I am an American Conservative who happens to be black. American because I was born in the greatest country God ever created. Conservative because it is the ideology that turned my life around and I will defend it with all of my being. And black because it is who I am and how the world chooses to see me. All three of these characteristics are an important part of what makes me, me. For this writing, I would like to concentrate on the third part of who I am — the black part. So I’m going to start with a quick story. I am not looking for agreement here, I’m looking for understanding.
Clear your mind and picture this in your head. There’s a mountain in front of you and atop that mountain stands a man. There’s also a man at the base of the mountain. Both of these men have hurled rocks at each other for days now and sometimes they actually hit their target. (I know what you’re thinking; the man at the base of this mountain must have one hell of an arm but work with me here!) Getting hit with a rock is painful for the man up top but is especially painful for the man at the bottom of the mountain. As these things go, the man atop the mountain has been hit and has the scars to prove it; the man at the base is a bloody mess. Now, why is that? Seems obvious, right? The man at the top of the mountain has the stronger position.
I like to use this story as a metaphor for race relations as I see them within Conservatism and how my fellow conservatives deal with these issues when they arise. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the man at the top of the mountain is white while the man at the bottom of the mountain is black. The rock represents racism and prejudice in this dynamic. You see, black people in America (as a whole) have never been at the top of that figurative mountain so we have never known what that power feels like. In our minds, we’ve always been at the base of the mountain trying to climb up and reach equal footing.
What I am asking you to do is imagine yourself as the man at the bottom of the mountain having rocks thrown at you. Can you open your heart and mind and try to understand why the man at the bottom of the mountain is a bloody mess and feels beaten down every time the rock hits him? There is an extra weight to that rock. It’s moving faster and stings more. The weight of history stands atop that mountain and that weight is what every black person carries with them as they walk the streets of America.
You could call it a collective chip on our shoulders. Granted, I don’t think all black people live life with a chip on their shoulder but I’ll use the saying considering what we’re discussing. This is not something that is easy to understand if you’re not black, to be honest. Either you will find it within yourself to try to understand what I am expressing to you or you will stop reading this and call me a race-baiter. I hope that it’s the former. And please remember, I’m not looking for agreement, I’m looking for understanding.
Conservatives need more compassion and understanding. They need to understand why that rock hurts so much more when thrown from the top of that mountain. “We don’t do feelings,” you’ll tell me, “that’s what Liberals do.” I agree. Feelings don’t work for policy, but they work when we deal with each other in the real world. Try to understand why black people feel jaded when they move into a mostly white neighborhood and notice the increase in For Sale signs a few months after. Try to understand why the phrase “driving while black” bothers us so much. Try to understand why we see an Eric Garner choked out for selling cigarettes and become enraged.
Conservatives need to try to understand why black people feel the way we feel about some of these things. Would it hurt for you to show compassion for a mother who has lost her son to a derelict police officer, rather than pointing out the black on black crime statistics in Chicago? Why is the first reaction to the mentioning of the KKK a pivot to the Black Panthers as if the Black Panthers were ever at the top of that figurative mountain? Have you ever tried to understand what most black people feel when they see the Confederate flag? Have you taken the time to ask any?
The weight of this country’s history is not something black people have forgotten. This is why racism and prejudice hurts us so much more. We were thought to be inferior for so much of America’s past. Some still believe that of us in present time. So when that rocks comes hurtling towards us from the mountaintop, there are years of discrimination that it is carrying with it.
All those times our Dads told us to keep our hands on the steering wheel when cops stop you. All of the times our Moms worried about us just making it home at night. And all of the times people in our daily lives treated us just a bit differently. That history is there, it is something we live with. It is the exact reason black people can call other black people “niggas,” while that same word (with the same friendly connotation) coming from a white person is likely to start a confrontation. There is history behind it.
I say all of this neither to lay a guilt trip on my fellow conservatives, nor to call anyone a racist. This is merely to help explain to you how many black people feel. Disregard the radicals that call you a racist anytime you venture into these types of conversations. Disregard the minority of us that is prejudiced against you for the color of your skin. Disregard the portrait of us that the media feeds you day and night.
We are all individuals who would like to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said. What I’m saying is that if you can recite the out-of-wedlock birthrate for African-Americans, but don’t actually know any African-Americans, that may be a problem. If all you know of us is Michael Jordan, Will Smith, Barack Obama, and the “thug” you saw on the news rob a grocery store last night, that may be a problem. It is time to solve it.
We are your fellow citizens, neighbors, and co-workers. Attempt to get to know us. You can only understand someone once you get to know that person. This is what Conservatives have been missing about black people for years. They know all of the statistics, the ratios, and the numbers about black people, but they don’t actually know any black people.
Liberals have called you racists for years and instead of fighting the charge and taking your case to the people, you’ve given up. This shouldn’t be. There are black people out there that will meet you halfway up that mountain if you’re willing to come down from up top.
The next time a situation happens where race is involved, stop and think for a second. Should I throw another rock or should I trudge down the mountain and try to understand a black person’s anger? This is not something that conservatives can solve overnight but it is something that must be solved.
It will take time, patience, compassion and understanding. There will be setbacks on your journey. Fight through them all the same. Learn some positives about the black population of America; we have many. But most of all, try to understand what exactly being black in America entails — the whole scope of it. Place yourself at the bottom of that mountain and look up. Remember the history. Remember the wrongs. Remember how far we as a country still need to go.
I am both a Conservative and a black man. I am proud to be both. Conservatism is about trying to show understanding and compassion without requiring the Government to force us to. It is about lifting people up, not lowering the bar so that they can get over it. Finally and most importantly, it is about judging people as individuals, not as a part of a collective. I think it’s about time we started listening to the tenets of our ideology.
This article originally appeared here.