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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Conservatively Speaking: The elephant in the room

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“Uncle Tom,” “sell out” and “bootlicker” are just some of the epithets that people use to describe Black Republicans. As a Black person in America, associating with the GOP — whether in principle or as a political party — is one of the quickest ways to be ostracized from family, friends and the Black community at large. That particular political identity is almost always weaponized against us; it’s as if we’re committing treason. For example, I had the opportunity to speak in another state. When my title was read people immediately stopped seeing me for who I am; they began to see me for what they assumed my beliefs and values were.

For far too long Black people have been declaring we are not monolithic and have advocated for those around us to stop treating us as such — except when it comes to our political ideology. Recently, in law school, I was met with scoffs when I was discussing opportunities within the GOP for Black students. While I won’t dwell on this ignorance for long, it is merely a demonstration of just how politically polarized we as a people have become.

My request to the Black community of Indianapolis is simple: Before creating deprecatory thoughts about your Black conservative and Republican peers, please allow them the freedom to express themselves and their beliefs. While there is no doubt that some people cannot be trusted when it comes to protecting the Black community, automatically presuming that Black Republicans are your enemies due to our political philosophy is nonsensical.

Of course, in recent years I have had more attacks by “woke” white liberals who literally scream that my political stances are hurtful to the Black community. My favorite tirade was when I was told by a white liberal that, because I am a conservative Republican, I “couldn’t possibly be Black” and that I “acquired Stockholm Syndrome.” Imagine a person having the power and privilege to decide who is appropriate to represent a race that he or she is not a part of. It’s crazy to feel comfortable enough to exclude people from an entire culture with which you share few, if any, cultural ties.

The depiction of Black Republicans as docile and servile is inaccurate. It’s also quite detrimental to our collective political, social and economic survival in Indianapolis and beyond. Considering the current state of our local community, it is clear that we must have representation in all political parties. The idea that our interests are best served by having a single-party system will limit our opportunities to such a time when that party is in power. Our communal interests and collective priorities should be served by all elected officials and those who are seeking our votes. We need to ensure that we have a seat at all political tables. My simple request is that, when you meet a Black Republican or conservative, please make an effort to park your bias and prejudice and be open to engaging and sharing ideas to propel our community forward.

Whitley Yates the director of diversity for the Indiana Republican Party, political commentator and JD Candidate at IUPUI McKinney School of Law. You can email comments to her at whitleyyates@gmail.com.

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