I Was Raised a Black Conservative

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I have a confession; I was raised a Black Conservative. In November of 2004, I walked into my sixth grade homeroom with a “Bush 2004” bumper-sticker on my trapper keeper, sheepishly avoiding the eye-contact I could feel from my glaring classmates.

It was Election Day and my mother, a staunch Conservative, encouraged me to openly display our family’s allegiance to the President. Not surprisingly, I was teased mercilessly that day: some kid defaced my locker and after lunch I came back to our classroom to find that my trapper keeper had been stolen.

I only knew about politics from what my parents told me. The steady stream of Fox News, The Mark Levin Show, and Rush Limbaugh on our television and in the car radio led me to believe that the Right-wingers were the good guys. Even the pastor of our black mega church was a staunch Conservative and taught his sermons accordingly. Conservatives were fighting for “liberty” and “justice” and strove to halt those blasted liberal Democrats who just wanted to give “hand-outs” to everybody, especially Blacks. Those “other” Black people just waited with their hands held out, unwilling to work, unwilling to educate themselves, unwilling to pull themselves up by the boot-straps.

Black Conservatives, I was told by my mother, were enlightened and knew the truth about how Republican President Lincoln freed the slaves and that Republican politicians fought hard for the rights of blacks all throughout history. Democrats were anti-Christ, anti-Constitution, anti-Capitalist, anti-Life. Republicans were decent, hard-working, God-fearing Christians and they earned everything they owned. The entire experience was eerily religious.

In order to be the best Black Conservative I could be, I unconsciously shirked any and every thing that made me seem “too Black.” African American Vernacular English? That wasn’t respectable. Kinky hair? That wasn’t respectable either. I internalized everything I believed was too visibly Black. This unhealthy behavior continued into high school until my ninth grade English teacher pulled me aside one day and told me flat out that I had internalized whiteness as being superior to blackness. I was embarrassed that I’d been caught in my internalized anti-blackness and began to worry how deep the roots of conservative politics were in my psyche. My teacher opened my eyes that day, and I’m forever grateful to her for doing it.

I continued to struggle with these issues until I graduated high school and discovered for myself Black feminism on Twitter. Suddenly the metaphorical box I’d felt restricting me was gone. I had all these choices, all this access; the right to buy birth control, the right to love my hair, the right to my own agency, the right to love myself. I learned about structural racism, elitism, misogyny, sex positivity, pro-Choice rights, patriarchy, intersectionality, slut-shaming, respectability politics, LGBTQ rights. All the nonsense I’d been taught during my adolescence became a lie. I felt freer and, honestly, quite angry that I’d been allowed to believe that I had to live my life inside the confines of what Conservative politics held over my family.

I look back on my dark days of blindly following Conservative politics, and I also look at my immediate family. Both of my parents and two of my three siblings are strong supporters of the Tea Party. I see them and I see what used to be inside me: erasure of all “unacceptable” black culture and an intolerance for societal progression. In the age of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to see first-hand the intolerance of white Right Wing politicians and the lengths their black counterparts go to appease them. I used to be one of them. I was raised a Black Conservative, and I thank God I left.

Photo: Shutterstock

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here (@tiny_kinsey).

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