by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – Can you tell if someone is a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or conservative or a supporter of any specific policy based on the color of their skin?
Not if they are white. Why, then, do many people still assume that black Missourians are Democrats simply because of the color of their skin?
Statistics show that an overwhelming percentage of black Missourians do, in fact, support Democrats at the polls but that should not be the basis of any assumptions according to Christopher Arps. He’s a co-founder of Move On Up, which is a networking and advocacy group for black conservatives.
On “Missouri Viewpoints”, Arps takes issue with the racial stereotypes often involved with politics.
“It’s, honestly, kind of insulting because it’s basically saying that you don’t have your own mind and you’re supposed to automatically agree or think like the group. I’m insulted, frankly, when people automatically assume I’m a liberal.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a liberal. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but that’s just not my political philosophy.”
With the social, political and racial tensions still high after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Travon Martin in Florida, racial conflicts are back on the minds of many Americans. Multiple rallies to protest the Zimmerman verdict were held in Missouri.
While national media coverage lists, among others, Rev. Al Sharpton as “civil rights leaders”, Arps isn’t sold on the leadership of Sharpton and other liberal activists. In fact, he questions both their impact and their motives.
“Prejudice is still in this country but it’s not what it used to be and we’ve come a long way. I think that a lot of the civil rights organizations [have] become an industry…a lot of people have achieved their fame and their power from keeping the races agitated.
“I think that we’ve got to get away from that and come together as a people.”
While President Obama visited the Show Me State this week to put more national attention on the economy and education, the unemployment rate for young black people remains far above the national average.
To many, that’s a failure of government and it’s the impact of systemic racism. To Arps, it’s a failure of the individual and a failure in culture.
“It’s not going to take a social scientist to realize that if you drop out of high school and you’re walking around with your pants around your ankles…you’re not going to be an attractive candidate for a job.
“I think, in a sense, we can use some type of partnership with the government. Maybe some type of job training program or something but it, ultimately, comes down to you.”
That focus on the individual and away from government-based solutions is what Arps hopes more Missourians of color will consider. That’s a theme more common among conservatives than among liberals and it also puts him at odds with most political leadership in predominantly African-American areas.
Still, Arps wants to work with those who hold to different politics and philosophies. He says Move On Up and challenging racial assumptions is part of a bigger picture. That bigger picture is one of using discussion with opposing viewpoints to sort out the best ideas to fix problems that result in minority poverty, health problems and crime.
“We need to realize that even though we may come at this from different political perspectives, we’re all trying to achieve the same goal.”
That goal includes turning urban core school districts around as schools in both Kansas City and St. Louis deal with the loss of accreditation. Arps points out that failing schools increase the likelihood of students not having the knowledge and skills needed to be job-ready as adults.
That impacts the entire state.
On the web:
Move On Up: www.Move-On-Up.org
* Note: We at “Missouri Viewpoints” are committed to getting multiple viewpoints on controversial issues. We take pride in presenting different and often competing perspectives as part of our mission to improve the dialogue on important issues in our state. We work hard to accomplish this goal.
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, the Chair of Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus, was scheduled to be on this program to present the view from a more liberal perspective. After accepting the invitation to be on the program, her office re-confirmed her scheduled appearance shortly before the interview.
We were notified minutes before the recording began that the Senator decided not to go through with the scheduled appearance. While I regret that we did not have a liberal viewpoint on these issues as planned to offer alongside the conservative one, I decided to produce the program anyway.
In my view, it would not be fair to Mr. Arps and the “Missouri Viewpoints” audience silence both perspectives because one decided not to participate.