Can we get a little diversity up in here?

The Liberty Movement needs more color

By Brittany Darby

This past February I took a much needed break away from Los Angeles and film school, and attended the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, DC. Coming from a design school, I was overjoyed to spend a weekend talking about libertarian philosophy with fellow political nerds.

I couldn’t help but notice that out of over one thousand attendees to the ISFLC, I was one out of maybe ten Black people in attendance, and maybe one of 40 minority students in general. I had hoped that at the biggest libertarian student conference of the year, there would be a greater diversity of libertarians in attendance. But to be honest, this number did not completely surprise me, as I know every few other minority anti-statists in real life.

There are too few minority libertarians, and it really shouldn’t be that way. The state is responsible for more atrocities committed against minorities in this country than private racism could ever hope to accomplish:  Not only did the government kill millions of Native Americans, but it stole their land and sent them to the most undesirable parts of the country. Aside from the whole slavery thing, the government is responsible for forcibly sterilizing thousands of Black women and giving syphilis to unsuspecting Black men.

Currently, the government is deporting more so-called illegal Mexicans than ever, ripping apart families across multiple states. Japanese-Americans were placed in “internment” camps during World War Two, even though they were as American as apple pie. Over and over again, the state proves that it will take advantage of minority populations whenever possible, without regard for the law—or rather, without regard for what is right and what is wrong. For too long, minority voters who have been historically wronged by the government have been forced to choose between the lesser evil of the two parties while continually being wronged over and over again by the same party that campaigned to protect them.

Libertarians offer minority groups in this country something that has never been offered to them before:  the power of self-determination. Libertarian philosophy allows no room for institutionalized racism. Libertarians recognize that rights naturally belong to individuals, and are not granted by governments. People are looked at as individuals instead of members of a group. In a society that truly values liberty and justice for all, government is not allowed to implement social policies or economic interventions that keep lower class minorities in poverty or to make rules that tear families apart across borders. The message of liberty should ring like music in the ears of all people, but especially minority voters.

But the message of liberty is not reaching them; in fact, many minorities have never heard of libertarianism. Those who have heard of libertarians think that we’re all conservatives who are more racist than regular Republicans. The stereotype gets even worse when Ron Paul is mentioned, because the media has covered in depth the newsletter scandal that incorrectly paints Dr. Paul as the worst of the racist, Republican-conservative libertarians.

Ron Paul and son Rand Paul’s separate statements on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also contribute to this idea. Even though we libertarians understand their positions that the Act unconstitutionally violated the rights of business owners, making any statement against the Civil Rights act leads most people to assume that they would prefer that race relations stay as they were pre-1964. Our views have been misconstrued by the media (mostly thanks to Glenn Beck), talk radio (mostly thanks to Rush Limbaugh’s occasional nods to liking libertarianism), and also on various internet blogs and forums.

We have a dual issue here:  Our message is not heard by enough people, and a lot of the people who have heard our message have a completely wrong idea about what we stand for. In the coming years, this issue must be addressed, and we have to figure out how to make our message marketable without giving in to the urge to tone it down.

The media is not on our side and as a movement we’re still too new and too sparse, making us incredibly vulnerable to attacks on our philosophy as well as simple misrepresentation. While DC think-tanks are great resources, their audience is already made up of liberty-minded people. And even though Cato’s is a great idea, it mainly reaches those of us who know about libertarianism already. In order for us to spread the message of liberty to new audiences, each and every one of us must step up to be representatives of the ideals we hold to our communities.

The problem is that libertarians by and large have not found a way to market our philosophy to minority cultures. We have a dream that one day everyone will wake up and discover the truth—that liberty is the only thing we should be asking our congressman for—that people will debate Rothbardian principles in grocery stores—that F.A. Hayek will be on the New York Times bestsellers list above Steve Jobs. There might be an intellectual revolution, but it just won’t happen any time soon, and it definitely won’t happen if we all sit behind our computers and wait for it to happen. We have to be vigilant, and we have to reach out to our communities beyond our own circle of (probably pretty homogenous) friends.

In order for libertarianism to become a dominant political movement in America, we have to present our philosophy of liberty in such a way that it will resonate with different types of people. Libertarians have to reach out to ethnic minorities in order for our blissful liberty-minded society to come about one day. Once we come to terms with the fact that no one besides our fellow liberty geeks really cares about who or what a Murray Rothbard is, we can begin to spread libertarianism to a wider audience and inspire some change within our society.

In order to be evangelists for liberty, we have to learn how to communicate politically with others, and tailor our message to their needs. Libertarians think of politics in terms of individualism and how law and policy best benefits the individual person. That type of thought is generally antithetical to how other cultures think of politics, as most other ethnic groups think in terms of how a policy or candidate will benefit their community as a whole, and not just themselves in particular.

For example, Black people tend to analyze certain polices and candidates by assessing what it will particularly do for themselves as well as the greater Black community. Black people are generally Democrats in practice, but are far from being liberals. The Democratic Party has had a stronghold the Black vote since the 1950s and 1960s, when the Republican Party opposed many Civil Rights measures and as a result became the party of choice for racists from the Klu Klux Klan. The Democrats were no less racist than the Republicans, but no one in the Democratic Party was actively hosting lynch mobs in the South. Since then, the Democratic Party has only had to make empty promises to the Black community to improve schools and the poverty rate keep them around, only to contribute to increasing poverty rates and schools that have fallen into deeper decline.

Libertarianism has the chance to take hold with Black people, but only if we communicate that a libertarian society would allow communities to take control of their schools and neighborhoods. What Black people care about is how well would libertarianism allow them to take care of themselves and their families better than they can right now. And the answer is that they would be able to take charge of their communities without the fear of government bureaucrats coming into decide what’s best for them and their children. Liberty would empower the Black community to realize its full potential, which has been stifled by government for years.

Libertarianism also provides solutions to aid communities that are literally terrorized by government thugs, the police. Inner cities in places like Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York all suffer from extreme cases of police brutality. The very people who are sworn to protect and serve these people in inner cities are responsible for brutal beatings and dozens of murders, which statistics show again and again disproportionately affect minorities.

Take for example the murder of 7-year old Aiyana Jones, who was burned by a flash grenade and then shot by Detroit Police in a botched homicide raid. She died in 2010, and till this day, no arrests have been made in her case. Cops are hardly ever prosecuted for their crimes, which ultimately heightens the power they have and the fear they inspire within the communities they “serve.” No branch of government provides any check on the police; in fact, politicians usually campaign to increase the power of law enforcement, calling themselves “tough on crime” for doing so. Police are protected by the state, and the people are protected by no one.

However, if we lived in a society that valued every single human life, injustices such as the one Aiyana suffered would not occur. Every murderer, regardless of their occupation, would have to answer for their crimes. Government employees would not receive preferential treatment by default.

The liberty movement will only be taken more seriously by our society at large if we actively gain a diverse set of supporters. For that to happen, we have to market libertarianism as the philosophy of choice to enable communities to better themselves. Libertarians are the only political fraction that wants to empower minorities, not control them or make choices for them.

Our ideas are on our side, and so is the truth; what we have to do is use these assets to address the concerns of our friends and neighbors. We have to bring our philosophy to them and not wait for them to come to us. Our goal is not to just take the minority vote for one election, but to win over their hearts and minds for the long haul.  

Brittany Darby is a film student in Los Angeles who spends most of her time watching movies, reading about movies, and blogging about movies. She enjoys discussing politics over the internet and meeting awesome liberty-minded people.