It has been a trend with some conservatives and libertarians in recent years to use issues like criminal justice reform, mandatory minimum sentencing and the drug war to try to appeal to more minorities.
Students For Liberty alumni Eugene Craig has been in the thick of this effort.
“Republicans and conservatives talk about the overreaching federal government and freedom and liberty, but it’s often vague,” Craig told CNN in 2015.
“I’m a young black man and I have more concerns about being pulled over in the car than I do about a raid from the EPA,” Craig added.
Craig serves as a 3rd-Vice Chair for the Maryland Republican Party, where minority outreach has been a passion. Craig believes that his party has an opportunity to reach black and Hispanic voters by reframing what conservatives mean when they say “big government.”
“It’s intellectually dishonest for a conservative to dismiss Ferguson and Eric Garner but decry big federal government at the same time,” said Craig, referring to heavy handed policing and municipal policies that were controversial in Ferguson, Missouri and also New York City where Mr. Garner lost his life after being choked out by an officer for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes.
Craig has been a supporter of Ron Paul and Rand Paul’s presidential campaigns, in no small part because those Republicans went out of their way to highlight the many ways bad government policies, both federal and local, have hurt minorities. The war on drugs in particular.
Right now Craig is advising SFL on libertarian outreach to minority communities, most specifically historically black colleges and universities.
Craig doesn’t hesitate to speak out against conservatives when they appear to automatically take sides against minorities when racially tinged controversies arise.
Such was the case in 2015, when a white police officer manhandled a young black girl in a bikini—who appeared to have done nothing—at a pool party in Texas. Craig penned an op-ed for Rare titled, “I’m a black conservative and how conservatives reacted to McKinney, Texas enraged me.”
Craig lamented, “There is an unspoken rule among many conservatives when these controversies arise we must always downplay race, yet at the same time quickly find a way to make the black victim the perpetrator and the police officer the victim.”
“Sometimes, once all the facts are learned, black people really are the perpetrators and police are the victims. But not always,” he said. “It breaks my heart, as a young, black conservative, to see the rightwing blogosphere’s first impulse when these incidents occur is to tear down the black people who appear to be victims of bad policing.”
Craig, in his writing, social media activity and political activism, constantly stresses that most black Americans do not perceive conservatives as potential allies because of the right’s constant anti-minority bias.
“But there are reasons most black Americans aren’t attracted to conservatives,” Craig wrote of the McKinney, Texas incident. “Incidents like this—and the conservative reactions to them—are a good example.”
“I’m a proud conservative. I’m also a proud black American,” Craig said.