Virtual Voices

The island of black and not 'progressive'

Politics

Independent black thinkers are expected to "groupthink" in ways that usually lead to rejection and isolation by multiple communities. I know this firsthand because it is where I have lived the past eight years of public life, loving both Thomas Sowell and Cornell West for different reasons obviously. The new buzzword for "liberal" seems to be "progressive," and I'm neither. I also do not fit in with many conservatives because many of them want to go back to America's good old days, like the 1950s and prior when the country had families values, moral norms, and so on. But prior to the 1950s "conservatives" were more than content with white supremacy and Jim Crow. I don't want to conserve that culture. Moreover, when one thinks of champions of the civil rights movement, what does not come to mind, especially in the South, are "conservatives." From 1776 to 1965 there was widespread social immorality in America because of the systematic dehumanization of non-whites and many immigrants. I have no romantic visions of America's past and have no desire to return to a prior era to sit in the back of the bus and drink from "colored" water fountains.

President Obama told a Hollywood fundraiser recently that he and congressional Democrats have passed the most progressive legislation in decades. "We have been able to deliver the most progressive legislative agenda---one that helps working families---not just in one generation, maybe two, maybe three," he said. "Progressive?" What does that mean? Big government? Socialistic? How is the government increasingly meddling in the private transactions of free people and free institutions considered progress? Is anyone who disagrees with Obama and other "progressives," then, regressive? Is anyone really against progress?

Of course, being black and not toeing the black party line by blindly supporting nearly everything President Obama says can get people like me in trouble too. I couldn't believe the number of blacks who sent me nasty emails and Facebook messages after I appeared on Glenn Beck's Fox News program to talk about my book for a combined on-air time of about 30 seconds. I had officially "sold-out," I guess.

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To point out the unchallenged racism in some socially conservative circles renders the charge, "angry black man." Pointing out that big government has never really helped black communities in the long-term while promoting economic empowerment within the context of markets as a sustainable mechanism for socio-economic mobility, invites the charge of being "a sell-out." The intolerant fundamentalism of many "progressives" means that if one is passionate about justice issues one must adopt groupthink prescriptions for government solutions. The intolerant fundamentalism of many conservatives often carries with it cultural preferences that become necessary to accept to keep one's conservative credentials, like always voting for Republicans.

If I could resurrect one era, it would be one, if it ever existed, when a person was free to think as he pleased without pressure to adopt the tangential preferences of particular subcultures. But until that time, black independent thinkers will remain on the margins of everybody.

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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