The Black Conservative Summit
Our conversation with founders Dr. Eric M. Wallace and Jennifer L. Wallace
THE BLACK CONSERVATIVE SUMMIT
Our conversation with founders Dr. Eric M. Wallace and Jennifer L. Wallace
NOTE: The Black Conservative Summit, hosted by Freedom’s Journal Institute, will take place in Chicago, IL, March 24 – 25, 2023. Keynote speakers include Voddie Baucham, Larry Elder, Allen West, and Jason Whitlock. Other featured speakers include Free Black Thought favorites Corey B. Brooks, Latasha H. Fields, Charles Love, Ian Rowe, and Shelby Steele. Tickets and more information available here.
Connie Morgan: How do you define conservatism?
Eric Wallace: I have to address my conservatism from my biblical faith. ‘Cause I can't separate that out. I'm an ordained minister or ordained pastor. All my degrees are in biblical studies. My PhD is in the New Testament. I have two master's degrees in the Old Testament. So that lays the foundation for how I understand my political point of view.
I've got a biblical worldview, so for me, conservatism is about being pro-family, pro-life. When I say pro-family I mean marriage between a male and a female. [Chuckles] We're talking about the traditional understanding, the natural family if you will. I have to put qualifiers on that. Life is sacred and created in the image of God. Therefore, all human beings should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their ethnicity. We're all part of the same family. There's not a bunch of different races, there's one race, the human race and these are important values that should be reflected in our public policy and how we vote.
I had an argument with another pastor friend of mine and he was talking about how they weren't one issue voters. I believe he was thinking in terms of the pro-life issue. And I said, oh yes, we are one issue voters. Our issue is how does our vote glorify and magnify our creator. I don't remember his retort to that. I don't even know if he even said anything back to me but that's what I say to people.
If we're claiming to be born again Christians who serve the God who created us, everything in our life should be glorifying Him. I'm not saying we're there or that anybody has arrived. [Laughs] I think both Jennifer and I would say we have not arrived but we should be trying our best to make sure that every area of our life would highlight our biblical faith and where we stand and what we believe. It just seems to come to the political aspect where a lot of folks, especially blacks in the Christian community, sometimes fall short.
It bothered the heck outta me, which is why we started Freedom Journal Institute. We need to challenge the church in general and the African-American church in particular to actually vote its values. What is our worldview? And I know you asked me about conservatism…it's some of those social issues but it's also fiscal issues where we're not expecting the government to take care of us. We're expecting that God has given us talents and abilities and that we need to use those to earn a living. I know it takes a while for us sometimes to discover what those talents and abilities [chuckles] are but we really use them to take care of ourselves and support others. Give to our church, do those kinds of things and not allowing ourselves to be used as victims by certain people who are trying to use us to get stuff by manipulating white guilt. Yes, some real bad things have been done to us over the years, but that's—and maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. My wife will tell you I can go on [Jennifer giggles] so, let me stop there.
Connie: I have no agenda here. If you feel like you need to get on that soapbox, please do. Jennifer, did you have anything that you wanted to add?
Jennifer Wallace: I think when it comes to conservatism or black conservatism for us it really has more to do with our Christian faith and those things we say that we believe. And then with our organization we are encouraging and empowering others to stand for the things that we say we believe, and then actively participating in the political process that represents us. It’s not at all about a party in my estimation but about my foundational beliefs based on a biblical perspective and worldview.
Connie: Let's explore this a little bit more because there's conservative and then there's black conservative, right? Do you see them as different? How? Do we need to put that qualifier in front of conservative? Even on your website it says how to fix black America and then black is crossed out because black Americans are Americans but then it's also the black conservative summit. So why is it branded that way and how do you separate the two?
Jennifer: I know initially as we were forming and making decisions about who we were as an organization our intentions were to galvanize the black voice. Like anything, strength in numbers. Folks get lost in not knowing that there are other people who think like them and there's an encouragement that comes with knowing that there are others that think like you and you feel empowered. But just as you were just saying, on the other hand, I don't necessarily think that the qualifier of black in front of conservatism is what we're trying to emphasize. Again, it's just the idea of galvanizing the voices of those who are speaking with the same ideas, goals, and objectives.
Eric: One of the reasons we use the qualifier is because a lot of times people act as though there's no such thing as a black conservative and we’re ignored. And so in order to not be lumped in with black liberals we try and tell folks there are black conservatives.
One of the reasons we started the magazine and we used the name “Freedom’s Journal” is because it was the first black newspaper. One of the things—I'm not going to get it verbatim—but one of the things they said that they were tired of is other people speaking for them. They (black people) wanted to speak for themselves. We kind of felt the same way. They were singing from the same sheet of music that we're singing from: we're tired of other people speaking on our behalf. Black conservatives need to speak on their own and we need to find a way in which to come together. So, if you find yourself at CPAC or Values Voters and some of these other conservative groups you'll get swallowed up and hardly noticed. But if you decide that you're going to do your own thing, kind of be like an evangelist, if you will, to the black conservative group of people that are out there who are afraid to speak or afraid to come out of the closet and say, yeah, I'm a conservative too…as Jennifer already said, it's strength in numbers.
If people see that there are black conservatives out there who are speaking against the 70% of black unwed mothers having babies and say that's not a good thing, we should be promoting marriage within the black community. We see young black kids being shot in the street through gang violence and yet Black Lives Matter only seems to want to talk about black kids being shot by white cops. That's an issue. That's a problem. When abortion in the black community is really high. I forget what the exact numbers are but a third of aborted babies are black. I don’t know if that's right.
Connie: That's correct. A third.
Eric: Yeah. So, we want to speak to those issues that sometimes even white conservatives may not spend a whole lot of time on or they feel like they're not qualified or won't be listened to if they come into the black community talking about some of these issues that we can talk about. They can call us Uncle Toms but they can't call us racists.
Connie: Well, they might call you a black white supremacist. You never know.
Jennifer: I'd also add, the play on how to fix black America—the intention there is that obviously the problems that are facing America aren't just black problems. They're human problems and things that need to be addressed from that perspective. So, that was kind of the rationale for the play on crossing out black America. In a conversation where we're empowering or bringing attention to our ideas, they are solutions that are capable of fixing America. Not just black America.
Eric: I would change that answer just a little bit using words from Thomas Sowell. There are trade-offs. And we need to understand what those trade-offs are. Our society used talk about solutions, trying to find solutions to these problems and Thomas Sowell talks a lot about trade-offs. There are no perfect solutions, whatever you come up with, there's going to be unintended consequences that you couldn't foresee. So, the best thing we can do is hope for really good trade-offs.
Jennifer: And that may mean from particularly an economic standpoint but I'm actually talking about the human condition and the human standpoint. There is a standard, there are biblical solutions for our problems and those are non-negotiables. So, we do have standards. We have principles. We have things that we can prioritize and practice that then bring us much closer to this ideal of living the kinds of life or the life that God caused and created us to live. So, there are standards, the standards are different than trade-offs.
Connie: How do you go about approaching someone who's sympathetic and maybe even considers themself a conservative but does not have that biblical foundation?
Eric: Let me approach it this way. Our immediate audience is the church community. Now, if there's somebody outside that community who wants to engage, they can engage and we'll give them statistics and about if children are raised in a two-parent household, they're less likely to drop out of school and so forth. I know I don't have to quote scripture for that. And we can talk about the success sequence that I know Ian [Rowe] talks about. And, Glenn Loury talks about if you finish high school, get a job, get married and then have children you're less likely to fall into poverty. These are things that are not necessarily taken from scripture, though I'm sure could probably find parallels. I don't have to be preaching Jesus to them, even though I might. [Chuckles] But I don't have to be preaching Christ to them to get them to understand if we follow them, there are some conservative principals where we're likely to see progress made economically and socially and morally in our communities.
If we do something about our school system, let's just use that. Our school systems, especially in the black communities, are terrible. We need to bring school choice in. And if we look at schools that have allowed for school choice, charter schools that are doing well, they've got kids leaving those schools and hundred percent of them going to college. I'm not saying everybody needs to go to college. There are some folks we'd love to see go to vocational school and learn a vocation. We like to see some folks going to the military. There's a number of different options to success and doing well.
I don't necessarily have to beat the religious drum but I do because that's where I am, that's where I'm situated. I'm trying to speak to the church. I think if the church gets it right it's one of those institutions that's supposed to help everybody else learn what it is they're supposed to be doing. But if we don't have it right, if the church is busy voting for people that don't share their values, then how am I supposed to get anybody else to do that?
Connie: Black Americans are the most religious group in America by far, it's not even close. The vast majority of black people believe in God but then our actions don't match our philosophy. Like the things you touched on: marriage rates, abortion, crime, et cetera. I know there's lots of ideas about this but why do you think there's such a divide? Nobody's perfect but there seems to be such a stark contrast between what we believe and how we act in the black community.
Jennifer: We're talking the conundrum of the human condition. Us professing to believe and have a set of values but then there's no real evidence of that because that's not what we are prioritizing. That's not the kinds of things that we're putting into practice. There's the disconnect. So, that is the conundrum.
Unfortunately, we're so often focused on what's being kept from us, what's being done to us as opposed to being empowered and encouraged by who God created us to be and the limitless potential that we have and the ability that we have to thrive beyond the set of circumstances that we've been given. We've seen all kinds of examples of those kinds of things but that's not what we choose to focus on.
Like I said, that's the conundrum. We are more motivated by our grievances than the potential that we have as those who have been divinely created in the image of God. We have been given life with purpose. That’s our focus. That's part and parcel to one of our initiatives, which is “black families matter.” As you might imagine, it was a throwback on the whole “black lives matter.” Their idea is to destroy the natural family.
It's one of our principles, which we call the “R.I.S.E. Principles.” Which would stand for a Responsible government, Individual liberty and fidelity, Strong family values and Economic empowerment. So, like I said, strong family values and really promoting marriage and family as the premier institution that was established by God. The fact that we're created in His image. The family being the blueprint and the framework which governs God’s design for healthy interpersonal relationships. Without a healthy and stable family these are the kinds of consequences that we're seeing from the breakdown of the family.
Eric: Jennifer has already touched on that there's been a grievance industry ever since...I believe it was Booker T. Washington that said that there are some out there who want to highlight black people's grievances because that's how they earn a living. They don't want there to be forgiveness and “let's move on.” It’s “let's continue to drum up these grievances and try and get stuff from white people.” Shelby Steele writes a lot about that you know, white guilt.
We've allowed this black liberal elitist ideology to creep into the church. In my opinion, as a biblical scholar there's lack of biblical understanding in a lot of our teaching in the church. I think that's true of all churches. You could say that about white evangelicals back in the day when slavery was king. There were some who used to try and justify slavery by using the biblical text while others were trying to say, “no, it's wrong if you look at the biblical text correctly.” This is part of the human condition where we all deal with refusing to submit ourselves to the will and the teaching of what the biblical text actually says. If you read it correctly, we're supposed to die to ourselves and not supposed to be out there naming and claiming and trying to become rich and do all these things that we've been taught wrongly. But learning how to be more servants of the most high God. Learning how to give grace, learning how to forgive, learning how to show mercy, learning what it really means to be a member of the kingdom.
That's what we talk about with Freedom’s Journal Institute. What does it look like to really be a member of the kingdom? How are we supposed to treat one another? How should we vote? How should we live out our lives as members of the kingdom, not necessarily members of the Democrat party or Republican party but how do we live as members of the kingdom of God? And that should be different from the way other people outside who don't claim to be Christians live. There should be a difference in how we live our lives.
People should be able to read us like a book, if you will. The way we talk, the way we walk, the way we present ourselves. I think back in the day, if you look at the thirties, forties, and fifties when there was a whole lot of racism, we were living that kind of a lifestyle. We were living out our Christian faith in our walk. I'm not saying there wasn't any crime or promiscuity, but it's gotten a lot worse since the sixties. We say one thing and we do something entirely different. Transformation in the Christian faith always takes a minute. It's easier to understand it from an intellectual point of view than it is to actually live it out. It takes it longer to move from the brain down to the herd if you will. So, there's that process that we have to go through and some of us get there faster than others. And some of us actually have, if we're fortunate, people who model it for us.
Connie: On that note were you always conservative?
Jennifer: The short answer for me is that I had the good fortune of growing up in a Christian household. From the human standpoint there are no perfect families and no perfect people. I had conservative values modeled for me at an early age. As I matriculated through high school and college and all these other things, I was always able to come back to those values. And as I began to understand how I wanted to live my life, then I wanted to find someone who shared those values.
Eric: I grew up in a two-parent household until my parents divorced. I'm trying to remember what age I was. I know I was a teenager. My dad was a Republican. My mom was more of an independent and I can remember them arguing one time over Nixon versus Kennedy. I think my mom was supporting Kennedy and my dad liked Nixon. But I don't ever remember them talking about policy. I don't see Nixon as a conservative. I see Nixon as a moderate. Now he may have been conservative on foreign policy, but I wasn't paying attention. I didn't really start paying attention to politics until after I'd given my life to the Lord. And then I liked Jimmy Carter because he was talking about being born again. I thought he was sincere in his faith. He may have been wrong in his politics, but I thought he was sincere in his faith, and I respected him for that. Actually, I didn't like Ronald Reagan when he beat him, but I then came to realize that some of the things that Ronald Reagan stood for I also stood for.
Then I started to examine my own biblical worldview and looked at who was running for office. The platform for the Republican party seemed to line up more with my biblical worldview. So, I started to see myself more as a Republican/conservative and it wasn't until later, as I started really thinking it through and studying scripture more, that I started saying, okay, there's two separate parties. There's been some changes throughout the years as to what they stand for. Not these big radical changes that people want to say. They want to say that the Republican party switched. That's a bogus argument I've written about before. That's not even the least bit true. Yeah, there were some racists that came over to the Republican party but they didn't come over because all of a sudden the Republican party was racist. They came over because they realized that their constituents were starting to change. And the things that they were concerned about started to change, it was no longer about race issues, it was about economics.
But anyway, that's a side thing. I ended up noticing the Republican party and conservatism seemed to be where I fit better than the Democrat party and liberalism. I couldn't understand how you could be pushing for the death of innocent babies. The safest place for a baby should be is in his mother's womb, yet to make that a torture chamber with abortion… And there were just a number of issues. Their stance on gay marriage. But we can't pick Republican versus Democrat. We have to talk about policy. So, liberal progressivism is so far left and so far from biblical: you may be able to find some semblance of biblical prescription, you know, taking care of the poor, maybe there. But other than that, they're so far left and so far afield of biblical prescription and principle that there's no way in the world I could find a home there.
I also know, though, that the Republican party has some of the same issues. They're going in that direction, too, depending on who's being elected. That's why I say it's more important for us to think of ourselves as members of the kingdom and how we vote as members of the kingdom versus how we vote as Republicans.
But that's not the question you asked. You asked about being conservative. I've just seen myself as conservative the more I grow in my faith. At least, my understanding of conservatism means less government control, less centralization of government, more local control, the social issues. You know, pro-life, pro-family, pro-small business, self-reliance, understanding that God is our source, not the government. Our rights come from God. If God doesn't exist—and a lot of people on the left believe God doesn’t exist—then we don't have any rights and we're just like animals. I guess you could argue P.E.T.A. may feel like animals are more important than people so… [Laughs]
Connie: What do you hope that attendees get when they come to the summit?
Eric: Part of what we do is we try to encourage people. We try to educate them. Give the R.I.S.E principles. It's another way of talking about conservatism that they may not have [done]. So, we give tools, inspiration, a chance to connect with other conservatives. But, ultimately, it's more of a statement on how to fix America. Understanding that no matter what we come up with, whether we call them solutions or trade-offs, America can't be fixed until the church falls on its face and repents of our short-fallings and then calls for a great awakening to take place in the United States. I must admit, and I've shared it with Jennifer, that there are times I look at this daunting task ahead of us—the transgenderism, how it's being pushed through school, and wokeism, and all this stuff that's coming into our education system. They are after our kids. The question is, how do we stop this? How do we get enough people and organization and money? There are times that I'm thinking this is way beyond us. To a certain extent I'm ready to almost throw in the towel and say I can't do this.
And then I remember who my boss is. And he's saying, “Eric, I'm not in heaven twiddling my thumbs or wringing my hands, trying to figure out what to do. Trust me. [Laughs] I already saw this way ahead of time. All I need you to do is to be faithful.”
So, what I want to be able to tell people who are just like us, who are Christian conservatives, who are coming to this event: God has our back. He understands what is happening. He's got a plan and we just need to be faithful to the task that is before us. Not to give up, not to get discouraged but to continue to fight the good fight of faith. To bring other people in to say, “hey, you say you're a follower of Jesus Christ? If you are then you need to take a look at how we present conservative values and to vote for people who share your values. Don't vote against what we understand to be the purposes of God.”
Jennifer: There are any number of great messengers that will be there. There will be takeaways that will then become an encouragement strengthening someone or empowering them around a particular issue. The biggest takeaway for me would be that people leave encouraged and empowered to take things back to where they came from. Always great speakers. Networking. All of those things are important but at the end of the day I would always want to believe that people feel like they they are walking away with something that they could take back to their circles of influence and their communities.
Connie: How do you assess the momentum of the black conservative movement? Where are you encouraged and maybe where do you see your biggest speed bumps as far as implementing change in the black community and America at large?
Eric: That's an interesting question. The tipping point that Malcolm Gladwell talks about. That you get to a certain percentage and then it starts tipping. Black liberals have had the microphone for a while. Now it's for us to have the microphone and try to make it through. And my appeal to the creator of the universe our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, that he can help magnify our voices. We don't need the mainstream media.
We're hoping people are touched so that hopefully they decide, you know what, I'm going to come to this. It's worth spending the money. It's worth getting in my car to drive out there because I want to meet some other people.
We could have just done this hybrid. We could have just done this as a Zoom kind of thing but I think it's important to rub shoulders with other people. To meet and to exchange cards and to laugh together and cry together, going on this emotional roller coaster we may go on at the summit, and affirm some of the things we believe and stand up against some of those things we know are not right.
Registration is open and available at this link.
*Transcript lightly edited for clarity and length. Opinions expressed in JFBT articles and interviews are those of the respective individuals, not of JFBT or FBT.
Connie Morgan is a Christian, wife, mother, and UX Researcher located in the Pacific Northwest. She has a background in economics and public relations and has worked in higher ed and marketing. She served five years in the United States military as a military intelligence officer. She is a co-founder of Free Black Thought and an co-editor of the Journal of Free Black Thought. Her main research and writing interests are the family, education, and personal liberty generally. She has written for the Journal of Free Black Thought about education, home schooling, and a variety of other issues. Follow her on Twitter and subscribe to her new Substack.