The Conservative Brotherhood recently accepted some new members, and apparently this has drawn some attention to them. Wizbang highlights the group (mistakenly calling it a blog), and a commenter decided to make the impossible to defend claim that it's immoral to form such a group. I first thought that he was claiming it was racist to make these distinctions, but he doesn't go quite that far. It's a dangerous enough attitude anyway. Chapomatic expresses a pretty similar worry, but he's not as firm about it and considers it a more minor issue among people he greatly respects. You can see other responses to this at Conservative Brotherhood members Baldilocks, Cobb, Michael King, Sam, Ambra Nykola, and Booker Rising. I've left comments on a few of the sites so far, but I'd like to organize all of what I've been thinking and writing together in one post.
The primary issue that keeps coming up is colorblindness. I've addressed this issue before. There's a kind of colorblindness that's good. When you get to know someone, you see them in terms of being a person and not in terms of being a person defined by color. At the same time, there's something very insulting when a white person says to a black person, "Well I don't really think of you as black." It's as if you're saying "You don't fit my picture of what black people are supposed to be like." This kind of colorblindness is just plain racist, albeit a kind of residual and unintentional racism that you might not blame someone for.
I think something similar goes on when we, for politically correct reasons, insist that we should be colorblind in the public sphere. There's some sense in which this is true. We shouldn't allow anyone's negative judgments of people because of their race to affect how we treat people (and believe me, you have them even if you won't admit it; I believe everyone does to some extent). What this amounts to is not recognizing illegitimate racial judgments and instead judging people according to morally appropriate criteria. This is what Martin Luther King meant when he said we should judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
But this doesn't mean we should pretend there aren't racial issues, as true colorblindness requires, as the kind of colorblindness that condemns the Conservative Brotherhood requires. Consider again cases that don't involve race to see how silly this sort of thing is. Here's a quote from my earelier post (linked to above):
Compare these examples with things we no longer consider bad in any sense, and you can see how some illegitimate notion of badness or inappropriate association with such people is involved. I just can't imagine someone saying "I don't really think of you as left-handed." Could you picture someone saying "I don't really think of you as a soccer player" without it just being an admission of ignorance rather than a compliment? So why is "I don't really think of you as black" supposed to be a good thing?
You can say the same about the claim that it's intrinsically bad to form a group for any purpose whatsoever that has a racial classification as one of its defining elements. Baldilocks traces out what this would look like for other groups. Consider groups like the Blogdom of God (theistic bloggers), the League of Reformed Bloggers (blogs associated with a particular theological perspective), the Bear Flag League (California bloggers), GOP Bloggers, Blogs for Terri (Schiavo), Pro-Life Blogs, MilBloggers (blogs associated with the armed forces), etc. You're not cutting yourself off from others by being in those alliances. Then why are you cutting yourself off as a separatist if you join a group of black conservative bloggers? There's an inconsistency that I can't explain unless you turn to her psychological account that I hope isn't true. She suggests that the idea might just be that a bunch of black people all in one place is scary. I really do hope that isn't what's driving this, but I have to admit that no reasonable explanation for opposing this kind of group and no others has suggested itself to me.
One reason we can pretty much know that this isn't some kind of separatist notion of gathering together to the exclusion of all others is just from observing an empirical fact. Most of the members of the Conservative Brotherhood have mostly white readers, and many of them belong to some of the blog alliances I've already mentioned that have nothing to do with race. Most of the links from CB blogs go to blogs by white people. I'm sure at least most of them spend lots of time reading and commenting on blogs by white people. This is not isolation. It's not exclusion. It's not separatism. It's a formation of an alliance from a shared background for a very particular purpose. That purpose requires that the people allying in this case be black.
The point of the CB is so more black people will be exposed to their ideas, because those are the people whom these ideas will most directly affect and the ones most commonly ignoring the CB members as Uncle Toms who are in Whitey's pocket. The gathering here is for moral support in the same way Christians gather in congregations for fellowship and feeding into each other, for accountability and teaching by those who think alike and then going off to live lives of friendship and service to anyone, especially nonbelievers. Well, here we have much of the same thing, learning through idea exchange and encouragement in an uphill battle. Then there's a going forth into the world for most of daily life, for most of blogging life. They are part of America as Americans and not simply as black conservatives. The gathering is not exclusionary. It's a matter of connecting with those who have similar views from the same background, a group who tends to be ostracized and marginalized merely for being both black and conservative.
The fact that one of the members is married to a white man, is watering down what's left of African ancestry in her genes through reproduction that has led to kids whose skin tone looks like that of some Italians, and has mostly white friends, at least of those in town, just shows how silly these claims are. What people usually accuse CB members of is ignoring black people, not of associating too much with black people (as if that could be bad).
Is it wrong to organize with those who are part of an oppressed group to seek better treatment? It's pretty clear that the group in question faces some level of persecution. They're called Uncle Toms and race traitors. They're assumed to be getting paid for holding their views. They're said to be holding such views only because they're rich and want to stay rich, when in reality many of them are dirt poor or at least have known what it's like to be dirt poor and hold the views they have because they want to help those who are struggling to advance beyond their situation.
So a group of these oppressed and persecuted people bands together to show that people who are black and conservative don't fit that false stereotype, to encourage each other in their struggles, to feed ideas off each other, and so on. As they do this, they haven't isolated each other. They've just taken note of each other and become allies, with a central location that links to all of them. Then someone comes along and calls them racist, and others say it's immoral and against conservative principles. Why? Because they care about race. If we say it's racist or immoral in some other way to care about race, then we're not going to care about race, and that's going to feed into all the problems that come when you ignore the real racial problems in this country. That's catering to institutional and residual racism. It's thus part of the complex social forces that perpetuate racial problems. It's thus racism.
There's a function to the group, and it fulfills it by including black conservatives in the list of members. It would defeat the purpose to include white people like me, even though I agree with them and write more about race than some of them do, just as it would defeat the purpose if they included black bloggers who basically tow the black party line on victimology and pay their dues to Al Sharpton while calling anyone a racist who says affirmative action has bad consequences. It�s just not exclusionary to be part of one group with a well-defined purpose that requires membership in a racial group. If it�s done for certain reasons, it might be, but their reasons do not involve exclusivity. The group�s purpose for existing is for there to be a website that links to blogs by people who are black but not liberal, something that runs contrary to many people�s expectations.
They're not a site about conservative viewpoints, just as they're not a site about race. It's a site by some black people who want to show that you can be a thinking black person and not be a standard black liberal. That's a good enough purpose to justify the existence of the group, and serving that purpose requires that the people whose blogs they highlight actually be black. It would be impossible for it to be otherwise. Just having me on their list would undermine the whole point, and the point is a good one worth making, so why should I be upset if they don't include me? If I want to form a group of people who have some rare conbination of features that I also have, I can do so. I don't have the rare combination of features this group wants to highlight as something they cherish about themselves, and those who are criticizing them for doing this seem to me to have no good reason to do so. Baldilocks says it well:
Do black Americans get to acknowledge that the culture in which they have often been nurtured and in which they may find themselves in at the moment might be different from that of their countrymen in some respects?
Or have we become so politically correct�even on the right side of the political spectrum�that it�s not said in polite company?