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In a presidential election fraught with division over racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump and his conservative supporters struggle to rebut the myriad ways that Trump has supported white supremacy and anti-black racism, all the while trying to court the vote of Black America. White political conservatives have found their rebuttal through showcasing Black conservative political leaders, such as Senator Tim Scott and Secretary Ben Carson, as well as Black conservative public intellectuals, such as Candace Owens and Rob Smith. These individuals are cast as independent free thinkers who have evaded the brainwashing of the Democrat-controlled liberal media that has infected the rest of Black America, and made us vote for liberal policies and politicians.

They scoffed at the assertion Biden made conflating Blackness with voting for leaders in the Democratic Party. As white conservatives create pathologies examining the plight of the Black community, often times ascribing it to fatherlessness or cultural deficiencies in moral character, these Black leadership figures become the ventriloquist dummies used to buttress and convey messages that their white political puppet masters dare not speak themselves for fear of being called racist. White conservatives hide behind and repeat after their Black mouthpieces and avoid public scrutiny, all the while feeding them lines.

As a Black progressive, I look on with dismay as I see friends on social media share videos from Candace Owens, Rob Smith and other Black conservatives in order to rebut the overwhelmingly consistent narratives that come from the rest of the community. These minority voices are used to delegitimize the voice of the majority of Black Americans. In the eyes of white conservatives, these Black conservatives are viewed as unbiased in their political orientations and opinions, not succumbing to the indoctrination of their kinsmen. Yet, these Black conservative political opinions are not unadulterated and are actually informed by the benefits of the modern-day equivalent of “passing.”

In the history of racial relations in the United States, there were always a select group of African Americans whose multiracial background and skin complexion allowed them to “pass” for white. Passing for white provided these individuals with the benefits of assimilation and they received access to social, political and economic capital that were denied to their darker skin counterparts. However, passing came at a cost: distancing from their Black family members, their social and religious community, and even ideologies and groups that supported civil and political rights for Black Americans.

In 2020, racial passing has transcended phenotype and skin tone and is manifested ideologically. I see prominent Trump-supporting Black political conservatives and I can’t help but think of the way that their political ideologies mirror the racial passing that has historically occurred in the Black community. On the one hand, through adopting a conservative political ideology denying or narrowly defining systemic racism, they are given a pass to assimilate into conservative white America and bestowed social, economic and political capital in return for their endorsement of ideologies that support white supremacy and policies drenched in anti-blackness. Simultaneously, these prominent Black conservative figures become alienated from the majority of the Black community because of their role in upholding social and economic policies that are deleterious to marginalized communities of color.

In an election season where conservative Black voices are being weaponized against the progressive Black community, it is important to expose the benefits of “passing” and remove the illusion of the unbiased independence of thought ascribed to Black conservatives. Through their partnership with policies and political groups that lead to the further marginalization of the Black community, they are handsomely rewarded by the reactionary powers that be.

It is not a coincidence that the only African American on Trump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court was Daniel Cameron, the Republican Kentucky Attorney General who failed to aid Breonna Taylor’s family receive justice. Cameron’s worldview fits into a concept of the world that is palatable and safe to conservative white America. In the game of supply and demand, Black liberals are a dime a dozen and Black conservatives are statistically rare. We must expose these economics when interrogating the voices of conservative Black America and expose the benefits they receive on a micro level for disavowing the macro narratives that are experienced by themselves and the rest of the Black community in America. 

When listening to conservative Black voices we must ask ourselves, are they in the trenches and involved with community activists, local politicians, pastors, imams and school teachers? Or, are they indicting the Black community in order to provide white America with more justification to ignore the consistent narratives of discrimination and injustice articulated by the Black diaspora? Are these voices spending more time building up the Black community from within or tearing down the Black community from without? Are they more interested in making the Black community better, or are they more interested in increasing their esteem in the eyes of White America?

When listening to white Americans who circulate these conservative Black voices we must ask ourselves: are they genuinely concerned with improving the welfare of the Black community, or are they seeking reasons to maintain their apathy? We must ask ourselves these questions before promoting ideologies and opinions that, unfortunately, oftentimes constitute nothing more than white supremacy obscured by blackface.


Antonio Ingram is a lawyer based in Oakland, California.