BY JACK KERWICK
All too predictably, the left has been busy at work trying to convince Americans that opposition to President Obama is motivated by the “racist” machinations of his Republican opponents.
Last Thursday, for example, while addressing the Democratic National Convention, Congressman John Lewis informed audiences that a victory for Mitt Romney promised to turn back the hands of time to the Jim Crow era of his youth.
Recalling his days as a civil rights activist, Lewis proclaimed that “we have come to far together to ever turn back.”
We have indeed come too far. We have come so far that we have forgotten—or have been made to forget—that there was a time when the Republican Party was the home of American’s blacks.
And we have forgotten—or have been made to forget—such staunch black conservatives as George S. Schuyler.
Born in 1895 in upstate New York, Schuyler was still a young man when he became one of the most insightful—and prolific—essayists that twentieth century America had ever produced. This, at any rate, was the judgment of many, including his one-time mentor, the iconoclastic H.L. Mencken. Schuyler was part of “the Harlem Renaissance,” and from the 1920’s through the 1960’s, he wrote and edited The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the largest black newspaper publications in the country.
Besides being an ardent anti-communist, Schuyler also had little good to say about those of his contemporaries who lead the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Although he had been a tireless champion of racial equality for all of his life, he regarded the plans of the civil rights activists as inimical to liberty.
For instance, while it was still a bill in Congress, Schuyler argued powerfully against what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Schuyler readily concedes that the white majority’s attitude toward the black minority is “morally wrong, nonsensical, unfair, un-Christian and cruelly unjust.” Still, because “it remains the majority attitude,” the federal Civil Rights law would be but “another typically American attempt to use the force of law to compel the public to drastically change [.]”
Although race relations weren’t where Schuyler wanted for them to be at this time, he was quick to point out that they have improved markedly since slavery had ended. He was equally quick to observe that “civil rights laws, state or federal, have had little to do with” such changes.
Speaking as a true conservative, Schuyler declared that it is “custom” that “has dictated the pace of compliance” with those civil rights laws that otherwise remained “dormant in the law books.”
The “principal case” that Schuyler makes against this proposed legislation pertains to “the dangerous purpose it may serve.” Such a law “is still another encroachment by the central government on the federalized structure of our society.”
Schuyler is blunt:
“Armed with this law enacted to improve the lot of a tenth of the population, the way will be opened to enslave the rest of the populace.”
In short, a federal civil rights law of the sort that was passed in 1964 strikes “a blow at the very basis of American society which is founded on state sovereignty and individual liberty and preference.”
Schuyler was critical of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and, especially, Malcolm X.
He lauded King’s objectives but deplored his motives. When King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Schuyler was outraged. He wrote that King deserved, not this prize, but “the Lenin Prize,” for “it is no mean feat for one so young to acquire sixty Communist-front citations [.]”
Furthermore, King’s “incitement packed jails with Negroes and some whites, getting them beaten, bitten and firehosed, thereby bankrupting communities, raising bail and fines, to the vast enrichment of Southern Law and order.”
Schuyler debated Malcolm X on more than one occasion. He had little regard for Malcolm, who he referred to as “one of the high priests of Black Power [.]” Schuyler says of Malcolm that he “was a bold, outspoken, ignorant man of no occupation,” just one of the many “mediocrities, criminals, plotters, and poseurs” that had come to fill the ranks of this “past generation” of “black ‘leaders [.]’”
Some years after his death the movement to memorialize Malcolm was well under way. Schuyler said that “we might as well call out the school children to celebrate the birthday of Benedict Arnold.”
Schuyler added: “It is not hard to imagine the ultimate fate of a society in which a pixilated criminal like Malcolm X is almost universally praised, and has hospitals, schools, and highways named in his memory!”
There is much more that George Schuyler has said, and much more that can be said about him. But knowing just this little bit that this distinguished black conservative of yesteryear did say, it is hard not to suspect that, sadly, we have indeed been made to forget the existence of this conservative champion of constitutional government and genuine equality.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Jack Kerwick, holds a BA in religious studies and philosophy from Wingate University, a MA in philosophy from Baylor University, a Ph.D. in philosophy from Temple University, and is currently adjunct professor of philosophy at Rowan University; Penn State University; and Burlington County College. Mr. Kerwick writes from the classical liberal perspective inspired by Edmund Burke. He blogs at www.jackkerwick.com. You can contact him at [email protected]