In light of revelations — skin-deep, that is — from FOX News’ not-so-dumb-butt Megyn Kelly in an upcoming GQ article titled “She Reports, We Decided She’s Hot,” it seems to me that I missed out. Not in taking photos that reveal arms, chest, butt, abs or flanks. But in the massive gold rush that anyone with brains and without a conscience could have been a part of over the last thirty years. That gold rush? The “I’m a conservative and will saying anything, true or not” gold rush.
If I had turned conservative while at Pitt or Carnegie Mellon, it would’ve opened up doors. More doors than have been opened to or for me over the past twenty years. Imagine, a tall Black guy with a doctorate and still in his twenties and willing to serve as a mouthpiece for low taxes on the rich, a minimal social welfare safety net, and corporatization of public schools and Capitol Hill? I’d be a senior staff person of the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation by now, with a 3-handicap on the golf course to boot!
But back in the days when I attended Pitt, conservatives were not nearly that organized. There were plenty of them, but not working to identify future leaders the way conservatives have at places like Dartmouth or Stanford or even Carnegie Mellon, my second grad school. No, at Pitt, most conservatives hunkered down in bathroom stalls calling people like me the N-word or offered me bananas through their scrawlings on the metal partitions and doors.
College Republicans and other conservatives were much more organized on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, and with nearly four years there, I could’ve joined at any time. I’d probably adapted my music list. I’m not sure Mariah Carey or Jon Secada would’ve gone over well with this group, much less Tupac or Wu-Tang. I definitely would’ve needed to shave the goat-tee, my signature look for most of the past seventeen years. And I would’ve started using a knife and fork to eat fried chicken for sure.
Still, these would’ve been small prices to pay for steady and well-paying employment. I would’ve hit a six-figure income before I turned thirty. And I would’ve easily been able to turn my history of multicultural thoughts and actions of African Americans in the twentieth century — Fear of a “Black”
John McWhorter at the ISMIL conference in Leiden, June 2008, downloaded November 23, 2010. Jasy jatere (in public domain)
America — into a book about the fears of Blacks and Whites of a new and dangerous multicultural world. I might’ve even been able to keep my title, without the word Black in quotes, though. It would’ve been a bestseller, and I would’ve offed Dinesh D’Souza and John McWhorter as the intellectual giants of conservative thought on race. Yay, alternative me!
I’m not sure if me and my wife of more than ten years would’ve made it past the boyfriend-girlfriend stage. Her views are less leftist and more amoral in some areas than mine. But I couldn’t see her supporting me being a mouthpiece against gay rights and marriage, abortion, education reform without community engagement and austerity cuts in public services. It probably wouldn’t have mattered how much money I made. All of my memories of marriage, of good times and bad, of arguments and making up, of Noah from pregnancy to seven — all gone. Only a person equally conservative and amoral — more than likely White, although Tara Wall or Amy Holmes are among notable exceptions. — would’ve likely married me or would’ve wanted to have a kid with me.
For some folks, this is a pointless exercise. I’m a liberal, a social-Christian, democratic-leftist, one with a handful of cultural conservative views around etiquette and public conduct that I wouldn’t impose on anyone except myself, a progressive, in a word. I didn’t have tons of opportunities to become a lucrative mouthpiece and writer for the Right. And I wouldn’t have taken them if I’d been taken to a strip club and given a suitcase full of $100-bills to be turned. Still, it’s good to dream. To realize that my life, such as it has been, has had so much more color and flavor to it than it would’ve in this Faust-Kafka vision of one of my alternate universes.