I’ve got to admit: This is slightly awkward for me to write, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
I’ve been a conservative since 2000. I interned in the Bush White House, produced and co-hosted a conservative talk show, and became a conservative commentator on various news outlets.
All of those experiences have been great. I’ve met great people, traveled to various places, but more importantly, had the opportunity to advocate for conservative principles.
As a black conservative, I can testify to loneliness and abandonment. There were times when I faced rejection and isolation from relatives, coworkers, friends and others who refused to have an open mind towards anyone that had a separate perspective from theirs.
But despite some adversity, I’ve pushed forward. I was always told within my conservative circles that race doesn’t matter. Being colorblind is what will unify our communities and cities. I remember smiling fondly at the thought of the Republican Party’s rich history with the black community and Abraham Lincoln’s bold determination to free the slaves.
It was memories like these that caused me to embrace conservatism unabashedly even when some who looked like me raised their eyebrows in confusion as to why I would align myself with a movement that was, in their eyes, just for “old white men.”
For the record, I do not apologize for conservatism. I wholeheartedly believe it’s the surest way for upward mobility, a growing economy, a strong national defense, and most importantly, a moral culture.
But I soon began to realize that I used conservatism as a shield from a dark reality that I refused to see.
The 2016 presidential election cycle was one of the most volatile and demonizing events I had ever witnessed. Now look, Donald Trump was elected President, and while I was a proud member of the #NeverTrump movement, I do not desire to rehash the entire campaign. He won. I accept it and wish him well, but there is something that I do desire to point out.
When I saw the reassertion of the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalism into the campaign cycle, in the year 2016, I’d realized that a painful past that I had previously tried to ignore, was resurfacing.
My conservative friends, who are good people with big hearts, would dismiss it as media bias or the left playing the race card, but I saw friends of mine who were people color become truly terrified at what was taking place before their eyes.
I had taken the conservative position of being pro-law enforcement in cases such as Ferguson and the Baltimore riots, but what was taking place before my very eyes was bigger than my political ideology, it was a painful reminder that there is still many who share the same color of my epidermis that feel that they’re the beneficiaries of racial injustice.
Now I get it—the quick response within my conservative nature is to point to the liberal leaders within their community that have failed them time and time again. My conservative nature wants to quickly remind them that the answer to inequality is jobs and a robust economy, and while this is yet true, I’d realize I lacked to simply empathize.
Being isolated within your own bubble can put you at risk of being shielded from other people’s torment. Yes, I know the KKK is not as powerful today as they were in 1950, but for many black people, their resurgence this year brought back haunted memories. Yes I know that Black Lives Matter have been violent and anti-police, but for many black people, they actually feel as if their lives are being ignored.
So here I am, a black conservative, being transparent and honest and admitting that Ive been black for 31 years, but I’m still learning about what being black means to someone who hasn’t shared my life experiences.
I think it’s safe and fair to say that if conservatives want me to empathize with the white working-class voter in Michigan who has felt ignored, then it’s fair to recognize the black urban citizen who feels like 1950 was merely yesterday.