Robert C. Smith


On his book Conservatism and Racism and Why in America They Are the Same

Cover Interview of December 05, 2010


The public, politicians and the media are often puzzled by the consistent failure of conservatism to have much appeal to African Americans.  This book provides the answer to those puzzles.

I decided to write the book shortly after Ronald Reagan’s funeral.  In the long lines of mourners that gathered to pay their respects to the President at the Capitol in Washington and the presidential library in Simi Valley, California there were very few African Americans.

In the course of the nearly week long commemoration of Reagan’s life and legacy—where he was lauded as one of the nation’s greatest presidents—I was asked in the media to explain the absence of black mourners in Washington and Simi Valley.  My explanations dealt less with Reagan as an individual or as president than with conservatism as a philosophy and ideology.

Ronald Reagan was not mourned by many African Americans because he was a conservative; the most successful conservative president of the post civil rights era and one of the most successful conservative presidents in the 20th century.  Conservatism as a philosophy and ideology, I explained, are and always have been hostile to the aspirations of Africans in America; incompatible with their struggle for freedom and equality.  Thus, very few blacks could mourn the passing of a man who was an icon in the cause of 20th century American conservatism.

In the nature of modern media it was difficult to convey this rather complex idea in a brief interview.  I found that even in extended interviews it was difficult to fully explore this complex relationship between conservatism and black aspirations.

Repeatedly, I was asked: Are you saying that conservatism is racism?  That all conservatives are racist?  Aren’t there black conservatives?  Are they racist?  Are the millions of Americans who supported President Reagan racist?  Are President George W. Bush and the conservatives who control the Congress and the courts hostile to African American interests?

My answer to most of these questions was a qualified yes.  But the many qualifications and caveats left me, the interviewers, and the audience, without the kind of clarity one would hope for when professors are called upon to explain complex issues to the public. Thus, this book.

© 2010 Robert Smith