With the addition of writer Jennifer Oliver O’Connell to our staff, Redstate has officially taken the lead in hiring Black voices to speak from the Right. I’m extremely proud of this. In fact, I’ve made it a deliberate point to seek out Black talent and bring them to our readers. A pet peeve of mine is seeing some of the bigger conservative outlets talking about Black issues and our current racial tension with nary a minority in site. I once logged into a very popular conservative site that promised a rousing video discussion on race in America. I was met with four White men talking about all the things Black people should or shouldn’t be complaining about. It was disheartening.
It is extremely important to me as a conservative that the Black perspective be robustly represented in our industry. As I say on my podcast all the time, perspective is everything.
But inevitably, when I mention my pride in our growing roster of Black writers and in the support my editors and managers at Redstate and Townhall (our parent site) give me as a Black writer, I am inundated with angry messages from conservatives telling me they are “colorblind” and that it’s wrong for me to suggest race matters at all.
This is a lie that the Right has bought into and continues to push to this day. I believe it is based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s now famous (and inspiring) “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he expressed hope that one day all men would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. A worthy idea, indeed, and one worth pursuing.
However, it is important to note that MLK did not suggest that color/race was irrelevant. He simply said it should not be the basis on which we judge each other. There is no Black person in America, past or present, who doesn’t have to think about race every single day in one way or another. It is the silly man or woman who tries to pretend race doesn’t matter. It most certainly does…and that’s okay.
To loop back around to my previous point, perspective is everything. The Black experience in America is largely shaped by our color, our past and the realities of racial tension and injustice in this country as we’ve grown, improved and continue to better ourselves as a nation. For better or for worse, Black people speak the language of race. We must. Our entire American experience has centered around race. It is wholly unreasonable to ask us to pretend such a thing doesn’t exist. Again…that’s okay.
MLK’s life was largely defined by his Blackness and he knew that, even when giving that speech. In fact, it is because of this that we can even laud his contributions to our society to this day. Being Black was important to him and it literally cost him his life.
As a conservative Black woman my point of view is defined by many things, including my race. When a story about a kidnapped child comes across the wire, my perspective as a mother will shape that story a little differently for me than if I weren’t a mother, or if I were a man. My perspective on said story is informed by things like where I live, where I came from, what my family’s experiences with that particular crime may or may not have been. If I write about that story, everything about my own experience will help shape the tone and angle of my piece. My perspective as a 46-year-old woman is vastly different than it was as a 26-year old woman.
Why is race the only thing I’m not allowed to draw on for some perspective? Ben Shapiro (to use a popular example) and I share a lot of political views as fellow conservatives. However, we have experienced race and race issues very differently in our lives. Does that invalidate our discussions on the issue? Absolutely not. It simply means that I have a perspective as a Black woman that he doesn’t, and vice versa. We should not run from these differences. They are to be embraced.
Perspective matters. Race matters. It should matter. Even as a Christian who’s heart is aimed toward an eternal perfection one day, I do not believe that race, heritage or tradition will simply disappear in heaven. What will disappear is the sin attached to our tribal instincts. What will be elevated is the glory, the beauty, the richness in diversity. We will not see “past” race, but we will see the purpose of our differences fulfilled.
Conservatives need to do a better job of at least allowing for the possibility that for people who aren’t White, race is very present and carries many cultural implications with it. We shouldn’t be afraid of that. Adding perspective allows us to round out our ideas and to create layers of understanding. It will help us fulfill MLK’s dream – of fostering an America that one day holds character above race without erasing all of the important cultural markers that play into making each one of us who we are today.
Yes, my fellow conservatives…race matters. It does not matter more than anything, but it does matter. Don’t be scared of that. We have logic, reason and information on our side. When we add a healthy sense of curiosity about things and perspectives we don’t yet know or understand, we could possibly begin to see that desperately needed shift in American popular culture that we’ve all been hoping for.