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Culture Q&A

'The cavalry is not coming'

The conservative movement and the GOP, says Kay Coles James, have given up on the black community

'The cavalry is not coming'

(Dean Hoffmeyer/Genesis Photos)

Kay Coles James has had many leadership roles in government and nonprofit organizations: She was Virginia’s secretary of Health and Human Resources and President George W. Bush’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and is now president of the Gloucester Institute, a leadership training center for young African-Americans (see “Climbing out of the cradle,” Feb. 11, 2012). 

Some conservative websites have examined voting patterns in last November’s election and charged fraud in those African-American precincts that voted 100 percent for Barack Obama. My sense is those results are real. What’s your sense? Real. If you have been a part of an African-American community as I have for all my life, it’s no surprise. Conservatives often think people are voting on the basis of policy analysis and if we just told our story better they would vote with us. The vote actually has a lot to do with the journey that African-Americans have been on in this country, and understanding where we are emotionally. 

You recently saw the new movie Django Unchained—what did that show you? Django Unchained is about a slave who has the opportunity to be free and become a bounty hunter. He had a license therefore to—as he says—“go kill white people.” The movie is extremely violent. For the average person who may be skittish about those things, I would not recommend it. But if you are a culture warrior and want to understand a lot of the dynamics going on in our culture, you should go.

Why? Because when you understand the horror of slavery, and when you see it graphically on a screen in front of you, and when it is settled in your DNA and has been a part of the oral history of your family, you come to understand why large groups of people in this country say, “I don’t care if Obama runs the whole dadgum country off the cliff! I don’t care if Obamacare screws up the entire American healthcare system! We got a black president and I’m voting for him!” I saw that movie in an all-black theater with people cheering at what I thought were inappropriate times, but we need to understand that.

Do conservative Christians tend to understand that? I am extremely concerned about the inability of the Christian community, the conservative community, and the Republican Party to deal with the browning of America. We tend as conservatives to stay right in our communities, to hold rallies where we get ourselves energized. 

I’ve interviewed white conservatives who say civil rights problems are part of history, but race now is not that big a factor. Is this—white folks talking? It certainly is and I’m glad you said it because I was about to. I was a part of that group that integrated the schools in the South. I had to go past dogs to go to algebra. I know what that’s like. Overt racism in America is gone. Thank goodness it is no longer socially acceptable to be a racist. But covert racism is alive and well. I see it every day in subtle ways. To be standing in a line at a cosmetic counter and to be ignored three times while they wait on the person next to you. One of my very dearest, best, closest friends became upset because her daughter was dating a black guy. To be involved in a white church and you’re part of a Bible study and everybody in the Bible study goes on vacation together but they didn’t invite you. 

After last November’s election, do you see any new GOP attempts to reach out? I probably had a not-so-pleasant conversation with every conservative and every Republican leader during the 60 days after the election because they have given up on the black community. People were saying “Those precincts were 100 percent, write them off, let’s focus on Hispanics and women and maybe youth.” Well, I was involved in the Republican and conservative movements because I thought those values and ideals and principles were the ones that I needed to save my community. When they write off those precincts, they have written off my community. 

You feel used? They’re telling me I was only important and significant to the degree that I could help them stay in power and advance their agenda. When I was no longer useful for that effort, I am no longer useful to them. I believe in self-sufficiency and independence. I believe in principles like “don’t spend more than you earn.” I believe in limited government because limited government gives you the most freedom. But I met recently with young African-American conservative professionals and said, “I have a newsflash for you: The cavalry is not coming. There is no one coming to save us. The conservative movement, the evangelical movement, and the Republican Party don’t care about us anymore.” … I am no longer useful. I had better change my name to Maria Sanchez and then maybe I can get some attention. We use people and then spit them out. 

So you have white Republicans using you, and when we talked earlier you mentioned the depiction in Django Unchained of the difference between the field workers and the house workers—some African-Americans call you a house worker? Oh, you’re being kind but I get it, go ahead.

You don’t get respect. Yeah, yeah.

So, where’s your community? My community—First, I am a part of the Kingdom of God. I am the daughter of the Most High and I am an ambassador here traveling in a foreign land. Second, they’re all my communities. Yes, those of us who are black Republicans like to get together when there are no white folks around and talk about how they use us—but we allowed them to. They only used us because we let them, because we are pro-life and we do care about that issue. We allow them to use us because we do believe in limited government and we want to fight and make sure this country stays economically sound. So our agenda—you can use me as long as you’re using me for what I want to be used for.

And you use them ... And I use them, yeah—well, not as effectively as they use me but I’d like to. You can’t use me against my will. I am a conservative because I love my people and believe that conservative values will lift and empower my people. They’re not as much conservative as they are biblical values. … There’s nothing I believe that my grandmother didn’t believe: Black conservatives are nothing more than those who have the audacity to believe what their grandmothers taught ’em.

Video

Watch Marvin Olasky's complete interview with Kay Coles James:

For more from this interview, see “MLK and today’s African-American opportunity.”

Comments

  • Kathleen
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    It seems odd that the black community rallies behind someone whose skin appears dark, but whose life experience is entirely different.  Obama grew up outside the mainland, in relative privilege.  Isn't it a clear manipulation for Obama to identify himself with the American black community?  As Kay James and veritas  point out, support is solely based on race, but that is a fabricated characteristic.

  • veritas's picture
    veritas
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    Kay James says lots of people say "I don't care if Obama runs the whole dadgum country off the cliff! I don't care if Obamacare screws up the entire American healthcare system! We got a black president and I'm voting for him!"Voting for a candidate based on race. . Isn't this the exact opposite of Dr Martin Luther King's dream that a man would be judged by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin? Perhaps we should play Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech to everyone including minority children again and again.

  • Robert H
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    I am curious as to how Mrs. James would characterize the Democrats relationship with the black population; are they being used by them as well?  I am having a hard time understanding what they need to be saved from or what difference it makes if the Conservatives, Evangelicals, or the Republican party doesn't care anymore.  Does that really prevent the black conservative voice from being heard? I would suggest  that letting ourselves be herded into groups and stereotyped is the real problem in this country and it would be much better if we would just vote our convictions as individuals no matter what color we happen to be.  We are all being used to some extent by our employers, families, friends, etc. and if we are Christians then hopefully we are being used by God to bring glory to Him.  In the end that is the only thing that really matters.

  •  Neil Evans's picture
    Neil Evans
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    To genuinely cure the bigotry of the human heart is a spiritual issue not a political one.  The blind arrogance of politicians and those who depend on them will with never-ending futility seek primarily political solutions to spiritual problems.  Some political actions are appropriate, but to view them as fundamental solutions to our sin nature is both blind and arrogant. 

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Sawgunner
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    One thing I think makes African Americans angry is how once the civil rights movement achieved most of its laudible goals then suddenly white politicians of both parties began to talk about contracting, restricting all the New Deal social welfare spending which had benefited so many poor whites in the era of Jim Crow.  Fact is of course those programs had run their course and had achieved great success for wide swaths of poor folks of all races all across the nation. Fiscal constraints not racism dictated that they all be dialed down.Similarly white Americans embraced the big cars and material prosperity of the booming 50s and 60s and yet when de jure discrimination ended in the USA it's end just happened to coincide with white culture's proclamation of an "era of limits" due to environmental despoliation/waste. I liken it to African Americans showing up at a diner with full wallets and ready appetities only to be told "Sorry We're Closed"

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Sawgunner
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    I think even with all his alleged faults, Herman Cain was a brilliant tactical choice for elective office. It might have been better had he been at least a former Congressman or Gov ALONG WITH his experience as Godfather's CEO and turn around master. Cain's narrative life story was more akin to the experiences of most African Americans in the south (as opposed to Barack OBama's being raised in Hawaii, Indonesia and Kansas by his white mother and white grandparents). Our pigment obsession and race quota consciousness will only disappear when inter-racial dating/marriage no longer raises any concerns (notably among older whites it seems). I know a white army chaplain who has a lovely African American wife. They have two daughters. Are they supposed to buy into the full narrative of "Whitey our Oppressor" and its concomitant demand for set asides, affirmative action, decreased admission score requirements etc? If they strive for academic excellence and a higher degree in a profession or STEM field will they then be subjected to whispered allegations of being Oreos? [Black on the outside, white on the inside].All the black Christians I know are mainly divorced women. They are profoundly opposed to both abortion and gay marriage. Barack OBama has been a full-fledged backer of both, and the same black Christians nevertheless embrace him. There is so much truth to be probed in the explanation which says "He's on my team..". That needs to be further unpacked

  • LTATE
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    Unfortunately, politics is a lot about money.  Ad campaigns can be broad, for all segments or they can be targeted, for one market segment or another.  Obama was efficient in targeting ads, very targeted ads to black stations, emphasizing black issues, for instance.  They could get a good rate of return (ROI).  Spend X dollars for Y votes.  It works the same for the Republicans.  Does a campaign try to repair 50 years of negative advertisement (think the "southern strategy") with its limited dollars or focus on groups that it will get a better ROI?  I don't think that's racism per se.  The problem is, like Congress we kick the can down the road.  We need a broader base, not by pandering, I don't think she's arguing that, but by a change of heart.  By verbalizing the truth, we can attack the problem, and repair the breach.  Thank you Mrs. James.

  • LTATE
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    As a white christian republican right living near where Mrs. James lives I must unfortunately agree with her.  1) Obama is black, he's my team, I may not like him, but he's my team is completely understandable. 2) I had a pastor from a black church get up in my church and voice the consequence of our outreach to the black community would be our daughters dating a black man and the church was shocked. 3) As a child, I grew up being trained that "they" were different.  I can only pray that as a child of the living God, he will continue to renew my heart and mind where their is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.  For we are on the same team, the body of Christ.

  • VEK
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    This interview saddens me.  Why must any group in America sit back and wait for the "cavalry" to "save them"?  May the best panderer win??     When every social slight, rude behavior, or instance of bad customer service is elevated to "covert" racism, when Black Christians set aside their biblical principles at the ballot box because the "DNA" of slavery  trumps all else, I cannot fault those who have "shake(n) the dust off their feet" and gone elsewhere.   

  • Mshahidi
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:04 pm

    I've not had the experience of being Black in America, but I can sympathize with the sense of betrayal, disappointment, and discouragement that comes across in the interview with Kay James.  When living overseas and the subject of American politics inevitably comes up, my constant disclaimer is that though I was born in America, my true citizenship is in heaven.  As much as we might love where we come from, as new creations in Christ, we cannot let our nurture define who we are.