At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture


A Defender of the Old Right: Zora Neale Hurston

posted by Jack Kerwick

February is Black History Month.  As those on the right (and even an increasing number of people elsewhere) know well enough, these four weeks are all too easily used by activists as an opportunity to promote a politics of victimhood congenial to a leftist agenda. 

The famed black writer—and conservative—Zora Neale Hurston, frustrates this program.

Born in the early 1890’s in the lower South, Hurston would one day join the ranks of those black writers who became associated with “the Harlem Renaissance.”  Unlike most of her colleagues, however, she staunchly rejected the communism and socialism with which they sympathized. 

Hurston resented the efforts made by black and white intellectual alike to make of black Americans a new proletariat, a victim class perpetually in need of an all-encompassing national government to ease the “lowdown dirty deal” that “nature has somehow given them [.]”  Hurston was adamant that she was “not tragically colored.” She insisted that “no great sorrow” lies “damned up in my soul, lurking behind my eyes,” and she placed a world of distance between herself and “the sobbing school of negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are hurt about it [.]”

For what contemporary black commentator Larry Elder refers to as the “victicrats” among us, Hurston had zero use.  “Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves,” she remarked.  Much to their chagrin, though, “it fails to register depression with me.”  Furthermore, she stated bluntly that “slavery is the price I paid for civilization.”

Our increasingly joyless generation is oblivious to another of Hurston’s insights: a sense of humor can bear most, if not all, painful things.  Regarding racial discrimination, she noted that while she “sometimes” feels “discriminated against,” she does not get “angry” about it. Rather, the experience “merely astonishes me,” for how, Hurston asks, “can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”  

As far as foreign policy was concerned, Hurston was of the old right.  She was what today we are inclined to call a “paleoconservative” or “paleolibertarian.”  With the Russell Kirks, Patrick J. Buchanans, and Ron Pauls of the right Hurston had much in common—especially when it came to foreign policy.

Of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, she spoke contemptuously as she identified what Hurston took as their hypocrisy.  Those “people who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy,” she asserted, “wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals [.]” The fact is that “we” also “consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.” Roosevelt “can call names across an ocean” for his “four freedoms,” she added, yet he lacked “the courage to speak even softly at home.”

When Truman dropped “the bomb” on Japan, Hurston referred to him as “the Butcher of Asia.”

But Hurston blasted away at Big Government for domestic purposes as well. She was an adamant critic of the New Deal and jumped at the chance to support presidential candidate Robert A. Taft when the opportunity arose for Republicans to dismantle the house that Roosevelt built.

A big part of FDR’s legacy, Hurston complained, is that “the word ‘liberal’ is now an unstable and devious thing in connotation [.]”  What this means in practice is “Pinkos and other degrees of fellow travelers” have succeeded in convincing large numbers of people that a liberal “is a person who desires greater Government control and Federal handouts.”

Taft, though, could put an end to this, Hurston claimed, for Taft is a real liberal, a Jeffersonian liberal. 

Interestingly, Hurston found Taft’s lack of charisma to be among his virtues, for she realized that those presidents who seduced the electorate with their charms were dangerous to liberty.  Taft, she thought, was more like “those men who held high office” before “the mob took over” with “the advent of Jacksonian democracy [.]”

An opponent of segregation, Hurston was just as much of an opponent of federal efforts—like Brown v. Board of Education—to end it.  She was bewildered by the idea that, as a black person, she should take comfort in the fact that there was now “a court order for somebody to associate with me who does not wish me near them [.]” 

Race relations in the South, through the “effort and time” of those who live there, “will work out all its problems.”

In short, Hurston was a devotee of liberty. She relished in her individuality while courageously discarding the collectivist, utopian fantasies of which the twentieth century was ridden:

“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.”

During this Black History Month, all lovers of liberty would be well served to follow Hurston’s lead.          

 

 



Previous Posts

Interracial Violence Ignored by the Media
For weeks on end, the police shooting death of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri by a white officer had managed to remain front and center on the national stage. The usual suspects in the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC) held up this incident as proof that “black men in America are under attack,”

posted 10:01:01pm Sep. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Iraq, Ideology, and Truth: Dissecting the Political Blame Game
It would be comical if the fate of our country and the world didn’t hang in the balance to watch the Democrats and their neoconservative Republican rivals point blame at one another as ISIS assumes the national stage. Some thoughts on this internecine battle between these two birds of the same

posted 10:19:44pm Sep. 11, 2014 | read full post »

The "Militarization" of the Police?
Making the rounds through libertarian (and other) circles in the wake of the police shooting death of Michael Brown is the notion that the “militarization” of local police forces is a huge problem besetting the country. Though I self-identify as a conservative, I have a considerable affection

posted 7:39:21am Sep. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Against the "Militarization" of the Police II
There’s a notion, popular among self-avowed “libertarians,” that among the largest threats facing our nation is that of “the militarization” of the police.  This idea has been expressed quite a bit as of late, particularly in the wake of the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Fergu

posted 10:43:11am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Libertarianism and "The Militarization" of the Police
A line that has become all too common in some libertarian circles is that the key problem, or even a problem, in Ferguson, Missouri is a problem facing the rest of the nation. This problem is what these libertarians have taken to calling “the militarization” of the police. The charge that

posted 2:20:30pm Aug. 24, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.