Allen West on race

Andrew E. writes:

A couple months ago, after the election, I saw Allen West appear on Fox News one evening though I don’t recall which show it was. Naturally, the subject of West being a rare black Republican elected to Congress came up and he was asked why he thought the Republican Party has so much trouble attracting good black candidates. In response West repeated the lie that it might be because the party hasn’t properly reached out to minority communities. My heart sank. I’ve ignored any mention of West since then but I will watch his speech and see what I think.

LA replies:

Are you sure he said that? It seems so unlike him, from everything else I’ve heard of him. If he did say it, that’s very bad. It would mean that he signs on to the idea that the absence of blacks in conservative circles is the result of conservatives excluding blacks or not doing enough to reach out to them, rather than the truth, which is that blacks are not found in conservative circles because blacks are not conservative. Was West’s own candidacy a result of the GOP reaching out to minority communities? Of course not. So what is he talking about?

Also, as someone pointed out, there was an objectionable comment in West’s CPAC speech, when he said that his own presence as a speaker at CPAC proves that CPAC is not racist. Which means that if a black were not present at a conservative meeting, the assumption would be that the meeting is racist. He is telling conservatives that they must have blacks around themselves, or else they are presumptively racist. Whether he realizes it or not, he is feeding into the anti-white view that white people by themselves, white people without the presence of nonwhites, are racists.

The fact that he said that at CPAC makes it much more likely that your memory of what he said on Fox is correct.

Dan R. writes:

James Edwards of the Political Cesspool is very anti-West, and he gives a couple of good reasons which I think hold despite the baggage Edwards carries as basically a Stormfront kind of guy.

LA replies:

I don’t know anything about Edwards except what he says in this entry, which does have a nasty tone. But I am troubled by a couple of facts he brings forward, mainly about West’s response to Harry Reid’s “Negro dialect” remarks that came out in a book about a year ago.

Edwards says that West said that a person should lose his job if he says “Negro” even in private. The link Edwards provides doesn’t work, so I did some searching. I don’t find West having said that, though he did say (see below) that Obama should demand that Reid step down as Majority Leader over the remark. Perhaps that is what Edwards is referring to when he says that West said that a person should lose his job if he says “Negro” even in private. But, I repeat, that’s not what West actually said.

First, here a CNN report from January 2010 on Reid’s remark of a couple of years earlier:

Washington (CNN)—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday following reports he had privately described then-candidate Barack Obama during the presidential campaign as a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reported the remarks in their new book “Game Change,” which was purchased by CNN Saturday at a Washington-area bookstore. The book is slated for official release next Tuesday.

“He (Reid) was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama—a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination,” they write.

Here is West’s response, posted at his campaign website, to Harry Reid’s remark that Obama could win because he’s “light-skinned,” and has “no Negro dialect” (the text as posted at West’s site has no paragraph breaks, as reproduced here):

Greetings, The revelation of Senator Harry Reid’s comments referencing “negro talk” is just indicative of the true sentiment elitist liberals, and indeed the Democratic party, have toward black Americans. The history of the Democrat party is one of slavery, secession, segregation, and now socialism. It is this new aged socialism born from the Johnson Great Society programs that have castigated blacks as victims needing government dependency. One need only to look upon the city of Detroit to ascertain what liberal social welfare policies have produced for the inner city … the new plantation for black Americans. The Ku Klux Klan was birthed by the Democrats as a terrorist wing to intimidate blacks, and whites, who sought to promote economic and education independence and social justice for blacks. What was once overt has just morphed and become covert, yet still exists. One can only imagine the insanity and media outrage if Reid’s quote had come from a member of the Republican party. I look forward to hearing from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on Reid’s comments … or has liberal hush money paid for the silence of these proprietors of poverty and victimization theory. Actually, if President Obama had any courage he would demand Reid step down as Senate Majority Leader, and discontinue any support for his Senate reelection … notice I said “if”. I am quite sure the Soros money which elevated Obama to the position of President has bought his servitude. Why am I running for US Congress as a Republican? Simple. I would rather stand proudly and be called “an Uncle Tom and a sellout” than lose my self-esteem and be considered an inferior by liberals. I understand the legacy of the GOP and the black community … not the revisionist history espoused by liberal educators. I am not, shall never be, and will not raise my daughters to be a part of the liberal 21st century plantation. I am not just some articulate, clean, well spoken negro. I am an American warrior, Congressional candidate, and shall never submit to the collective progressive ideal of inferiority. Senator Harry Reid’s comments are disgusting, despicable, and unacceptable. They are representative of how intellectual elite liberals do indeed speak of black Americans in their closed private spaces. Next week I have been invited to NYC to address the Hudson Institute, a conservative organization, conference on “Reclaiming American Liberty”. That invite came to me because I took advantage of the opportunities this great Republic offered. I followed the guidance of my parents and set my standards above all others around me. I speak well and have impeccable communicative skills because my Father and Mother prioritized that quality. I shiver to think what my future could have been if I listened to the insidious rhetoric of charlatans such as Harry Reid, and the ambassadors of affirmative action who reside in the Congressional Black Caucus. Sure, the “stuck on stupid” blacks are going to address me in derogatory names, but I possess something which they lack; Honor, Integrity, and Character. To them I say, continue to be slaves to the liberals for your vote … and in a year you will be calling me Congressman West. Steadfast and Loyal, LTC(R) Allen B West

I think this is wildly over the top. Reid, in a private conversation, evaluating Obama’s chance of victory, said that Obama could win, because he was light-skinned and had no Negro dialect. That is a perfectly reasonable observation. Would West argue that Obama could have been elected as easily as America’s first nonwhite president if he had stronger Negro features and dark skin, and spoke with a heavy black accent?

West says that Reid’s remarks prove him to be a white supremacist who looks down on blacks. That’s insane. There is nothing in Reid’s comment that suggests that. Reid wasn’t talking about racial inferiority, but electability.

The only legitimate basis for outrage in the Reid affair is the double standard, namely that a Republican would have been damaged by this much worse than the Democrat Reid was. But does that mean that Reid, or anyone, should be damaged by it? Should lose his job over it? Certainly West is setting a standard that no one should be allowed to occupy a high political position if he said in private what Reid said.

I use the word “Negro” occasionally in certain contexts where I think it’s appropriate, both in print and in private. According to West, this fact alone makes me a disgusting white supremacist who has no place in politics. So what is that supposed to make me think about West?

Dan R. writes:

I think you covered the issue fairly and well. I’d be surprised if you didn’t share my reservations about conservatives who gush over black conservatives. Alan Keyes was supposed to be the conservative “real deal,” but in the Illinois Senate race against Obama he actually came out in favor of reparations. We hold black conservatives to a lower standard when, given the state of racial turmoil, they probably should be held to a higher standard. Remember in 2008, the hemming and hawing of black conservatives J.C. Watts and Armstrong Williams over whether they would support Obama? And then Colin Powell, who wound up endorsing Obama?

LA replies:

“I’d be surprised if you didn’t share my reservations about conservatives who gush over black conservatives.”

Of course no one should gush over anyone, including over a black conservative. But in my awareness of West, the people, including me, who have supported him, have supported him not because he is black, but because he is a forceful spokesman on the Islam threat, something unheard of in mainstream American politics.

Andrew E. writes:

I’ve done a Google search for the episode I mentioned but have been unsuccessful thus far. I have come across a couple other youtube clips where race is mentioned and West’s answers are much more serviceable.

For example, here is Col. West and Rep. Tim Scott (SC) on with the shallow Rich Lowry, guest hosting for Sean Hannity last December.

February 16

A reader writes:

I’m a big fan of VFR, but I can’t agree with you about Allen West. Read this, from The Weekly Standard:

Over the course of the hour-long interview, it became abundantly clear that while West may be running for political office, he wasn’t an ordinary politician.

“There are three words I hate to hear used. I hate big-tent. I hate inclusiveness. And I hate outreach. I think you stand on the principles that make you great, which transcend everybody in America, and people will come to it,” West said, outlining the uncompromising way he approaches politics.

So when he says that one black guy at CPAC proves CPAC isn’t racist, there’s simply no implication that CPAC must have black people to prove they’re not racist. It’s an innocent remark. He’s flattering the crowd. It was a boring speech, though I liked what he had to say about American culture. We need more of that and I’m perfectly happy if West wants to be a spokesman for American culture.

LA replies:

When Andrew E. at the beginning of this entry recalled hearing West say that the reason the GOP has so few blacks is that the GOP hasn’t reached out enough to blacks, my initial reaction was to doubt that he said that. But when I remembered his remark—which had bothered me without my stopping to think about it—that CPAC wasn’t racist because he was a speaker there, it suddenly seemed possible that he had made the remark about outreach.

However, I agree that his statement to the Standard is more the kind of thing I would have expected from him.

So we need more evidence, which I’m sure will be forthcoming in the future. I’m hoping that he does not turn out to be another phony black conservative, such as, e.g., Shelby Steele. A true black conservative will absolve whites of the false racial guilt with which they’ve been saddled. A phony black conservative makes moves in tht direction, then ends up playing the racism card again.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 14, 2011 03:21 PM | Send

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