African-Americans, conservatives, and Black Republicans alike must understand and apply Reagan’s three-legged model to achieve racial equality today
Recently, I got into a brief but important discussion with two former colleagues of mine concerning the role and influence of social protest in the process of addressing and correcting injustices throughout America, most notably in America’s civil rights past.
It is true that without directly confronting racial injustice and otherwise condoned physical, economic, and societal brutalities in the court system, any action of protest is rendered null and void.
However, any suggestion that only one approach – legal pragmatism – without a moral compass or an economic motivator to drive the effort (particularly in these modern times) is hogwash. It rings of an elitist and revisionist viewpoint on pathways to societal victories that whitewashes the past now that many of the scars of battle have healed over in some capacity.
As noted repeatedly by conservative patron saint Ronald Reagan both before and after his ascendency to the White House, there is a three-legged stool upon which the set of conservative principles and a successful application of those values rest.
Just the same when regarding racial justice: there is a three-legged stool upon which the pursuit of racial justice and a color-blind “…pursuit of happiness…” finds footing. Often with the case of pursuing this noble endeavor, the stool is hoisted and jabbed repeatedly with these principles on high display in order to beat back the lions of hatred, systematic oppression, and varying methods of injustice.
The application of the truth is complex, yet the formula itself is profoundly clear and simple. Courts change bad and oppressive laws over time, often through multiple efforts and in multiple courtrooms around the nation, including the courts of public opinion nationally and internationally. Yet, this method is most effective when it is coupled with other avenues of bringing awareness to voids of justice in America – namely, the other two legs of “Reagan’s stool” for advancing racial justice. Effective, focused, and benevolent marches (ones such as the Detroit Walk to Freedom, the March on Washington, and Monday’s march against Florida’s Stand Your Ground law) have, over time, proven to be tactful in the fight for equality and a better America for all citizens. Generally speaking, these events bring awareness and, through that exposure, changes hearts and minds in a manner that influences the courts – and thus the laws. Where morality does not influence, economics do. When applied appropriately and persistently, boycotts have had a profound effective on changing the justice calculus in a dynamic. Any Black American that denies this in 2014 ignores the shoulders of poor people from the 1950s upon which we all stand today. Any conservative that does not see this casts aside the recent veto of SB 1062 by Arizona Jan Brewer, one that came after mounds of bipartisan pressure due to the potential negative economic consequences the bill would have had on red-state Arizona.
Just as the three-legged stool of conservatism helped lead Reagan to sweeping victories in 1980 and 1984 and enabled him to lead sweeping economic and esteem recoveries for America during his two terms as president, the three-legged stool of racial justice is a time-tested and currently viable tool that must be implemented, adhered to, and championed by Black America today to usher in better times for African-Americans.
As we address the issues of increased physical violence against Black youth (both through police brutality of honor roll students as well as gang violence) and the tolerated economic starvation of urban communities, this foundation will provide the balance necessary to get results and stoke a recovery within our communities as well – one that advances increased safety, education, and economic gains. Without the teamwork of these legs working together to balance our values and beat back the man-eating lion of hatred, each is honorable but incomplete when advanced solely of their own device. A honorable defense of justice without a moral and economic footing risks the hollow demise of a legal decision, as was the case with Dred Scott and other unjust rulings for years. A vigorous march without the persistence to a systematic awakening when the crowds disperse risks a fleeting sense of pride yet a legacy of broken families and bodies years later as we had with the inconsistent follow-up to the Million Man March. A moment of economic discipline without the fortitude to sacrifice as much as is required by the situation does not honor the memory of persistent poor people boycotting buses in Alabama in the 1950s and grocery stores in Chicago in the 1960s. Only do all three in tandem suffice as a proven recipe for advancement and success.
Great leaders that perhaps do not conjure the image of a particular movement often have the capability to inspire future generations to advance their goals in the effort to make America stronger and better through equality and justice for all. Most African-Americans today (especially those of Generation X and the Millennial Generation) would not likely see President Reagan’s conservatism as a template to pursue and obtain 21st century racial justice. However, the model is clear in providing balance and stability for an increasingly-diverse America should we keep courage, commitment, and consistency in mind as we take up our three-legged stool today.
Lenny McAllister is a political analyst and commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including Al Jazeera America, CNN, the American Urban Radio Network, and Sun News Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit appears on 4802: Final Friday on WQEDand hosts NightTalk: Get to the Point on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel. The former host of Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM is the newest edition to Newsradio 1020 KDKA. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook