If the idea of a politician targeting the concerns of a specific demographic seems discriminatory to you, consider the widespread GOP support for defending religious liberty, especially for Christians. Or recall the emphasis on defending and supporting the family unit. We accept that in a diverse nation there will be challenges facing specific communities, including racial communities, which can and should be addressed through the law. The only question is which of those communities will conservatives represent? And if they don’t seek to represent black, Hispanic, and Asian communities, where will these voters go? And more importantly, how will this affect the way we see each other as neighbors?
Politics do not (or at least should not) define us, but cultural values that are traditionally wrapped up in political movements impact our perception of our neighbor. If politicians and the pundits who support them regularly speak about immigrants as threats to our country or view poor minorities as drains on our economy, or if they mock Christian voters as backwards bigots and pro-life advocates as anti-woman, it shapes the way we envision one another. We grow skeptical of one another, hostile, and cynical. In a word, we become less neighborly.
We need GOP candidates who can understand and sympathize with the concerns of people of color who worry about deep problems with the criminal justice system, access to quality schools, violent crime, and a lack of social mobility.
It’s not necessary for conservatives to fully embrace the official #BlackLivesMatter organization or to join every protest over alleged police abuses in order to support minority voters. But neither is it appropriate to dismiss the grievances of the diverse group of Americans who use the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, a group which includes many faithful, orthodox Christians.
Some of these Christians are also strong supporters of traditional conservative policies. They are against abortion, opposed to government overreach, and believe strongly in the importance of local communities as loci of substantial societal change. A willingness to listen to the concerns of these fellow American citizens and their experiences is a necessary start toward conservatives healing the artificial and unnecessary racial division between the GOP and many people of color.
Matthew Loftus has written persuasively on a number of specific issues which Christians Christian conservatives should be able to find common ground on with movements like #BlackLivesMatter, especially reforms to our policing practices that encourage community support for law enforcement.
In addition to Loftus’s suggestions, conservatives could offer government policies and initiatives that include partnering with faith-based nonprofits that strategically target cycles of poverty, violence, and drug abuse. High-quality early childhood education is one such an example of a high-yield investment we can make in our neighbors.
Democrats and Republicans will disagree on the nature of the challenges facing minority communities and how we can address them, but we can agree on the importance of advocating for the flourishing of all peoples. That agreement should go beyond platitudes and token supporters to concrete policies and initiatives sparked by significant dialogue with those within minority and underprivileged communities.
This will help disrupt longstanding barriers between minority voters and conservatives. Certainly this is only one of many areas of racial tension in our country right now, but it is a significant one, and it needn’t be.
Perhaps we won’t see much effort to address racial issues by conservative presidential candidates this year, but as local churches and church leaders speak out against racial injustice and as evangelicals make it clear through local elections that the challenges facing minority communities are important to them, I have hope that we will see a shift in priorities among our politicians. Such change will be difficult, and there will be many skeptics and critics, but if the church leads in supporting racial justice, our politics, our neighborhoods, and our pews will be the better for it.