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The Role of Internalized Oppression

Apart from their classic Black bourgeois perspectives, Black conservative intellectuals also consistently demonstrate they have personally internalized negative stereotypes about poor African Americans and about African American culture. The evidence for this lies in the underlying assumptions of their written work, the descriptions of poor African Americans in that work, and their personal biographies.

In 1986, Glenn Loury wrote: "But it is now beyond dispute that many of the problems of contemporary black American life lie outside the reach of effective government actions and these can only be undertaken by the black community itself. These problems involve at their core the values, attitudes, and behaviors of individual blacks. They are exemplified by the staggering statistics on pregnancies among young, unwed black women and the arrest and incarceration rates among black men."

Yet Loury's personal history includes fathering two out-of-wedlock children, a jailing for non-payment of child support, and 1987 arrests for cocaine and marijuana possession and for assaulting the young mistress he had established in a separate household. Referring to that past history, Loury has said: "I thought if I hung out in the community and engaged in certain kinds of social activities, in a way I was really being black."

English professor Shelby Steele complains that African Americans suffer from a collective self-image that prefers victimization to success and imposes a suffocating racial conformity that ostracizes nonconformists like him. He discusses his own dissociation from images of lower-class Black life when it was represented by an imaginary character named Sam, created by his childhood family. Sam embodied all the negative images of Blacks his father had left behind because "they were `going nowhere.'"

Steele succinctly states his concern about being confused with poor Blacks when he admits: "The stereotype of the lazy black SOB is common, and the fear is profound that I'll be judged by that stereotype. They will judge our race by him [an unemployed young Black man]-and they'll overlook me, quietly sitting on that bus grading those papers."

Nowhere in the array of Black conservatives' positions are the themes of traditional Black bourgeois attitudes and personal individual status and identity more prevalent than in Black conservatives' opposition to affirmative action. As we have seen earlier, in their analyses of Black oppression and the Black culture of poverty, the foundation of their arguments comes from white conservatives and neoconservatives.

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