily could have, somebody could have been injured or killed in the well-intentioned ruse.

Hey, maybe the kid smelled a phony cop and cop car and acted instinctively, in self defense..

No, the whole thing really stinks when you start to unravel it, IMO.

By: MamaG on 8/24/09 at 10:49

Loner, on the Craddock piece, you are being lambasted by one of the posters there, if you wanted to jump back in and correct Anna3.

Wonder where everyone else is today?

By: house_of_pain on 8/24/09 at 11:17

Dunno, MamaG. I've been watching to see which thread everybody would pick.
Did you do it? You know what I mean.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/24/09 at 12:12

This is a very good editorial, for once.

By: house_of_pain on 8/24/09 at 12:13

We were getting ready to put you on a milk carton.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/24/09 at 12:16

who, me?

By: house_of_pain on 8/24/09 at 12:18

Yeah. I was trying to draw a "Blanketnazi", but you always ended up looking like "Towelie".

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/24/09 at 12:20

oh, that was me in my younger days. btw, you'd have better luck putting me on a beer bottle than on a milk carton - lol!

By: Loner on 8/24/09 at 12:57

Thanks, MamaG. I replied to Anna3 and Melstruck.

Well, kids, it looks this is the hot thread today, for the regulars. If bored, I have a fairly new blog entry up, RE: Mike Vick and forgiveness.

Here's the URL:

The Bills are not looking good...I think that the towel boy was working for Green Bay - you know, the guy who wipes the balls on the sidelines.

When Green Bay had the ball, the towel & ball dude gave the offense a nice and sticky ball to work with. When the hapless Bills had the ball, the same dude made sure that Buffalo got the greased balls, the super slippery kind. It was painful to watch that ball squirting out of the grasp of the Bill's offense so often - five turnovers isn't good, pre-season or not.

By: house_of_pain on 8/24/09 at 1:01

You should cruise down here for a Titans game, Loner.
How long has it been since you've visited Nashvegas?

By: MamaG on 8/24/09 at 1:23

house, no I chickened out. I'm not sure what I want exactly and until I decide, it's best I stay away! I don't want to end up with the same situation I have now!

Hope everyone has a great evening...busy busy busy today!

By: brrrrk on 8/24/09 at 2:39

Frankly I think it's an abomination that anyone should have to teach their child to be more respectful because of their color.

And as for why Blacks associate more with Democrats than Republicans; I think it's purely a case of empathy. I know for Republicans that's a dirty word, but it just seems to me that Republicans fail to get beyond color. Not only do they seem blind to the generational inequalities experienced by blacks since the founding of this country but they also seem to be blind to all shades of grey as well.

By: rldavenport@com... on 8/25/09 at 7:15

Pure hogwash, frank brown and dprice. frank...where do you get this trash that police officers become police officers because of inherent insecurity? You have to have more courage than you apparently have to even want to become a police officer and risk your life everyday.

And let me tell you,'s Democrats who play the race card on a daily basis. The real racists in this country, especially in the rural areas, are Democrats, not Republicans. I know what I'm talking about since I've worked in those areas. Apparently you refuse to believe the fact that the Civil Rights Act would not have been passed if it had not been for a majority of Republican votes. This argument that a majority of "Dixiecrats" became Republicans is also a joke. It's spewed out in order to cover up the pandering of Democrats to African-Americans just to get their votes.

By: FreedomJournal on 8/25/09 at 7:57


Editors Note:
Are White racists the only people to blame for Police Brutality? Will a battered woman only blame her husband?
Black people have not caused White racism it is for sure. However, do we have any responsibility, and do we contribute to the on-going Black Holocaust?
Carl A. Patton, FreedomJournal

The FreedomJournal has an on-going responsibility to make an analysis of the Black Experience. Police abuse of authority is a very serous problem facing the Black community. Historically law enforcement agencies in America had an initial impact on Blacks as non-citizens. Therefore, the record of abuse and mis-conduct by law enforcement agencies regarding Blacks became a living reality during the period when Blacks were held as slaves.

Thus the written and unwritten slave laws (slave codes, etc.) were enforced by the police and their various agencies. With the coming of freedom in 1865 the written laws no longer existed, but the unwritten laws were still intact throughout the South and across America. Thus, an attitude of coercion and abuse still existed.

When America entered the last century we started to see evidences of organized efforts to advocate for Human Rights for the former slaves. Although laws had been made to give Blacks citizenship etc. they still suffered from the lack of Civil and Human Rights. Meanwhile, the distinction between Blacks and Whites by law enforcement agencies continued. In the South the Black community has suffered the most regarding unfair treatment of Black citizens by the law enforcement agencies.

However, with the organized efforts of the Civil Right Movement during the 1960s some changes began to take place. For example in Chattanooga, Tennessee and throughout the South a significant number of Blacks were actively recruited for jobs as police officers. What has been the impact of Black officers? Also, what has been the impact of Blacks within the leadership ranks of police departments? Have all Black officers responded toward their Black brothers and sisters worse or just as bad as their White counterparts?

Meanwhile we see a serious problem across this land and throughout the nation. Men and women have lost sight of compassion for other human beings. For the record we do not come to place the blame for the senseless killings of innocent people on any group of people. Our task is to bring more clarity to this problem so that sensible people can come together for a solution.

From our vantage point we see hatred stemming from the racists' mentality of many who are a part of law enforcement agencies. This racist's mentality is also a fabric of our society and penetrates every agency and institution in our society. Therefore those that are in positions to make judgments etc. justify most cases of police abuse.

Also there is hatred stemming from those that are victims and the communities from which they come. Hatred, fear, despair and hopelessness is a natural reaction to historic abuse and murder. Surely we do not seek to belittle the grief suffered by those who have lost loved ones due to the abuse of authority committed by police agencies. However, you cannot find solutions in a fit of anger and hatred.

Therefore, what is the logical approach toward finding solutions to these problems? We argue that the Black community has the most important responsibility in solving this problem. First the entire situation in a historic sense needs evaluation and review. Secondly there is a need to review the attitude of the victims and assailants. The third consideration is Black leadership. Earlier we noted that by 1900 we began to see the coming of local and national Civil and Human Rights organizations. What is the role of these organizations? We believe for certain that Black leaders are a key factor in the solution of the many problems surrounding police abuse of authority.

By: Loner on 8/25/09 at 8:38

Carl, you used the personal pronoun, "we", over and over you have a mouse in your pocket? From what I can see, the Freedom Journal is a one-man band.

By: frank brown on 8/25/09 at 3:55