2010: Year of the black center-right

Shamara Riley Contributor
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One of the most underreported stories of 2010 is how the black center-right gained significant ground around the globe. We are aware of the historic victories of Congressmen-elect Allen West and Tim Scott, the first black Republicans to be elected from the South since Reconstruction. Florida Lieutenant Governor-elect Jennifer Carroll also had an historic year. Many political observers note the growing number of black Tea Party activists.

The year also marked the rise of “urban conservative” activists. An increasing number of American black conservatives are calling themselves “urban conservatives”/“urban right”/“hood conservatives.” They are outlining a city-focused, center-right agenda, with a particular emphasis on community organizing and economics.

“It was a game-changer in 2010 because people are beginning to move away from the Democrat-versus-Republican debates and are now seeking core solutions to the problems we are facing today,” said Akindele Akinyemi, an education consultant and self-described “urban conservative” in the Detroit area. “Instead of concentrating on President Obama, Sarah Palin, gay issues and other distractions, people want to engage in solutions such as incarceration, poor health care, failing education, insurance, urban agriculture and public policies that stress economic development through urban, technological and regional planning.”

However, 2010 was a notable year for the black center-right not just in the United States, but around the globe. The British House of Commons went from one to four Conservative Party black parliamentarians. Adam Afriyie won re-election, further increasing his party’s share. Lawyer Helen Grant, banker Sam Gyimah, and historian Kwasi Kwarteng won parliamentary seats in May’s election.

John Abraham Godson recently became the first black member of Poland’s lower house of parliament, representing the ruling center-right Civic Platform Party. The Nigerian-born former teacher and Protestant pastor had previously served as a city councilman in Poland’s third largest city. Rama Yade, a pro-free-market centrist, regularly tops French opinion polls on politician popularity. Known as “La Rebelle” (The Rebel) due to her outspokenness, the former human rights minister last week was appointed France’s ambassador to UNESCO. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, a center-right parliamentarian and prominent pro-life advocate, was named Ghana’s best politician by Africa Watch magazine.

Meanwhile, a populist rebellion may be brewing in Ghana. Why? Ghanaians are increasingly concerned about a slew of tax hikes that the country’s socialist government recently announced. They are now debating the idea of a populist, Tea Party-like citizens’ movement (which organizers have named the Koko Party Movement, after a famous porridge, as tea connotes elitism in Ghanaian culture).

All of this year’s achievements have appeal in changing the discourse and politics that often equate black individuals — whether in America, Europe, or in Africa — with the center-left. Yet in the U.S., there is more ideological diversity among blacks than typically described. According to the Pew Research Center, 21 percent of black Americans support a limited government providing fewer social services. While this 1-in-5 figure is much different than the only four percent of black Americans who supported Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008, it does illustrate significant room for growth for America’s black center-right.

Walaa Idris, a Conservative Party activist in London, stated that Britain’s black conservative achievements this year were the result of five years of groundwork to grow Britain’s black center-right. “In 2010 the focus for most black candidates was to get selected [to be the Conservative Party candidate in their area] and then elected. In my opinion that was the easy part, despite of how hard it might have been,” said Idris, who was born in Germany to Sudanese parents. “In 2011 the real work begins, by putting their personal message across work on their pledges and cementing their presences — but also by reaching out to the black community and specially those on the left who are brainwashed into believing they’ll never have a home in the Tory party.”

In Ghana, the center-right this year focused primarily on challenging the government’s policies, and promoting a property-owning democracy. The main center-right opposition party, the New Patriotic Party, lost the 2008 presidential election by less than one percent of the vote. Seeking to get an early start on the 2012 presidential election, the NPP has already selected its candidate and is campaigning around the country. Gabby Otchere-Darko, the executive director of the Danquah Institute in Accra, said that the major concern of Ghana’s center-right is “how to get the majority to feel connected to them since democracy is about numbers and the center-right is seen as for the fast-expanding but still small middle class.” He added, “The point is to build a society of opportunities by giving people all a hand up and not a handout. We need to expand the field of socio-economic play to allow more and more people to join the middle class.”

Nevertheless, Otchere-Darko said that Americans can learn from Ghana. “What Americans can learn from Ghana’s center-right is how to win half of the black population to a center-right party!” said Otchere-Darko, a self-described libertarian-conservative. “We have won elections and after the 2008 results, the country is virtually divided in the middle electorally. We have shown that even a poor, black nation can be persuaded to be center-right!”

Akinyemi believes that more game-changing years are to come, as the black center-right across borders increasingly joins forces to amplify their voices. “The next game-changer will be to connect with others in the Diaspora with the urban conservative platform,” he says. “It is imperative to engage and connect with those domestically and internationally who share the same values and influence in education, health, technology, family development and international policies.”

Shamara Riley is the founder of Booker Rising, a news site for black moderates and black conservatives.