When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a member of the Black Panthers. They were my heroes — the original ones like Huey Newton — not the pathetic bunch that showed up at the polls in places like Philadelphia over the last 20 years.
In high school, as an assignment for English class, I wrote and delivered a short speech about how great the Black Panthers were. No joke. And in case my verbal expression didn’t make an impression, I closed the presentation by raising my fist high in the air. Black power!
Surprised? My English teacher certainly was.
Yeah, I wanted radical change, but not because I hated America. I wanted radical change because I loved America, and I hated what was happening to so many people in my neighborhood and neighborhoods across our nation.
Recently, I went back and read the Black Panthers’ manifesto and was amazed. Oh my God, this is straight-up communist BS! But as a teen, I was impressed with their actions. Local chapters set up kitchens in their neighborhoods and fed hungry children. Instead of begging or blackmailing the government schools to provide breakfast, they stepped up and made it happen. Instead of promising hope and change, they purchased, prepared and served food.
They were also willing to defend Black people against violence. But let me be clear about the context of the 1960s. The leadership of the FBI was corrupt then, and some at the FBI are corrupt now. Leftists knew it then, and conservatives should know it now — especially after what’s been revealed about the agency’s leadership in the political drama of the past five years.
As a young person, can you see why I admired the Black Panthers? It’s the same reason so many young people are swept up into cults of Leftism today. Talk is cheap. Action costs something. If the only helpful action people experience comes from a radical group, many will embrace radicals. And that’s one of many reasons why the number of conservative young people has declined so radically since the 1960s.
Rush Limbaugh framed the case perfectly.
“Most people want problems solved, and conservatism is actually about that. It’s about solving poverty. It’s about solving racism. It’s about solving bigotry. But look at what the branding has said of conservatism, that conservatism is racism, that it is bigotry, that it is bias, that it is discrimination. Yet the truth is, we want to solve all those problems.”
Through the years, Rush and I often pondered whether it was time to give up the “conservative” label. He finally concluded that we should not shy away from that word but rather clarify what we are for.
I saw hardship in the neighborhood I came up in. I still have friends in my old neighborhood and know many people who are barely holding on — they have mortgages, children in school, elderly parents and medical conditions, and they face rising crime. They’re trying to make ends meet, but so much is against them. What ideas could we conservatives put forward to make people’s lives better?
Socialism has flourished where the elites — in both political parties — have done nothing to improve people’s daily lives. If our arguments, solutions and actions solve problems, we can rebrand conservatism. Election wins will follow.
Trust me, to change hearts and minds, we need to do some soul searching and update our tired talking points. Here are two examples.
I’m a raving fan of capitalism. But we conservatives should not accept crony capitalism dominating free markets. There’s a lot of corruption in the highest levels of business and finance. Republicans should be against corruption and be for the average American who aspires to participate in the miracle of free enterprise.
Establishment Republican politicians froth about “socialized medicine” — and rightly so — but sit on their hands while people can’t afford health care. Other than being against socialism, where are our legislative solutions to the problems most people worry about? To half of the voters in this country, the silence is loud and clear.
The reason there aren’t more Black conservatives is the same reason there aren’t more white conservatives — or pick any demographic. Everyone knows what conservatives are against. But we have done a dismal job creating and communicating the solutions we are for.
Conservative values are American values. Conservatism in the African American community is not a rarity, and it used to be the mainstream. Let’s focus on the values we share and form new alliances. If helping people experience more of the American dream is our priority, we’ll see more Black conservatives, and we’ll win elections.
In New York City alone, one-fourth of all public schools have been labeled as “failing.” If that statistic doesn’t shock you, this represents over one hundred thousand children in over three hundred schools. I guaran-damn-tee you that those failing schools serve mostly minorities in districts controlled by liberal Democrats. Yet decade after decade, the children in these communities are allowed to squander their youth in failing schools and emerge uneducated and unprepared.
In July 2021, the Democrat governor of Oregon signed Senate Bill 774 into law, eliminating requiring proficiency in reading, writing or math to graduate. A governor’s spokesperson told the media that the change would help “Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal and students of color.”
Society calls it child abuse when a parent smacks their kid on the bottom for getting out of line. But why don’t we consider it abusive to let children go to school for 12 years and not learn how to read, write, speak the English language and compete in the workplace?
Rush and I often talked about race connected with the day’s news stories. The middle-class kid from Missouri and this middle-class kid from Queens, New York, saw issues eye-to-eye.
When Rush talked about politics on the radio, he asked Black Americans to question why leaders in Democrat-controlled cities were making the same complaints after 50 years in power.
By the way, we always had a significant number of Black people call the show. (Yes, I can tell the color of someone’s skin over the phone. It’s one of my superpowers.) Some of them agreed, some disagreed, but most told me they respected the way that Rush spoke without pandering.
I’m not looking for racial quotas and virtue-signaling photo-ops. I want to see conservative ideology in action, winning more people’s hearts and minds — regardless of the color of skin that covers them.
Please hear me, politicians and think-tank operatives. We, as conservatives, have so much opportunity to turn the tide in this country. But I’m not even talking about political momentum. We have a chance to help solve problems that ordinary people of all colors face. We have to demonstrate that conservatives love people with deeds — not words. Conservatism is love in action.
I wanted to be a Black Panther when I was a teenager, then became part of a 30-plus-year phenomenon that revived conservatism. What caused the change in me? There was no change. I have always cared about people, and I have always been about solutions.
I’ve always been a conservative, and sometimes I wear a black beret.
• Under the pseudonym “Bo Snerdley,” James Golden was with “The Rush Limbaugh Show” for almost 30 years, serving as a call screener, “official program observer,” and producer with guest hosts. James is the author of “Rush On The Radio” and radio host with WABC-AM. JamesGolden.com
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