Inciting the Counter-Revolution: Black Neoconservatives in the Post-Civil Rights Era

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Black neoconservatism is one of the most contested political ideologies of the Post-Civil Rights era. As a challenge to mainstream Black political thought, Black neoconservatism enjoys a particular celebrity as the bold new voice in American racial discourse. This thesis critically analyzes Black neoconservative ideology as a counter-discourse: a direct opposition to the liberalism of the 1960s and the legacy of the Civil Rights and Black Power eras.

The emergence of Black neoconservatives as a significant collective in the Post-Civil Rights era correlates with the rise of the New Right in American politics since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The New Right has forcefully disputed the philosophy and strategy of civil rights legislation and the traditional quest for racial equality and justice. Black neoconservatives play an increasingly significant ideological role in conservative politics and public debate in the Post-Civil Rights period. Furthermore, their racial identity lends credence to the New Right's attack on social policy that disproportionately benefits Black people in general and the Black poor particularly. Black neoconservatives dissent from the prevailing convention that racism and White supremacy have become subtle, but nevertheless remain formidable. They insist that civil rights legislation, government intervention and liberal programs have created a pathological dependency among African Americans. Black neoconservatives contend that this dependency is the true cause for the debilitating conditions of the Black underclass and the slow progress among African Americans. Essentially, Black neoconservatives blame the Black Power era for instilling a sense of entitlement among African Americans, and they charge civil rights leaders with profiting from the manipulation of racism.

The core of Black neoconservative critiques is their presumption that African Americans subscribe to a victim-oriented identity that exaggerates the saliency of racism in order to evoke white guilt. They argue that welfare and affirmative action are two bankrupt policies that perpetuate victimization and dependency among African Americans and impede racial progress. As such, Black neoconservatives maintain that self-help and personal responsibility are the only solutions to the nation's enduring race problems.

Black neoconservatives are presumed to be marginal voices among the vast majority of African Americans. Nonetheless, they are gaining wider currency in the American racial discourse to ultimately shape racial attitudes and change public policy. Furthermore, this thesis posits that Black neoconservatives have taken a political posture that negates the legacy of Black liberation struggles in the United States, which is grounded in an emphasis on Black identity and opposition to racism. Although Black neoconservatives claim their ideology is rooted in the philosophy of Booker T. Washington, this thesis explores the ideology of archconservative George S. Schuyler as a prototypical progenitor of Black neoconservatism. The thesis details the political positions of Black neoconservatives by examining the works of Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter, Shelby Steele, Star Parker, Stephen Carter, Ward Connerly and Glenn Loury.

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black conservatism; black neoconservatism; black politics; black conservatives; black neoconservatives; Ward Connerly; Star Parker; Glenn Loury; Shelby Steele; Thomas Sowell; John McWhorter; George S. Schuyler


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