“See, Trump isn’t racist. He wouldn’t embrace Black Republicans if he was.”
“Everyday, more African Americans are leaving the Democratic plantation to join the winning team.”
“Blacks for Trump – 2020.”
In the last couple of years, growing discontent against Democrats has forced an increasing wave of disgruntled young Black voters to pursue other options, and rightfully so. The Democratic Party is rife with corruption, misleadership, and exploitative politics. Clinton and company are master manipulators who know how to walk the walk and talk the talk, conducting their dirty work in the dark while publicly appealing to unsuspecting party loyalists. Unquestionably, their deceitful policies have respectively contributed to mass incarceration rates for Blacks and Latinos as well as sweeping surveillance powers over American citizens, including Black activists and grassroots organizers. However, as their primary concern, frustrated young Black voters accuse Democrats of maintaining a system that enables the disenfranchised, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and state dependency. Seeking alternatives, they’ve turned to the Republicans, embracing the conservative values of self-empowerment and economic self-reliance they believe will liberate African Americans from the “Democratic Plantation”. But is joining Trump’s party really the answer?
Black Republicans have been around for a long time. Over 150 years ago, Reconstruction era Republicans, or the “Party of Lincoln”, opposed slavery, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation. The conservative values they espoused resonated with African Americans who believed in the principles of personal economic development, education, and free enterprise as forms of Black empowerment. Seven decades later, the Great Depression would prompt a shift as the Democratic Party welcomed large numbers of African Americans who looked at Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as the solution to the crippling poverty ravaging the nation. The last significant party shift would happen in 1964, when Senator Barry Goldwater, Republican Party nominee for US President, voiced his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, gaining the support of white Southerners and consequently driving the majority of remaining Black Republicans to the Democratic Party. Since, approximately 90% of African Americans have been Democrats.
Today, those who celebrate the resurgence of Black Republicans argue that during one of the nation’s darkest times, Republicans stood on the right side of history. They delight in highlighting the fact that Republicans were responsible for abolishing slavery in order to paint an attractive picture of this current GOP. However, further comparisons could reveal unwanted yet ironic parallels between Trump and Lincoln. After all, Lincoln openly decried “bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” despite authoring the Emancipation Proclamation, albeit a military policy rather than one based on human rights. Like Lincoln, Trump’s loose grasp of social and political racial equality (discriminatory housing practices, the birther conspiracy, a vicious crusade against the Central Park Five, and his frequent insults about Black women’s intelligence, to name a few) didn’t prevent him from appointing administrative positions to Black Conservatives such as Dr. Ben Carson and Omarosa Manigault or opening the Oval Office to Kanye West and Jim Brown. In other words, one can be racist and act upon such proclivity while having amicable personal and professional relationships with people of color. It happens all the time. Still, it isn’t Lincoln who Trump most admires, but President Andrew Jackson, a man who owned over a hundred slaves, signed into law the Indian Removal Act (The Trail of Tears), and gave away Indian land to white farmers to build their plantations.
Unfortunately, decades of documented evidence and daily displays of reprehensible behavior don’t seem to affect these new young Black “Trump” Republicans. Their movement crescendoed at the first annual 2018 Young Black Leadership Summit, a conference organized by Turning Point USA, a conservative advocacy group. Helmed by rising conservative “star” Candace Owens, the organization’s spokesperson and default Queen Bee of the movement, the event featured an appearance by Trump himself, welcomed with thunderous applause and cacophonous chants of “Build that Wall” as well as a who’s who of Black Republican speakers, including self-hating radio personality Larry Elder and “Clueless” actress Stacey Dash. Charismatic, youthful, and adept at leveraging media to infuse new blood into the traditionally white, male, and aging GOP, Ms. Owens has popularized phrases like “escaping the Democratic plantation”, “victors not victims”, and #BLEXIT, amongst other catchy buzzwords and cutesy hashtags designed to entice these impressionable millennials who are nonetheless lucid enough to realize the Democratic Party has been selling them wolf tickets year after year. In a relatively short time, Owens has managed to galvanize a sizable number of newly-minted, MAGA hat-wearing, young Black conservatives who now label themselves Free Thinkers, thanks in part to Kanye West’s prized endorsement. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, naively bragging about being “red pilled”, or awakened to the truth (to quote Matrix parlance), escapees of the Democratic Party championing a 2020 Trump presidency amidst a backdrop of daily hate crimes, looming police abuse, Black voter suppression, and morally bankrupt leadership spurred on by the Trump White House.
For all the free thinking rhetoric Owens peddles her disciples, these Neo Republicans still couldn’t manage to think beyond the limits of the same old two party system. As such, hyperbolic claims of pushing forth a new way of doing politics become moot. Had Owens genuinely wanted young African American men and women to revolutionize politics and empower Black communities across the nation, she’d have leveraged the resources and high-powered relationships she peculiarly has no problem accessing to launch a new independent party, rather than herding her followers to join one mired in racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and scandals upon scandals. Contrary to what Owens and her ilk would have critics believe, people aren’t upset to see African Americans leave the “Democratic plantation”, they’re shocked to see them blindly led onto another.
By no fault of their own, these young Black Republicans aren’t the free thinkers they claim to be. Owens, the self-styled conservative pied-piper who was running an anti-Trump website just two years ago to then magically become a MAGA cheerleader, comes off manufactured and bankrolled. Could her influence have been engineered to neutralize what the Right Wing fears years of systemic oppression might have produced in a generation bubbling to fight for the rights of Black people to simply exist? Did the Ferguson Uprising of 2014 provoke CoinTelPro 2.0 to ramp up its efforts? The 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s taught us such tactics were used to weaken or destroy effective and unbought Black leadership. Trump’s dog-whistle politics as well as his recent embrace of the term “nationalist” suggests America’s need to prevent what the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover called “the rise of a Black messiah” has never gone away. If Owens is indeed a pawn in this age-old game, the way today’s online community uses its investigative might to uncover what experts can’t, it may only be a matter of time before her puppeteers are identified. And maybe, these young Black conservative converts will soon wake up, leave both parties behind, and start the movement they were born to lead. That would truly make America great again.