This Week Could Make Conservative America Finally Acknowledge What African-Americans Knew All Along
This has been a downright tragic week, owing to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the horrific shooting in Dallas on Thursday. However, amidst all the chaos, something unexpected and promising happened: Several prominent conservatives started acknowledging that black Americans regularly face unfair treatment by law enforcement. While it would be premature to characterize this as a full-fledged conversion of the American right, it’s certainly one of the more encouraging developments in an otherwise heartbreaking week.
The most notable was none other than Newt Gingrich, who himself has been accused of racist dog-whistling on more than one occasion. On Friday, Gingrich struck a shockingly progressive tone while discussing police violence on a Facebook Live chat.
“It is more dangerous to be black in America,” Gingrich said. “If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America, and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.” The former House speaker also said, “It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years, to get a sense of this.”
Setting aside, for the moment, Gingrich’s problematic use of the word “normal,” these are sentiments that wide segments of the American left would readily agree with — and likewise, that conservatives have been steadfastly rejecting for, well, ever.
Matt Lewis, a conservative writer for The Daily Caller who’s been critical of Black Lives Matter in the past, expressed a complete change of heart on the matter. In a post titled “A Confession,” Lewis writes that he was “brought up to reflexively believe the police [and] give them the benefit of the doubt.” Now, however, “those days are gone.”
“In the era of Facebook Live and smart phones, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than the fact that police brutality toward African-Americans is a pervasive problem that has been going on for generations,” Lewis writes. “Seriously, absent video proof, how many innocent African-Americans have been beaten or killed over the last hundred years by the police—with little or no media coverage or scrutiny?”
“If there’s any good to come from this horrible trend,” he adds, “it may be that the scales are coming off the eyes of a lot of well meaning, if naive, white Americans.”
Lewis isn’t the only one. In a post on Red State, Leon Wolf voiced many of the same sentiments, explaining, “As the child of white parents who grew up in the rural panhandle of Texas, I was taught that police were there to help.” But minority communities, he says, have good reason to mistrust the police, and this trust must be repaired.
“Imagine, for a minute, that your parents instead grew up as black people in the 50s or 60s in one of the many areas where police were often the agents of - let's call it what it was - white oppression,” Wolf writes. “How might that have changed, for understandable reasons, the way not only those people but also their children and their children's children interact with the police? More importantly, how might it impact the belief that police will ever be held accountable for abuses of their power?”
There are more. Over at The Resurgent, Steve Berman took plenty of time to criticize President Obama and liberals, but also acknowledged that open-carry laws effectively don’t apply to black Americans, given that “a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time” will have his image “plastered all over the national media as a terrorist.”
Race continues to be one of the most divisive political issues of all, and it will no doubt remain that way for some time. But seeing even a few prominent conservatives strike a new tone on race, and begin to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in America, is a drastic change from how the American right usually addresses race and an extremely positive development. Let’s hope things keep developing in this direction.