JOHN MCWHORTER MARCH 24, 2009
Since it's become known that I was (and am) a supporter of Barack Obama, as indicated in this magazine as well as elsewhere, it has been increasingly asked here and there just why I am so often included on lists of "black conservatives."
One reason is that my think tank, the Manhattan Institute, is a free-market, and thus conservative, one. However, they are a bigger tent than is often known - I am not the only Democrat connected with them.
Another reason is a sense that to have anything snippy to say about hiphop makes you conservative, apparently. But that would make quite a few black people right wingers who would never dream of pulling the lever for a Republican.
But then, I also attracted the conservative label early on when I first started writing for the media, because of my opinion that racial preferences in universities are obsolete. I understand why they were urgent in the sixties and seventies. But the question is when you end them. Many think this would only be when race no longer "matters," as it is often put, in America at all. I disagree, for reasons I outlined in Losing the Race and elsewhere. Class preferences? Yes--applied across races. Race preferences alone? It no longer makes sense.
Many understand this, on some level, in that it is--blissfully--no longer true that most black people are poor or close to it. But that's where the idea that "diversity" is the rationale has come in. Whereupon--this notion of changing standards for brown students based on their "diversity" from the white students just doesn't cohere. Look at the justifications up close and they just fall apart.
I wrote about that in my Winning the Race, and more recently, in a piece for my think tank's Minding the Campus site. This school year I have been back in the classroom, enjoying the fruits of student diversity in the real way. But this has only made my Berkeley days in the nineties, when "diversity" was code for "black and Latino and maybe Filipinos and a few Native Americans," seem like another world.