As time draws closer to the 2020 election, which we will be interesting, to say the least, politics will once again be at the center of conversations, family dinner table discussions and heated arguments on Facebook. For myself, I've always aligned more with progressive/liberal beliefs. Though, despite being a proud advocate for marginalized communities and wanting heavy reform on a lot of policies rooted in systemic racism, I've never officially declared myself a "Democrat" or "Republican" or any other political affiliation for that matter nor have I claimed to be 100% liberal.
The only thing I was certain of, was that I am no way, shape or form, conservative.
Pretty much my entire time of being socially aware in real life and on the internet has shown me that conservatives are close-minded bigots who are usually white, rich and old(er). In recent years, this has changed, with the introduction and popularity of political pundits such as Tomi Lahren and the disgraced Milo Yiannopoulos, there's a lot of outspoken younger conservatives as well. But for the most part, they're white and rich. There were a few exceptions I had vaguely heard about, however. Besides Kanye, Candice Owens is an outspoken black conservative woman who had rustled a few feathers, especially in the black community. I had no idea why or how she thought the same way as other proud conservatives, such as popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and anchor Sean Hannity. It was a betrayal to black people everywhere. But then, everything changed when I found a video on YouTube that gave me the humanized viewpoint of a group I thought I had figured out.
VICE has always been one of my favorite sources of news and entertainment which is why I keep applying to work with them! Their content tends to focus on lesser discussed topics, unheard voices and lately, despite its more liberal-minded audience, it has been giving a platform for those whose opinions are more controversial and directly are in opposition to liberal viewpoints. I find this fascinating, this dance with fire, but for the most part, I hadn't seen anything that would even make me consider changing my political beliefs, in fact, it reaffirmed my disdain towards conservatives. Then I found the video "Black Conservatives Debate Black Liberals on Trump, Obama, and American Politics." This was the first time I saw a video featuring black conservatives without a huge dislike-to-like disparity and with most of the comments actually siding with the conservatives. Now that was a first.
I was ready to refute every point. I was ready to listen to these educated conservatives and call them "uncle tom's" "wannabe whiteys," and think that they are betraying their race. But the more I listened, the more I realized that they weren't the bigoted, closed-minded uncle tom's I thought they all were. They had backstories: one of them is a gay veteran who was liberal-minded all his life until circumstances showed him that he aligned more with conservative views. However, he did not vote for Trump, nor is he homophobic. He had supposedly done great advocacy in the LGBTQ community, a group of which he has faced the most discrimination and backlash from because of his beliefs.
And I understand why he's received backlash.
It's uncommon to find a gay conservative especially if the idea of the modern gay conservative is Milo Yiannopoulos who is a racist troll, but the fact that he is a black man, who has faced systemic oppression not just because he's black but also gay, his points are totally valid. He doesn't deserve to be boxed out of a group he identifies in and has also fought for because of his political beliefs. And isn't that what most Liberals are accused of? Being close-minded radicals who are overly-emotional and refuse to hear the facts?
Liberal doesn't equal radical and Conservative doesn't equal Trump.
Now, don't get me wrong, this video hasn't changed my stance on things. I'm still very progressive, I want there to be more opportunities for marginalized communities to rise to the same status of the commonly white upper-class. I want women, non-gender conforming, and LGBTQ individuals to have the same rights and protections as white individuals. And I'm all about body-positivity and inclusivity. However, one thing that these black conservatives said that I will start to employ is that why do we assume that all these marginalized individuals are people of color oppressed by the white dominant hegemony? I mean, it's true that the people oppressed are mostly people of color, LGBTQ individuals, etc. However, there are people of color who have surpassed the societal barriers placed on them simply because they are not white. They seized opportunities to advance and do well for themselves. And many of them are trying to advocate to have a more "victor" mindset instead of a "victim" mindset.
On the flip side, we can't ignore that their success stories, although great and inspiring, is not the case for so many POCs. I have friends who have busted their ass, just like these successfully black conservatives, and what have they gotten? Abused. Boxed out of opportunities simply because they weren't white. Never given the opportunity to advance because if they did get it they would excel, far above white people. I agree that it would be great if we adopted a mentally that saw POCs owning their own businesses, being CEOs, and upsetting the power structure that has mostly been Cis, straight, white men.
However, it's not the reality of things for so many people and that's what the black conservatives lack. Empathy.
So where do I stand after hearing the other side that I had painted as all white, all racist, and all closed-minded? I ended up empathizing with the experiences of the gay black conservative and although not agreeing with some of his statements, hearing his argument and realizing that he is qualified enough to take the stance he employed in the video. It also was a great example of how educated black people are... that these black citizens, when given a platform have much more eloquence and class than all of the people on Fox News, Breitbart, and all the disgusting racist white conservative trash out there.
I wish the black liberals in the video challenged the conservatives and called them out on their lack of empathy.
I think the conservatives should look at the struggle, collectively, not just in a sense that if they can make it, so can everyone else. Regardless, I think we need to engage in more conversation with people with drastically different opinions (which doesn't include racist, bigoted assholes, people like the ones in the video who are educated, and have faced some sort of struggle so they know where their coming from and what it takes to succeed), so that we can not only hear their side, but challenge some of our beliefs as well — even if its uncomfortable.