Kanye West, Candace Owens and #Blexit: will they change the African-American vote to Republican?
By Denise Clay
Political activist Candace Owens has begun a clothing line called #Blexit, her way of getting African Americans to get off “the Democratic plantation”. (Wikimedia Commons)
Every once in a while, I have to tip my hat to someone who has managed to do the absolute most while possessing the least.
Right now, I’m tipping my hat to conservative commentator Candace Owens, the woman who until recently was rapper Kanye West’s political whisperer until he decided to quit politics and go back to “being creative”.
She’s started a clothing line called #Blexit, which is supposed to mean “Black Exit”.
It’s her way of getting African Americans to get off what she calls “the Democratic plantation”, an allusion to what she argues is the black community’s slavish allegiance to voting for the Democratic Party.
Actually, the original spelling for “Black Exit” is #Blaxit, and it was used by other folks who have been advocating for African-Americans to consider moving to Africa. The original group denies of any affiliation with Ms Owens and her movement, which is why West decided to jump ship.
Owens swapped political sides
There’s a lot of gold in those Black Conservative hills.
From Ms Owens — who is now feuding with fellow conservative “it” girl Tomi Lahren over West’s decision to get out of the GOP pool — to Fox Business journalist Charles Payne to Fox Sports contributor Jason Whitlock, there’s money to be made in black conservatism because networks are always looking for someone to take that opposing view.
But you have to overlook a lot, and in some cases, like Ms Owens’s, you have to be willing to think that people don’t Google.
Before starting #Blexit and joining conservative think tank Turning Point, Ms Owens was the founder of the anti-Trump website Degree 180.
When she launched anti-cyber bullying website SocialAutopsy in 2016 to combat video gamers who were bullying women off gaming sites, she started having her personal information put online by who she believed were progressive gamers. Because of this, she got support from the ultimate online bully, Milo Yiannopoulous —she didn’t seem to see the irony of the man who bullied comedian Leslie Jones off Twitter for a time coming to her aid.
In 2016, Donald Trump got 12 per cent of the Black vote, and some of that was due to a sexism in the Black community that no-one admits to. (Reuters: Carlo Allegri)
Black Americans don’t vote Republican today
According to a University of California Berkeley study, only 4 per cent of African-Americans describe themselves as “strong Republicans”.
In 2016, Donald Trump got 12 per cent of the black vote. Some of that is due to sexism in my community, and some of it was due to the influence of Russian meddling.
The Russians are also figuring in #Blexit. According to the Daily Beast, the hashtag has been getting a boost on Twitter from the same Russian bots that tend to invade your mentions when you challenge anything that comes out of the mouth of Mr Trump.
But they did until the ’60s
Now there was once a time when African-Americans voting Republican wasn’t that big a deal, and it certainly didn’t require misspelled T-shirts and Russian meddling.
Because they were the party of Abraham Lincoln, the president who technically granted freedom to America’s slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation, African-Americans voted Republican when they were allowed to vote at all.
Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, are American live-stream video bloggers known for their commentary in support of President Donald Trump
I say “technically” because the only freedom the Emancipation Proclamation gave us was the freedom to fight for either side in the Civil War. True freedom, or what passed as freedom for the slaves, didn’t come until the 13th Amendment was ratified.
The voting history changed in the 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.
After that, the southern Democrats opposed to these laws and the movement that spawned them swapped parties and became the folks who make up the current Republican Party.
Will Owens’ campaign work?
A switch back to the Republican Party for African-Americans today is going to require more than a clothing line and Russian meddling, so I don’t know how successful Ms Owens is going to be.
But like I said, I tip my hat to her.
She might be climbing straight uphill, but she’s at least maintaining her dignity in the process.
Don’t get me started on Diamond and Silk. Political minstrelsy is another column altogether.
Denise Clay is a member of America’s National Association of Black Journalists and covers politics and social justice issues from Philadelphia. Twitter: @denisethewriter