Commentary: Where Were the Conservative Voices on Ferguson?

Ferguson, Missouri

Commentary: Where Were the Conservative Voices on Ferguson?

The Right missed an opportunity to reach out to the Black community.

Published August 29, 2014

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent protests and violence in Missouri, I found myself confused. I did not understand how the conservative movement did not seize on yet another opportunity to reach out to the Black community to at least state that the tactics used by the Ferguson Police Department were questionable. 

Even if there was a rush to judgment to ostracize Darren Wilson, there is no question that the militarization of a local police department is an overreach of governmental power that conservatives are supposed to decry. Additionally, the lack of transparency from the police department and other local government officials in Ferguson directly conflicts with the demands of conservatives that a government be by, of and for its people. Indeed, what went on after the shooting is exemplary of a government that oppresses its people instead of a government that works for its people. 

Unfortunately, too few conservative leaders took the opportunity to voice such opinions. That message was mostly owned by established civil rights leaders who have a history of acting and speaking out whenever similar events have taken place. While the politics of such civil rights leaders may conflict with the political beliefs of many conservatives, the opportunity for both sides to come together to address this tragedy still existed. 

Instead, the path taken by some on the right was to criticize many of these civil rights leaders as opportunists. While such accusations may or may not be true, they are mostly immaterial. Had these so-called “opportunists” not seized the “opportunity” to go to Ferguson and bring attention to this shooting, would conservatives have showed up and decried the lack of transparency from the Ferguson Police Department? Would we on the right have given voice to the fact that the subsequent protests — and even the looting — were controlled by military equipment similar to what is seen in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, meaning that war equipment was being used to control American citizens?

This situation is an example of a larger issue. If the goal of minority outreach is truly one that conservatives believe in, there has to be an attempt to make sure that minority communities are properly engaged. Conservatives must meet minorities where they are and find ways to make their beliefs real to minority communities. It is not enough to say that the Affordable Care Act defies the Constitution while not addressing the fact that so many in minority communities lack adequate health insurance. Criticizing the ACA must be accompanied with an alternative approach to address this disparity. It is not enough to say that many young African-American men need to pull their pants up and learn proper English to advance themselves. Such a message must be delivered with the acknowledgment that too few opportunities and pathways to ascension exist for these young men and solutions like school choice are needed.

Critics of conservatism claim that the ideology is really a thinly veiled form of racism. I believe that government accountability and responsibility are the principle ideals behind conservatism. If we are ever to prove the latter and disprove the former, we cannot continue to let so many opportunities to stand up pass us by.

Hughey Newsome, a member of the National Advisory Council of the Project 21 Black leadership network, is a private-sector business consultant in the Washington, D.C., area. 

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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Written by Hughey Newsome


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