I grew up considerably liberal, so liberal that it was a normal way of life for me to oppose Conservatism and always side with the Liberal Party of Canada and the Democratic Party in America. This is the norm when you grow up in Canada, a significantly left-leaning country and within a left-leaning family. Frankly, it was all I knew, and my idea of Conservatism was spoon-fed to me from social circles, media, and the general public. I mean, come on, those conservatives are racist bigots, am I right?
Right, so I believed, for years. My road to conservatism was a slow one, one that I’m still acquiring knowledge on. It was a wild ride of self-discovery to figure out where I stood on the political spectrum. My interest in politics peaked in late 2014 when a movement called Black Lives Matter was rising. Initially, I had little knowledge of this movement and what it entailed, so I opted to ignore it for a while. Being an avid Twitter user, it wasn’t too long before I was faced with the impending reality of racial issues and got the gist of the movement’s foundational message. As emotionally and socially concerned as I am, I was immediately drawn in with its rhetoric and concern for social issues experienced within the Black community. I saw that it fully advocated for knowledge on issues that were brought to light, including many racial issues that were pushed to the forefront of the national discussion. They introduced topics that exposed deep hurt and shared pain existing within the Black experience, such as beauty, stereotypes, education and more. I felt like I was in a place that got a part of me I didn’t know how to articulate before. I was sold. This was a movement I felt deeply about, was extremely passionate for and was willing to invest in.
Considering how attractive this was to me, I too wonder how I could do a complete 180 and embrace Conservatism the way I have today. I attribute a couple things to this: a very consistent friend of mine, the radicalization of certain sects of the social justice movement, my Christian faith, my curiosity and attempt to see things in different perspectives. Taken together, these things did help but perhaps the biggest reason was the re-learning process when my view of the world was consistently challenged by others. I was perpetually stuck in relying on a vague statistic or a claim about an experience I had, and I was frustrated with feeling misunderstood and not having the best of arguments to express my view.
In the second semester of my first year in University, I had a world history class with a Conservative professor. My ignorance and questions on Conservatism, Liberalism, Capitalism and Communism came to light. I knew about these things, vaguely perhaps, but I was vastly ignorant on the history and contextual meanings of these words. I discovered the origins of “Liberals” and “Conservatives” dating back to the French Revolution or the birth of Capitalism in Industrial England. Learning these things expanded my narrow world, building upon each other to create something coherent.
Discovering these topics in depth led me down a road I never thought I would embark on. It was a transformation for me, but a lonely one as well. With my new opinions and perspectives, I noticed an annoyance as I attempted to push for a different perspective. Hesitance to immediately react to an issue resulted in the assumption that I didn’t care. I sat quietly on discussions that I used to be more open about, knowing that my opinions were not the same anymore. Suddenly, I was removed from the vast majority of my Black peers. It was an interesting thing to experience, one that required growth and strength to move against the current. Yet the more confident I became in conservatism as an ideology, the more it gave me a guide in the otherwise crazy world of politics. Being a black woman and a conservative, I note, is an oxymoron to many. To ignore such a view would be dishonest, given the darker parts of history within Conservatism and its exclusion of Blacks. Understandable as it may be, I do bristle at receiving that stereotype or being lumped into a monolith. I’m not given a chance to speak for myself and myself alone. I know this to be a particular experience as a Black person, magnified a few more times as a Black conservative.
The relative ease that the words “coon”, “race traitor” and “Uncle Tom” are thrown around to fellow Blacks with differing and controversial opinions is nothing short of unsettling. Now, don’t get me wrong; I acknowledge the blatant misuse of the particularly delusional and incomprehensible Black Conservative. You know, the ones used as shiny new toys by White conservatives to say “See, look, he’s Black and believes what I do”. Those types annoy me just as much as they may irritate the common person. Why? Because they often lack intellectual depth, choosing to repeat common phrases and think pieces of their white counterpart instead of looking at Conservatism in the complex perspective of a Black person. It’s particularly offensive because we, as Black people, are far more intelligent than to stoop to sensationalised versions of ourselves. More than ever, we need Black conservatives who are willing to break down those walls and stereotypes, to be honest about their experiences, and to be carefully considered despite our divergence from the common narrative. We also need Black conservatives who can navigate the crucial question of race, what it means to Black conservatives, and share our thoughts on bringing tangible solutions to the table.
There are many Black conservatives I strongly admire, those who have a heart for their community and a brilliant mind to speak to it. I wish we could uplift them more, acknowledge that blackness, the diversity of it, is one that doesn’t look like another’s. There isn’t a trademark on blackness, nor are there any arbitrary rules.
I hope for the day that minority conservative millennials can find their voices. That we will share our perspectives boldly because we care that our communities hear us out. That they see us as just as we are and listen to the ideas we have so we can work together to further promote prosperity, unity, and growth in our communities. Get your pens, write your words, and create that voice that is so needed as minority millennial conservatives come up!