For the past two years, the mainstream media has given tons of coverage to the Black Lives Matter movement — and rightly so. More than 80 percent of black Americans, including me, support the movement, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. But the media is missing many nuances among African-Americans. For one, we don’t all vote alike.
Yes, almost 90 percent of black voters went to bat for the Biden-Harris administration last year. But that leaves 10 percent of black voters who didn’t. Meanwhile, 25 percent of black Democrats actually consider themselves “conservative” and 43 percent say they are “moderate.” White Democrats with a college or postgraduate degree are most likely to call themselves “liberal.”
Some issues that matter to the black community just aren’t getting noticed. Two in three black Americans said they don’t feel represented in media, according to a 2020 study.
Charrise Lane, 22, of Orlando, Florida, is one person who has no interest in voting Democrat. She calls herself a “Conscious Black Conservative” and told me: “I’m a conservative because the Democratic Party has always been anti-black and racist towards black Americans.”
During one of her YouTube posts, Lane explained that her conservatism is shaped by “being surrounded around God and family and placing your values around that … [but] being conservative doesn’t mean you’re Christian… There are a lot of black Americans who agree with conservative values.” She said she wants leaders who are conscious of issues that plague the black community and “listen to the community instead of calling people in the community ‘victims’ and ‘slaves’… It is also about having empathy… and then coming up with policies and ways that will combat these issues.”
Former President Donald J. Trump increased his share of black voters by four percentage points in 2020, partly because he focused on issues that matter to the community — jobs, safety, opportunities, education and healthcare. He also had the backing of black musicians including Kanye West, 50 Cent and Kodak Black, who was pardoned by Trump last year. Just last month, Kodak tweeted, “Bring Trump Back.”
Now, as 45 percent of voters say they strongly disapprove of how President Biden is handling the economy, Felecia Killings, the CEO of the Conscious Conservative Movement, sees an opportunity for black conservatives to make their case. She believes they can mount a strong challenge against Stacey Abrams, who recently announced she is running again for governor of Georgia against Republican incumbent Brian Kemp. Killings regularly tweets her support for conservatism to her more than 22,000 followers on Twitter.
“For decades, we’ve watched progressive policies and government overreach destroy our communities and our rising wealth,” said 38-year-old Killings, who was born in California and is now based in Atlanta, Ga. “Today, these same politicians want to abuse our economic opportunities by implementing heavier regulations and taxations. Conservatism promises to keep more economics right in our hands. This is the message we must preach.
“In areas like Atlanta, which is controlled by Democrats, we’re witnessing a lot of turmoil. We only need to read history to understand Democratic/progressive politics do not work. Having a Democrat governor who is to the left will usher in what citizens experience in states like California. As great an activist Stacey is, her politics will stifle growing wealth.”
In a blog post earlier this year, Bradford Traywick, a black conservative engagement strategist based in Washington, D.C., wrote: “We believe in hard work and entrepreneurship, we have a general distrust of government (albeit for important historical reasons), we have historically supported the right (and even the responsibility) to educate our own children how we see fit, and we respect our right to bear arms to defend our families and communities. African Americans have generally wanted what we believe America promises: a fair shake at achieving the American Dream.”
Two of the most significant trends I noticed among conscious black conservatives are their belief in God and their desire to protect their Second Amendment rights. Research shows that 24 percent of African Americans own guns (compared to 36 percent of whites), and gun owners are almost three times more likely to be Republican than Democrat. Meanwhile, almost 50 percent of new gun buyers are women.
Lane, who said she is currently saving money to purchase her own firearm, wants to be one of them.
“I support guns,” Lane told me. “You never know what might happen when you step out the door or who will try to put their hands on you. It is imperative to put your safety into your own hands.”
Black conservatives said it’s tough being a minority within a minority, especially when members of your own community judge you harshly for your views. “I’ve been called a house slave and … told that I was in the sunken place,” said Claude J. Wheeler, Jr., 26, of Sumter, SC, who is the vice president of his chapter of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Men.
But many also say their faith gives them the courage to speak up.
“My responsibility as a Christian is to love people and to spread the truth,” said Lane, who added that she relies on meditation and prayer to keep her grounded while making her case for conservatism.
“I need my sanity to stay in the fight because I know people need to hear the truth.”