Good morning everyone. My name is Reverend Ceasar LeFlore, and I am the Midwest Regional Director of LEARN, which is the Life Education and Resource Network. It is the nation’s largest affiliation of black pro-life and pro-family ministries.
I am also the current chairman of the Illinois Freedom Project, a fledgling public policy impact group designed to promote ideals that would emancipate the minds of black Americans from the plantations of failed political policies inherent in the Democratic Party.
I would like to thank The Heritage Foundation and Mr. Lee Walker for this excellent opportunity to participate in this morning’s discussion on “the conscience of black conservatism.” The fact that we are even discussing it here, at this very distinguished venue, is very encouraging to me. It is wonderful to observe all of the progress that has been made in this nation since so many blacks have decided to “come out of the closet,” if you will, and publicly discuss what it means to be black conservatives. I can say that I am personally extremely proud of being a bona fide card-carrying member of that infamous subculture in America, known as the Religious Right.
My only question is, why are there not many more, abundantly more, black religious leaders over here with me?
Opposition in the Black Community
If the truth be told, there was a time several years ago when I was not so bold in this admission, especially around people of my own kind. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of my ideologies and opinions, because I believe that I have always had the courage of my convictions. It is just that I had become so fatigued by constantly having to defend myself and my beliefs against people who debated not entirely upon the facts concerning each particular issue, but many times out of emotional volatility, out of rage and out of ignorance, out of tradition, and even racism.
I constantly felt the need to prove that I wasn’t, as many would label black conservatives, a sell-out, or an Uncle Tom, or a wannabe, or, as I have been called, and please excuse my language, “a superficial, pseudo-intellectual Negro, too blind to see that the white man was using me, and others like me, to divide black people.”
Now, it is needless to say that I did not quite concur with those particular assessments of my character, however they did vividly illustrate two significant points, one being that on the south side of the City of Chicago, blacks who would identify themselves as conservative were about as abundant as Jewish rabbis in the Nation of Islam; and secondly, that liberal leaders, both black and white, had been so successfully influencing the beliefs of our community that there was simply no tolerance for any dissenting opinions concerning what was best for us individually and collectively.
The name-calling showed that any black man or woman who did not fall in line behind the ineffective black leadership that we’ve trusted over the past years, was considered a traitor and should not be trusted. You had to toe the party line, vote as they say vote, boycott what they said to boycott, and support the black candidate whether you agreed with him or not. And if you chose to dissent, then the question concerning your blackness would arise. I pray that you can see why I may have had some reservations about making public pronouncements of my conservatism, but thank God those days are gone.
Thanks to people like many of you in this room and prominent black conservatives, like Ambassador Alan Keyes, Earl Jackson, Armstrong Williams, my friend Star Parker, Willie and Gwen Richardson, Johnny Hunter, Pastor Hiram Crawford, and Lee Walker, I no longer feel as if I am alone in the struggle for renewed black commitment towards the Godly values expressed in the true conservative platform.
In fact it may have been a bit audacious on my part to ever consider that there were not many others like me, who did not base their opinions and beliefs upon what was accepted within the popular culture, but rather looked to a higher authority and a greater wisdom to determine by what standards we should live, and to who we are ultimately accountable.
Convictions and Principles
You see, a very funny thing happened to me on my path of spiritual development–I developed convictions and principles. As I looked at the issues confronting our nation, and then looked into the Bible to determine my position on them, I found that the positions I had held based on just the traditional loyalty to my party and to what was prevalent in the popular culture, put me at odds against what my beliefs concerning my faith were. And these things did not pass the “smell test.”
When I looked at the issue of abortion, and I saw how it was decimating the black community, and I looked into my political party, that I had been so loyal to, and I found no remedies there to address that. And when I looked at the decimation of the black family, and I looked within the policies of the party, and the philosophies that I had been loyal to, I saw no remedies there, so it did not pass the “smell test” with me anymore, so therefore I could not, in good conscience, continue to support and to participate with those who were not seeking to bring a remedy to things that were decimating our community.
And when I started identifying myself, and started being active concerning my beliefs, I started being looked at with the eye of suspicion. People started saying that I was changing, that I was all of a sudden trying to become somebody that I really wasn’t. They said that I was trying to live in an area where I had no right to be.
It would seem to me that anyone even faintly insinuating that black people should not be allowed to think for themselves and speak their minds are guilty of racism, and when those who make these statements are themselves black, they are guilty of a most vile form of racism and self-hatred, much more devastating than anything that the KKK could ever inflict upon black people.
How could anyone say that a love for the family and good family values and expressing reverence for the sanctity of life, self-responsibility free from undue government interference, self-responsibility and a love for God and country are not characteristics prevalent within the black community? Recent studies are revealing that blacks, in whopping percentages, are in favor of welfare reform, school choice, anti-crime initiatives, lower taxes, parental rights, and other issues usually identified with the conservative right. It would seem to me that a great number of us are conservative, but we have yet to realize that fact.
A Transformation of Self
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said that if you were not a liberal when you were young, you had no heart, and if you were not a conservative by the time you were older, you had no brains. I believe that when we think about these things and then consider what our positions should be on them, it makes a change in us. It causes us to look at our positions and take responsibility for them. If these revelations are true, then why is it that when an African-American identifies himself as a conservative, or even worse, a conservative Republican, the first thoughts and images that come to some people’s minds are of one selling out or dumping his own people?
Why is it that they cannot simply allow that over the course of time, many of us have realized the failures and troubles and inequities inherent within the liberal philosophies of today, and are appalled at the self-serving compromises being made by many of those who are presumed to speak for black America? Many of those same liberal leaders who are now advocating abortion rights and gay rights at one time were the moral vanguard of our community and spoke openly against the spread of such things.
Black leaders, especially those in the clergy, enjoyed unprecedented trust and support from our communities. We depended on them to stand in the gap for us both socially and spiritually, and to sound the alarm when actions detrimental to our well-being were being brought against us. Now for some reason–and I am afraid it has something to do with power, position, and cash–they have seemed to change their minds, focus, and direction. And since they have changed their minds about issues so important to us, it stands to reason that we, too, can change our minds about them and call into question their commitment to our community.
A Moral Issue
You see, conservatism versus liberalism is not a racial matter. I believe in the bottom of my heart that it is a moral issue. Right and wrong are not distinguished by race, color, or creed, but find their validation in the hearts of those who accept them and govern their lives accordingly. God requires a standard and He does not compromise. If our beliefs, as conservatives, are more in line with His word and directions for our living, then we must at all cost compel all others, our brothers and sisters, to seek His purposes for our life.
You see, as a preacher I have to say this, that it was God who brought black people through slavery and the struggle for civil and human rights. It was God who kept our families together during the turbulent periods of our nation’s history and during times of great poverty and oppression. Faith in God and respect for His established standards and standards of acceptable and unacceptable behavior was good enough for the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, why then is it not sufficient for those who would come behind benefitting from those early struggles?
Trying to erase the moral code from the consciousness of people does not relieve them of the responsibility to live thereby. It only makes them culpable in its neglect, and qualifies them for the penalties thereof. Who can say that they love people while encouraging them to make themselves liable to continued oppression, degradation, and unnecessary suffering? Who could claim to be concerned about the standards by which we live, and demonstrate that concern with clear conscience by promoting death and slaughtering of innocence which accompanies the acceptance of abortion, which is the sacred cow of liberal politics?
I ask you, which demonstrates a greater love, holding fast to the moral principles that which God granted us our liberties, the principles of ethical behavior, virtue and government, self-discipline, self-motivation, and a respect for life? Or should we continue to pursue a liberal doctrine that requires that we must be militant and never patriotic?
Must we support government-sponsored abortion on demand for all women regardless of age, length of term, or motivation? The continuation of welfare and government dependency, that we should shun personal responsibilities for ourselves, and blame others for all of our problems? Should we continue to vilify men like Clarence Thomas while we glorify characters like R. Kelly? Why would we ever choose Whoopi Goldberg over Condoleezza Rice?
The Call to Action
I am of the opinion that the Bible is always our target as it concerns the fallibility of humanity. The Bible states that people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. I believe, as my father would often say, that if people knew better, they would do better. It is important that those of us who have been crawling out of the darkness of failed liberalism and into the light of the conservative philosophy must continue to shine light back into the darkness, thereby showing some others the way out.
We must, at all cost, continue to speak out against abortion and against those who would, through ignorance, facilitate the greatest evil to befall all people, especially black people, since the days of slavery. We must not seek to destroy those acting without a full understanding of the magnitude of their actions. Rather, we should seek to educate them, and, with love, show them the error of their ways.
God has given us an excellent opportunity to show the depths of our convictions and the strength of our resolve. Being conservative and being religious and committed, will give us an exalted platform from which we can proclaim our Gospel and show forth the praises of a God who grants directions, wholeness, and righteousness in our standards of living.
Thank you very much.
Rev. Ceasar LeFlore is a Baptist pastor and Midwest Regional Director of LEARN, the Life Education and Resource Network.