Conservatism: The Antithesis of Racism

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Religion Today on November 15, 2013.

Conservatism is grounded in the beliefs that human personhood and its attendant rights come from God, and that we are both fraught with sin and imbued with the image and likeness of our Creator (Genesis 1:26-272:14-19). In these contexts, wariness of utopian schemes, government-managed outcomes, and prudential caution about ebullient, confident political promises make good sense.

The equality of men, wrote Lincoln, is the "central idea" of the American system of representative self-government, the one from which all others "radiate." This is why we abolished slavery and continue to work for a society in which complexion and hair texture are immaterial to mutual acceptance and personal success.

It's why our Founders consciously rejected vestiges of the European "class" system, which squeezed untold millions into rigid strata of education and opportunity simply by virtue of birth.

It's why there is no American royal family, no hereditary legal or political station, and why the son of a rather itinerant white American mother and a black Kenyan economist could become president of the United States.

The belief in fundamental, ontological human equality before God and, thus, under the law, is the very foundation of conservatism. If all men are not equal in value or lack equal legal standing, conservatism's conviction about "ordered liberty" - freedom within the framework of just law, freedom that recognizes both man's promise and his moral limitations - let's go whole-hog for despotism outright, since inevitably that is where a non-theistic, non-natural right society will end up.

It is for these reasons that racism is intrinsically anti-conservative. It argues that some races and ethnicities possess innate superiority (intellectual, moral, cultural, physical) over others. This is the antithesis of the Declaration's claim that each of us is created equal and "endowed by our Creator" with certain rights from which we cannot rightly be alienated.

Much, if not all, of the above seems to be intellectual terra incognita for commentator Richard Cohen,who asserted the following in theWashington Post this week: "People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York - a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts - but not all - of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all."

The last sentence is pregnant with a particularly ugly ignorance. As a bona fide "cultural conservative," I can imagine nothing more inimical to conservatism, to historic Judeo-Christian moral and social norms, than racism.

I've been involved in the conservative movement for a quarter century. I have found virtually no racism among the myriad conservatives with whom I have worked and battled, and certainly no more than among the many self-described liberals with whom I have worked and around whom I live.

Additionally, among liberals racism and racist presuppositions hardly have dissipated fully. Go online and read the vitriol aimed at such black conservatives as Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, and my good friend and colleague Ken Blackwell. These and others who have dared step away from the Left are now the objects of the latter's most intense (and sometimes overtly racist) outrage and scorn.

Have some conservatives been racist? Sure, indisputably. Are conservatives drawn to such by virtue of tradition, conviction, or experience? No. Or as Barack Obama might say, "Period."  

In addition to being a conservative, I am also the adoptive father of several multi-racial children. In our home, African, Asian, Latin American, European and Native American heritages are represented.

My wife and I adopted our children not out of any sense of moral duty or because we wanted to prove something to ourselves or anyone else. We adopted our children because they were vulnerable babies who needed loving parents, which we longed to be.

We have any number of friends who are in biracial marriages, have biological or adoptive biracial children, and who also cast votes as reliably conservative Republicans. Some even affiliate with the Tea Party.

The stereotype Cohen purveys has about it the shimmering patina of clueless bigotry. Richard, you need to get out more.