Today is Juneteenth, and we are in the midst of both a pandemic and a movement for social justice. Black lives matter, so how can we empower our black brothers and sisters, as well as other minorities? If we are convinced that conservatism is true, which I am, then we should look to conservative Great Black Thinkers. This article presents a certainly-not-comprehensive list of my favorite contemporary and American black thinkers.
This list of 5 forms an identifiable chain, where each individual is either directly influenced by other individuals on the list, or they specifically relate across specific topics of interest.
By conservatism I mean favorability to the free market, or fiscal conservatism, and Christianity, which is equivalent to social conservatism in the context of the present and historical United States, and arguably the larger western world.
Notice here that I am careful not to identify actual conservatism with conservative identification. Conservative identification measures more accurately a concept of conservative populism. Because the United States is a two-party system, the median voter theory demonstrates that conservative populism is far closer to populism than conservatism.
Conservative populism shifts over time according to the fashionable ideas of the day, but conservatism defined through the first principles approach remains a constant. Paleoconservatism is the traditional form of conservatism found in the American Founding Fathers. Neoconservatism is a new iteration in popular conservatism arising from anti-communist ideation in the 1970s.
Because the preservation of tradition is itself an element of social conservatism, per Burke and others, I believe that paleoconservatism is closer to ideologically pure conservatism. Neoconservatism would include the policies generally advocated in the present Republican party. Please don’t make the common mistake of thinking the Republican Party is genuinely conservative.
Justin Amash, the first and only member of the Libertarian Party to serve in congress, reflects policies much closer to paloeconservatism. Amash’s bill to End Qualified Immunity is an important example of classical conservatism, or paleoconservatism, is the first bill to achieve tripartisan support in over half a century, and is a direct contribution to the current discussion on racial justice and equality.
The Republican Party platform is generally a better measure of conservative populism than actual conservatism. It’s worth noting that Burke and the early Republicans including Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery. Democratic policies have harmed minorities from the beginning of the party, as have leftist policies which are generally correlated but increasingly infecting the Republican party as the American center moves left.
The history of the parties is terribly uninteresting compared to the complete knowledge shock you can experience first hand by reading, listening, and watching the below Great Black Thinkers.
Justice Thomas is the only African American currently appointed to the United States Supreme Court, and the second appointed in history. Justice Thomas is a strict constitutionalist, putting him firmly in line with paleoconservatism and opposite his predecessor, judicial activist Thurgood Marshall.
Related to the current discussion on social justice, Justice Thomas dissented from a recent Supreme Court decision which declined to hear cases on qualified immunity. Justice Thomas stated that “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.” Read more here on NPR.
Justice Thomas is not only religious, but he even attended seminary for a while. Thomas left seminary for assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He did not think the church did enough to combat racism. He obtained a law degree from Yale and the rest is history. Justice Thomas has credit much of his intellectual foundation to Thomas Sowell, bringing us to our next Great Thinker.
Dr. Sowell dropped out of high school and then served in the marines during the Korean War. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and eventually a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago, the home of modern fiscal conservatism. He has written over 30 books and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a powerhouse think tank for conservative policy.
Dr. Sowell is said to write from a libertarian perspective, but his influences are a list of libertarian and conservative luminaries: Hayek, Milton Friedman, Becker, Burke, and others. I would add Adam Smith, but it seems implicit for any decent economist whether conservative or otherwise.
In the below video, Dr. Sowell addresses the question “Is discrimination the reason behind economic inequality in the United States?”
Dr. Williams is a contemporary and friend of Dr. Sowell. The two met in the 1970s, share intellectual influences of Chicago and Austrian economics, have occasionally written or given talks on similar issues, and share a bit of writing in the 2007 “A Man of Letters” piece by Sowell.
Both men served in the military. Dr. Williams was drafted into the United States Army. He would later obtain several degrees including a doctorate in economics from UCLA.
Dr. Williams teaches at George Mason University, perhaps the most prestigious university for studying Austrian Economics in the world, and a leading school for Public Choice economics as well. Like the Chicago School, Austrian economics and Public Choice are both associated with fiscal conservatism.
I am honored to have studied microeconomics under Dr. Williams, and moreover to have him as a member of my dissertation committee. On race and economics, Dr. Williams has emphasized that the illegitimacy rate and the employment rate for blacks was much better in the 1940s-1960s compared to today. As a result, causal explanations for many of today’s issues in the black community must be placed on post-1960s policy changes. I am a fan of his teaching style which combines a matter-of-fact academic approach with humor and personality.
Many years ago, Dr. Williams had already eloquently dealt with many of the largest issues our nation is only now addressing in the popular media. Dr. Williams has many interesting videos and articles, long and short, dated and new, all over the internet. I confine myself to listing five:
- Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to All Persons of European Descent
- The Confederate Flag
- The State Against Blacks
- Does Systemic Racism Exist in the United States Today? Ben Shapiro and Dr. Walter Williams
- How Much Can Discrimination Explain?
Coleman Hughes is young and fresh. He doesn’t have an established career or a doctorate. I understand he graduated from college earlier this year. I believe his degree is a bachelor’s in philosophy.
Coleman Hughes seems to be a representation of a new YouTube generation of black conservative. He has made the rounds with Dave Rubin and others among the intellectual dark web and new media.
Much of his utility seems to be in aggregating and effectively voicing non-original arguments, at least at this point in time. The man is a fact machine who has clearly done his homework. As an important example, he sites Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, and Columbia sociologist Dr. Van Tran to show within-race income differences as a way to disclaim racism as a cause for income differences between races. One comparison is between native-born blacks and the children of immigrant blacks from the West Indies. The latter have much better outcomes, although they are not subject to different levels of racism. Another comparison is between white people of varying ancestry by country, with some wealth variation reaching ~20%. Hughes also notes that most black people themselves, when polled, do not believe that race has significantly held them back in life.
Hughes shares an intellectual thread with those previously mentioned, but he also forms a link in this chain of thinkers by emphasizing an opposition to group identity and identity politics. That is heavily emphasized by our next thinker as well.
Here are two notable videos featuring Coleman Hughes:
- Racism: Getting to the Truth | Coleman Hughes | Rubin Report
- Coleman Hughes VS Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reparations
While many of the former thinkers emphasize fiscal conservatism, economics, social, and political issues, Dr. Baucham is a minister. Clearly, religion intersects with the other topics named, but when we talk about conservatism and social conservatism in particular, there needs to be a special emphasis directly on a correct understanding of Christian theology and scripture. I know of no better black minister compared to Dr. Baucham, and frankly I’m not sure I know a better pastor of any ethnicity.
His biography is in the link above and two example messages from him are below. There’s little else I can say, except that his particular opposition to the concept of black identify in favor to the concept of individual value and Christian identity is a perfect representation, in my view, of a proper conservative Christian position.
- An extended conversation with Voddie Baucham on Social Justice
- Racial Reconciliation – Ephesians 2:10-11 | Dr. Voddie Baucham
Shout out to Larry Elder and Kanye West too. I see them in the popular sphere rather than the intellectual elite, but they’ve certainly been notable conservative black leaders. Another tangential end note would be that more information on characteristics of the Democratic Party including ongoing racial issues can be found here.