He Wears the Mask
In this article Ta-Nehisi Coates addresses the issues surrounding black conservative politicians. He targets specifically Dr. Benjamin Carson a recent “darling of the right-wing”. As he correctly points out it often seems as though our political parties try and make an effort to show us how racially diverse they are; in this case the Republican party. Coates’ case is that Dr. Benjamin Coates is nothing but a puppet of the conservative party in an attempt to somehow counter Obama and his blackness. Conservatives are simply recognizing that 95 percent of African-Americans voted for a democratic president and if they can find a black conservative to tout he will somehow be the “Conservative Black Hope”. He even quotes a former Republican Illinois State Senator “We needed to find another Harvard-educated African-American who had some experience on the national political scene” and that “We need that because the Democrats have made an icon out of Barack Obama”. He sees the Republican Party as searching for the right candidate. In his view the Republican Party is simply looking for a black conservative mind that can use to somehow split the black community into voting for conservatives.
There is something deeply concerning about this republican view. It is based on the idea that black people voted for Barack Obama because he was black and not because he agreed with their politics. He calls this theory “The Plantation Theory” because it says that black people are not free to vote on their politics but are rather slaves to the Democratic Party. This theory obviously doesn’t exactly hold true. If you look at election results from 2004 (Bush/Kerry) versus 2012 (Obama/Romney), you can clearly see little differentiation. According to CNN 11 percent of African Americans voted for a republican candidate in 2004 versus 5 percent in 2012. That is a measly 6 percent difference in voters in a group of people that make up 12.5 percent of the population. Coates fails to address how this strategy is not only based on false assumptions but the numbers simply don’t back it up.
Coates does however address the fact that there are black Republicans out there. According to him when he first met Coates when he was younger he has no doubt that Coates was a Republican. His main issue is that the Republicans had no plan on tapping him a political candidate then. Only since Obama has come to the national scene has the Republican Party tried to make national figures out of black conservatives. So he sees Carson as in some way the newest Republican marionette. He sees a black man who is willing to represent a party that is overwhelmingly white and has no qualms about it.
Is this only a Conservative problem? off the top of my head I think of Julian Castro speaking during the 2012 DNC. Why in a party filled with powerful people would you choose the mayor of San Antonio to speak if not to appeal to the Latino vote, or is there somehow a difference here? Can or should we cast a vote according only to race? Can a black conservative run for a party that has largely ignored him until their time of need? Is the criticism that Carson is wearing a “Mask” fair?http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/opinion/coates-he-wears-the-mask.html