For some Black youth, it’s time to question Democratic loyalties
Like most young African American Gen Z members, 18-year-old conservative activist Coreco Ja'Quan (C.J.) Pearson came from a Democratic family who followed a tradition of party loyalty that began towards the end of the civil rights movement.
Pearson, like most of his generation, will grow up at a time of heightened awareness of race and its impact on American life, from police brutality to political campaigning.
However, unlike most of his colleagues, Pearson asks the following question: If loyalty to the Democratic Party is linked to black success, why have conditions not improved in black communities?
Pearson is an anomaly among Gen Z, whose members are polled to be more liberal than any generation before them. But they are also more skeptical of the political system and its establishment leaders. For a young black man like Pearson, skepticism trumps loyalty to his parents and grandparents' party. He may not be representative of his cohort's views, but he does reflect their stance in a way that politicians are quick to notice: he is an iconoclast.
"You know, a lot of people on the left argue that conservatism is the opposite of blackness, but I think conservatism is blackness," Pearson said, citing his culturally conservative but politically liberal roots. “When you look at my story, it's strange to be approached by Democrats and things like that. It's crazy. But it wasn't a big jump for me. I think conservatism talked to me about who I was, where I was and what my upbringing was. "
The University of Alabama freshman has been promoting his commitment to conservative values and politics since he was twelve. At age 13, he took part in Ted Cruz's presidential campaign as chairman of the youth program. His name was later announced for a lecture space at the 2016 Republican National Congress. Now, replacing President Donald Trump's re-election campaign and founder of his own political advocacy group called the Free Thinker Project, Pearson spends most of his days on the streets speaking to Eric Trump and other White House figures at rallies across the country.
Pearson's meteoric rise within the party, fueled by his large and often controversial internet presence, offers a glimpse into the future of the youngest black members of the Republican Party willing not only to embrace Trump's conservatism but to renounce democratic politics focus on race. Although they understand the racism that is ingrained in the president's rhetoric, they see him as one of the few leaders to provide results on issues affecting the black community. Additionally, they recognize their worth as representatives of a demographic that the Trump campaign sees as marginally essential to its success: young people of color.
Pearson joins many young black Republicans, saying the conservative values he advocated in his household laid the foundation for his change of party. Data backs this claim: a 2019 study by Pew found that while liberals make up the majority of the Democratic electoral bloc, 43 percent of black voters said they were moderate and 25 percent conservative. Faith, financial responsibility, and successes achieved through hard work are values that are central to both the Republican ethos and many black lifestyles.
Still, African Americans overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party, voting for Democratic presidential candidates with over 90 percent in the last three elections. Black voters who backed Joe Biden from the beginning of the 2020 Democratic primary were instrumental in his success towards the end, delivering blowout victories to the former vice president in the South and Midwest.
The Conservative youth, the children and grandchildren of these black lifelong Democrats, however, see their people's support for the party as pointless. They argue that democratic politics has not been helpful, if not harmful, to black communities and that membership in the party is more like blackness than real solutions. These topics of conversation are the most repeated online by young black conservatives and fit in with the Trump campaign news to young people, especially young black men.
When Biden claimed during a July interview with radio personality Charlamagne Tha God that not supporting his campaign means "you're not black", the GOP saw a perfect opening. A video of Trump responding to Biden's comments landed on the popular black pop culture blog The Shade Room, a moment that the President's Black supporters saw as a huge win in the battle to get into this demographic.
"It shows that we are sending messages in a way that appeals to a group of people who I believe are hungry for the truth and the facts," said Paris Dennard, senior black media communications advisor for the Republican Party.
a party of 'free thinkers'
It also gave the Republicans fodder for their national congress next month, where the moment was mentioned multiple times by a number of black examiners for Trump, including soccer legend Herschel Walker, Georgian MP Vernon Jones and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. All of them were sending a similar message: their own blackness obliges and should not oblige them to vote for Democrats.
Those who take these points say they don't want to force potential voters to support Trump or the Republican Party, but rather encourage them to consider other options as Democratic candidates.
"I think that at some point we have to ask ourselves when we are ready to change the system we have activated." asked Javon Price, senior at Georgetown University and director of foreign affairs at gen z gOP, a national young Republican organization that seeks to encourage more Gen Zers to be conservative. “Black people are arguably the most loyal supporters of the democratic base. And we're still talking about the same topics that we talked about in the 1960s. "
An online group called the Black Conservative Movement, one of the largest dedicated to young black Republican voters and with a combined 200,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, promoted these ideas under the label "free thinking," which is widely advocated used by black conservatives like Pearson. If black voters ignored pressures from both party leaders and other blacks to vote for Democrats, they could clearly see the negative impact of their policies on black communities.
The 1994 Crime Act is one of the top issues that Gen Zers is looking at with fresh eyes and a new perspective across the political spectrum. While none of the generation was alive during its transition, many are still feeling the effects of mass incarceration disproportionately affecting black communities, even though other parts of the law, such as the prohibition of offensive weapons, were among black lawmakers at the time were popular. Young black Conservatives refer to the bill as a symbol that the Democrats are not caring for black communities. This has also fueled their antagonism to Joe Biden, who co-drafted the bill.
Senator Joseph Biden, D-Del., Right, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine, gestures during a press conference on Capitol Hill, Washington on Thursday, August 25, 1994, after the Senate voted to vote 30th - The billion dollar crime law pushed past a Republican deadlock, catapulting it toward the final passage and the signature of President Bill Clinton.
Jake Neer, the 19-year-old vice chairman of the Black Conservative Movement, described Biden's role in drafting the crime law as "anti-black."
“[Biden] connects with a lot of black voters. He talks, he says the right things, but there aren't many results behind what he's done, ”Neer explained. "When I look at President Trump's actions, I see more results."
Black Democrats claim that their party, which was led by a black president for eight years and now has a black and South Asian woman on its presidential ticket, has been a firm believer in eliminating racial differences in prison condemnation, enforcing the right to vote and anti-discrimination Strengthening laws and passing programs to, among other things, expand black business opportunities. And they say Trump, who has declined well beyond other Republicans in his racist views, poses a clear threat to any progress in black communities.
In fact, even some black Republicans acknowledge that, given some of Trump's statements about people of color, convincing other young black voters to even think about conservatism can be a challenge. During the summer of protest against police violence and systemic racism, Trump denounced Black Lives Matter as a "symbol of hatred" and, following his "Law and Order" approach to protests, dispatched federal troops to US cities, leading to increased violence on the streets of cities like Portland break out. Ore. And Kenosha, Wis. During the first presidential debate in October, the president did not condemn white supremacy and instead called on a white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, to "step down" and "stand by".
For many black voters, including Generation Z, the notion that some of their number might migrate towards Trump instead of backing away from his statements leaves them incredulous.
"People recognize that Donald Trump poses an existential threat to the color communities and the wider country," said Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, whose district includes North Philadelphia, who is involved in these programs as a replacement for Joe Biden's Democratic campaign took part.
Price admits that given some of his testimonies, it will be difficult to consolidate significant Gen Z Black support around the president. But he sees room for growth. When asked whether the GOP had alienated voters from color with their actions, he simply replied: "Yes."
“Was that mean now? I'm not sure, ”he added.
a black silent majority?
The president's black supporters all point to a handful of political achievements that are greater than his public comments. The passage of the First Step Act, the bipartisan law of 2018 that was one of the largest overhauls of the criminal justice system in decades, is one of the main reasons for criticism of the president's racism. They also point to the $ 250 million annual increase in funding for historically black colleges and universities under the FUTURE Act, which it incorporated into law in 2019, and blacks' unemployment figures recorded in the months leading up to Economic downturns caused by the economic downturn were at their lowest in nearly a decade, pandemic.
Gregory Allen, a beneficiary of the First Step Act, second from right, shakes hands with President Donald Trump after speaking at the 2019 Prison Reform Summit and Celebration of the First Step Act in the east room of the White House in Washington on Monday, April 1, 2019, (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik) President Donald Trump (left) listens as ex-prisoner Alice Johnson (right) speaks at the 2019 Prison Reform Summit and First Step Act celebration in the eastern room of the White House in Washington on Monday, Jan. April, speaks, 2019. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
"It's interesting to me when Democrats call him a racist or say he's not doing anything for blacks," Pearson said. “So my question to you is, what did you do? Because they made economic opportunity zones? Did you do the First Step Act? And why did it take so long for a so-called "racist" president to achieve all of these things for blacks? "
However, some of these guidelines have limitations. For example, while undeclared unemployment reached its 10-year low in 2019, it was still higher than any other racial group. But Trump's young black supporters, willing to acknowledge this, see it as a reason to look forward to another four years. It has also given them more reason to criticize Joe Biden, who they say has had ample time to demonstrate his commitment to black communities through policies rather than retail policies. Republicans have used his gaffes to undermine his still weak support among younger black voters.
Young black conservatives, the last group to be expected to support Donald Trump, and they are ready to admit it. Many of them, first-time members of an increasingly polarized electorate, along with the rest of the country, view the November election as a referendum on national identity and racial justice. But these Black Gen Zers are keeping an eye on the use of this election for the future of their generation and break with their colleagues and stand with the Republican Party. And it has given some of them confidence in a silent black majority that Trump could carry for four more years.
It's not an unrealistic notion: even a small drop in black support for the Democratic candidate in politically divided states with sizable black populations - like North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Florida - could set Trump's standards.
“At the end of the day, is it an uphill battle? Yes it is, ”Pearson explained. “Historically, we've seen the black community support democratic politicians 90 percent of the time every election year, but I'll say this year is just different. Democrats will not show that black lives matter by wearing Kente cloth. That will be political. "
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