At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), American Conservative Union (ACU) Communications Director Ian Walters made a statement about former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Its key point was, “We elected Mike Steele to be the RNC chair because he’s a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do.” That was the whole thrust of the statement. That the former Maryland Lieutenant Governor and State Party Chair was only elected to lead the RNC because of his race.
On Steele’s Sirius radio program, he confronted ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp and pointed out the statement was akin to stating Steele only got into Georgetown or achieved anything else in life because of his race. Schlapp refused to disassociate himself from Walters. Instead, Schlapp responded that Steele had been a critic of President Trump and many policies that conservatives back. He further pointed to people critical of Steele’s tumultuous two-year tenure as RNC chairman and suggested Steele just couldn’t handle the fact that not everyone is thrilled with him.
There’s room to criticize Steele on the issues as well as on his performance as Chairman, but that does not justify bringing up his skin color. The color of his skin had nothing to do with it. Walters was wrong to inject race into the equation. Late in the interview, Steele’s co-host pointed out that Black people who might be open to the conservative message would back away because they’d conclude white people hated them. Schlapp insisted, “That’s not where our heart is.”
Is Schlapp under the impression Black people have a superhuman ability to read people’s hearts?
Conservatives bristle at charges of racism because they don’t hate minorities. They wouldn’t refuse service to a black person. They’re not opposed to black people holding any job. They won’t reject a candidate because of their race. Most white conservatives won’t freak out if their children get engaged to a non-white person. White conservatives associate racism with history’s violent racists like Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan. Crying “racism” on people who don’t fit that profile is an excellent way to inflame and derail conversations.
However, most Republicans are indifferent to the concerns of Black Americans. The Trump years have made it too clear the GOP cares most about its political power. That is what motivates the GOP to throw rhetorical bones to groups who do meet the conservative definition of racism. That is why the GOP plays white identity politics. Others won’t “go there” personally, but they also won’t stand up to those who do, for fear of losing the support of racists that the GOP thinks it needs to win.
Mr. Steele asked an essential question at the start of the interview. What made Walters think he could go “there?” Schlapp danced around this for nine minutes. Neither Schlapp nor Walters will man-up and offer a real apology. Why? This country does have racists who believe the only way a Black person could achieve anything is if it were handed to him because of the color of their skin. Walters threw them a bone, expecting to get away with it due to the lack of moral courage in the CPAC hall and behind the scenes.
The Bible gives us a fair standard for judging people’s hearts. Christ says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45, ESV, emphasis added).
How are Blacks to judge the hearts of Mr. Schlapp and Mr. Walters, based on their statements? The statements show a total lack of concern for Black Americans. Why would Blacks want to be a part of a movement or a party that panders to racists and excuses it by pointing fingers at Blacks?
If conservatives ever expect to recover from this, we need to condemn white identity politics and also turn from the gutlessness of those excusing it like Schlapp. It’s not enough to “not be racist.” Conservatives have to show sensitivity to the concerns of minority Americans.
Now, I don’t mean we must endorse the race theories that are themselves racist toward white people, blindly judging us by our skin color. What I advocate is following the Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”
If that’s too much to ask, then conservatism won’t survive, nor does it deserve to.