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Political Mental Maps: A Black Woman Conservative

Dr. Thomas Sowell helped a black Democrat become conservative (Hoover Institution screengrab</a.)

This is a good one, from reader Elspeth:

Everyone has a story, Rod. Vanessa Poseidon offers a narrative that a lot of people within her demographic –and the demographic of your readership- can relate to. Allow me to offer another perspective.

I made the turn from the liberal Democratic persuasion of my family and working class black community, to believing Libertarianism was the key to political Nirvana, to eventually seeing some major holes in that philosophy. I find myself largely without a political home, but am fairly certain that Mr. Trump will get my vote in 2020, should things remain as they are today in this country.

My story, as quiet as it’s kept, is really not an unusual one. Just about every black conservative who has a voice in the American political arena has a similar one, so I’ll try to be brief and we’ll see how successful I am at it.

I was born, raised, and grew up in the oldest black incorporated municipality in the United States. There were many such communities established in the south in the years following Reconstruction, but almost were incorporated, and few still exist today as independent municipalities governed largely by black men. My hometown however, does. It’s a proud community with a rich history and one where political involvement, especially at the local level, is high.

When I was a child, my father voted in every election, no matter how small. He, like most black Americans at that time, was a reliable democratic voter. Nothing about the way he lived his personal life, walked out his faith, or structured his family life was even remotely liberal.

However, being a black man, born in Louisiana in the early 1930s and having lived through the Jim Crow south, like most black Americans, he was of the mind that without government enforced equal access to opportunity, it was just one election away from being snatched away.

In my house, Republican candidates were viewed as anti-black and anti-poor people. The issue of women’s rights was one I never really heard about growing up. My father was the undisputed, unapologetic ruler of his household. This was true when he was a widowed father of us kids, and it didn’t change when he remarried as I was entering the fourth grade. My stepmother happily accepted and settled into her role as first mate to the captain of his ship.

In our house, abortion was a sin, premarital sex was a sin, and the husband was the head of his wife. None of these views were seen as antithetical to a woman being educated or holding a job, as my stepmother had both.

I did not begin voting immediately upon turning 18 years old, but I did eventually catch the political bug. I cast my ballot for Bill Clinton in 1992 with great enthusiasm and excitement. It was what I, as a proud black American, was supposed to do and I did it. I ignored the scandals, the radical stance on abortion, all of it. Most of those issues, the story in the black community goes, are personal issues best left to the individual. What was important was that Bill Clinton would fight for the poor and downtrodden.

Ironically, it wasn’t anything political that began my switch towards a more conservative viewpoint. It was becoming pregnant with our first child in 1994. The baby began to move, and instantly the idea that killing a person in the womb was a woman’s personal choice became abhorrent to me. That the person kicking and wedging her feet between my ribs as I slept was every bit as human as the people I see in the grocery store buying milk was crystallized for me in a way I’d never considered before. That began my voracious search for how such a horrible act became acceptable in the mainstream culture. I was a 22-year-old wife and expectant mother at the time.

As any intellectually curious person with a love of books already knows, once you start searching, and reading, and asking questions, it’s not long before you begin to see lots of things differently. The connection between Democratic liberal policies (social, economic, and educational) which have contributed to the dismal out of wedlock birth rates, marriage rates, and educational attainment rates in the black community as well as other poor demographic communities, stood out with a glaring obviousness that I’d never noticed before.

Democrat policies didn’t combat policies, they exacerbated them! Of course I couldn’t see that until I stopped listening to the rhetoric and started reading and looking at the cold, hard facts.

I discovered Thomas Sowell, and his well-documented, easily verified display of the truth changed my political persuasions forever.

Like Dr. Vanessa Poseidon, I was also turned off by Sarah Palin, the Iraq War, and hypocritical positions parroted by many on the right, including the Tea Party. None of that made me decide that the alternative was to go back to voting for people who believe in the destruction of marriage, demonizing people who prosper, or slaughtering the unborn.

It’s possible not to choose either team while making the best decisions we can in the context of the current reality as we enter the voting booth. We can also acknowledge that people like Dr. Poseidon exist, while refusing to pretend that her reasonable voice is not the voice that we are being subjected to day in and day out.

Those of us who skew conservative are not being paranoid when we presume that there are people desiring power who are out to get us.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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