But, he continued, they should not be paid now. “There’s a difference between acknowledging history and allowing history to distract us from the problems we face today,” he said, pointing to endemic problems that affect Black Americans, such as poor schools, dangerous neighborhoods and a punitive criminal justice system.
Some in the audience booed. The Democratic subcommittee chairman, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, pleaded for calm — “chill, chill” — but then suggested that Mr. Hughes’s testimony had been presumptuous.
More than four years later, Mr. Hughes, now 27, has emerged as something of a rarity in the tense national conversation over how race should factor into public policy: He is a young Black conservative, who argues — in his writings, a podcast and a YouTube channel with about 173,000 subscribers — that schools have taught students of his generation to obsess over their racial identity, while blocking arguments that challenge their worldview.
Mr. Coleman is not the first Black thinker to reject progressive politics or criticize the educational establishment. But unlike most of his conservative mentors, Mr. Hughes is young enough to have been raised in the very pedagogy that they decry.
In his new book, “The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America,” to be released on Feb. 6, Mr. Hughes recounts what it was like to grow up in the liberal enclave of Montclair, N.J., and then to head to Columbia — places that he said were fixated on affinity groups, diversity, equity and inclusion programs, microaggressions and “white privilege.”