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Knowing the Divide: An Interview with a Pro-Reparations Trump Voter

Knowing the Divide: An Interview with a Pro-Reparations Trump Voter

The conversation gave me a lot of insight, I hope it gives you insight as well.

If you have read my blog or interacted with me on social media for any period of time, you will know that I have often pondered over the disconnect between Liberals and the average Trump voter. Especially, as it pertains to race and issues which are fueled by race, like Confederate monuments and flags. 

Like most Democrats, I stopped engaging Republicans on social media around 2016, as I was fed up with the lies and the hate. I made filtered lists on Facebook so that my right-leaning family couldn’t see my political posts, because it was easier and more peaceful not to have to always argue about what’s true and explain how certain actions or words were culturally insensitive. 

However, for years, the same question has been floating around in my head, “When a Trump voter is doing something that seems obviously racist to non-conservatives, how is it that they don’t know it’s racist?” Because they really don’t, y’all.

Y’all know what I’m talking about, like the justification of the murders of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, or trying to make the humanitarian crisis at the border seem as if it were no big deal. Then you point out to the person arguing with you their racial undertones or cultural insensitivity and the Trump voter gets angry and talk about how they aren’t racist and how Liberals have worn that word out. 

My question remained unanswered.

I wanted to understand why there was this disconnect, because maybe if I understood it, I could do my part in making it better. 

I tried asking my liberal friends on Facebook. They responded, “because they are racist, they do know, don’t let them fool you, and just ignore/block them.” I love my friends, (most of them), but they didn’t help me with this one nagging question which kept bothering me. 

I looked to Twitter and was met with a lot of, “I’m really tired of explaining Black Lives Matter to white people.”

No one could tell me why.

So, I started looking to the Trump voter for my answer and engaging more and more Trump voters online, the mild ones, and even the Q-nuts. It’s been interesting and I really feel as if I’m starting to get a more firm grasp of why we both look at an apple, yet one person always sees a pear. 

While some Trumpers are still very angry, racist, and uneducated, there are also many out there, who have been sucked into that echo chamber and have only been exposed to the lies and hate, and simply don’t know they have been bamboozled. And when we, us Liberals, engage the latter online and cuss at them or call them names instead of having a dialogue with a Trump voter, we are contributing to the extreme partisanship which has our entire country in it’s grips. 

Are we actually talking to them?

Last week I explained to another older relative why it was offensive and seen as racist when someone shouts out “all lives matter” in response to Black lives matter. A conversation I felt that I had online a billion times, yet this person so close to me, never had “all lives matter” explained to her before. She thanked me for explaining it to her, because if I hadn’t, she would never have known why “all lives matter,” was offensive. 

I asked on the Living Blue in Texas Facebook page a few months back, about how people handle Republicans and Trump voter when they are using false information to debunked conspiracies as arguments for their points. Nearly every answer was about how they don’t engage them, they ignore, or block. There were a few who said they would try and engage, but they were by far the minority. 

The younger generations, if they come from a Republican household and that’s all they’ve witnessed, they aren’t going to understand why their Liberal counterparts call them names, ignore them, and don’t help try to educate them. Then we’re seen as the bad guy, as they will be unaware of the hate we witnessed online for long before they even graduated. 

When do we start the dialogue?

A few people have told me that we need to wait after the election and try to educate them then, or talk to them then. And how this shouldn’t be our focus now. But it should. It should be our focus now and always. Yes, we should be focusing on winning the election, but we’re all intellectually capable adults who can walk and chew gum at the same time. 

This is why, when I saw Russell York’s video in front of the Weatherford Confederate statue, I knew he would be the perfect person to interview and help us, or at least me, understand why there is a disconnect and how perhaps we can start moving forward in society. 

Watch this video objectively and instead of latching on to the things he said which we disagree with, (and there is plenty to disagree with), listen to the message he was trying to convey.

This message wasn’t for the Trump voter, it was a message for the left. 

Specifically, here were the things he said, which we aren’t used to hearing, that opens the door for dialogue, and should be used as the building blocks for a conversation: 

  • “I want to talk about what most right-wing conservatives feel.”
  • “Whether you want that statue or not, it doesn’t give you the right to come out here and tear it down with a pickup truck.”
  • “Most Conservatives today are angry because they disagree with the statement, Black Lives Matter; because they do matter. What their anger is a result of is because of what they are seeing on the news in places like Portland, OR.”
  • “It was attempted here (in Weatherford), that a group wanted to come and tear this statue down, instead of going through the proper channels.”

He repeated Black Lives Matter multiple times.

If he hadn’t said that, I’m not sure I would have been intrigued enough to talk to him. I’m glad I did get to speak with him, because what I found is someone who is absolutely genuine in nature, kind, and honestly looking for dialogue through disagreements. I also found a pro-reparations Trump voter, who likes Metallica and is willing to listen to what the other side has to say. 

Yes, there were things we all see in his video which many of us feel are wrong, about states’ rights, the Confederacy, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Russell’s words to me, which I truly believe, were that he made that video in hopes of quelling the violence similar to what we saw in Weatherford a few weeks back. 

People like Russell are the Republicans we should be talking to.

Instead of lumping them all in one box. The biggest disappointment about his video was that he was honestly trying to convey a position and it was flooded with comments calling him a racist, a hillbilly, or worse. 

Liberals, when someone is calmly and openly trying to tell you where they are coming from, the proper response should be, “You are wrong about this and here is the reason.” I think people like Russell or my relative that I mentioned, are open to listening and learning. 

My interview with Russell York:

Me: Do you think that liberals and conservatives have a communication problem?

Russell: Oh yes, communication is at an all time low. At times it is like watching kids fight over tinker toys. 

Me: Why do you think that is?

Russell: I think part of it still stems to Trump winning. Not that Trump is the only issue, but when liberals said #Resist, I believe they took that over the mountain top. And for the right, their fault is acting like Black Lives Matter is going to choke them to death, even though, Black lives really do matter. 

Me: Do you think that, with the all lives matter crowd, maybe no one has sat them down and explained to them what Black lives matter means?

Russell: Yes I think that most don’t understand that Black America just wants to focus for a minute on their group. A Trump voter don’t want to acknowledge that it is a worthy cause. On the flip side, as per the video, people see where Black lives are lost mostly. They see the real crime stats and police stats and are angry that there is a lack of honesty.

Me: If a liberal was reading me blog and wondering, how to talk to a Conservative and how to get them to understand their point of views, where would they start?

Russell: Well first they have to quit crying racism, as if lack of agreement equals racism. Second, they should say just because murder isn’t the number 1 cause of death, doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve dedicated focus.I have gone on my reparations group using my personal profile and been called a racists and plenty of other choice words. But when they realize I started the page, many of them don’t even know how to process that.

Me: Did you know that there are specific groups, which protest, and work towards improving inner city violence? Many of them actually.There are different groups that focus on different things. Black Lives Matter just happens to be the group which focuses on police brutality and trans issues.

Russell: Yes I know of many groups such as that.

Me: Do you think that the right, as a whole, maybe don’t understand what BLM’s agenda is?

Russell: If BLM had said we have to be able to root out bad cops, instead of cops being our enemy, they would have found a different reception. I think most think the original agenda aim is okay, but they don’t feel the message was preserved very well. Verbiage is everything. If I say fat people die from heart failure vs people with no exercise plan die from heart failure the message becomes completely different. Police forces with bad training and poor accountability are going to feel our wrath is different than saying cops are bad. I was beaten badly by cops once, so I know there are some bad ones. Waco police broke my ribs with batons when I was 23 years old. This is a strange question… What sort of music do you like? Are you a Metallica fan?

Me: I liked Metallica a lot when I was young. Went to concerts and everything. I’m not really into hard stuff like that anymore.

Russell: Metallica was hard core in the beginning they had a loyal following. But to many degrees they commercialized. They lost many of their original fans, while they gained mainstream popularity. Many people felt they sold out. That is a bit like a Trump voter feels BLM did to the Dem party.

Me: Are you familiar with the Lost Cause of the Confederacy?

Russell: No, I am not, but I’m glad it was a lost cause. 

Me: I think that’s a big issue. Maybe, sometime when you have a moment, it’s an interesting subject to read about. I’ve become obsessed with civil war history. The Lost Cause is an interesting topic to read about.

Russell: I will look that up. I am obsessed with history as well.

Me:  Were you at the Weatherford “protest’ last week?

Russell: No I wasn’t. I was at the Back the Blue March in Ft Worth that Saturday. I am a member of a group that sets out to see everybody’s right to peacefully protest, but we will pony up to violence, looting, and vandalism.

Me: Aside from the first week all of this started, are you aware of any violence or rioting in North Texas?

Russell: I keep a running tab on groups in Ft Worth, Dallas, and surrounding areas. There have been some small isolated instances. But for the most part it has stayed peaceful. There is a group called Enough is Enough that runs most of Ft Worth while BLM focuses on Dallas and Austin. Austin may get ugly soon.

Me: Do you think that what people are seeing on the news in Portland OR wherever makes them think it will happen here, even though it hasn’t yet?

Russell: Yes they are very focused on Portland and making sure that doesn’t happen. They are super organized for November as well. They anticipate Trump winning and super-riots. 

Me: Why do you think people believe Antifa is going to tear down their town?

Russell: I think they believe that liberals in general will try to overthrow a sitting president. When they go to Twitter or Facebook, they see that liberals believe Biden is really going to win. They, (nor I), see that happening. In fact I believe Biden will lie badly. So, a Trump voter will think that the anger over Hillary losing was nothing compared to what we will see at midnight November 3rd.

Me: Why do you think they believe that?

Russell: They also believe that while Antifa is not present in Texas, yet; if BLM gets a foothold, then Antifa will follow.

Me: So they think BLM doesn’t have much of a presence yet?

Russell: No, they believe BLM had a huge presence and that they are super organized. But they realize they have it emboldened, like Oregon, yet. But that they will. On social media the left is louder. But in the street they feel the same thing they felt in the last election. A true silent majority.

Me: Most conservatives get their news from Fox and OAN, correct?

Russell: Most of watch Fox predominantly, but they also watch all news channels, believe it or not. Even Fox polls show Biden ahead.

Me: I think you understand BLM’s point of view on all lives matter. How do liberals get conservatives to understand why they say that?

Russell: I think at this point that it is the left’s responsibility to clarify their message. Most conservatives are saying we know Black Lives Matter. So if they can say that they believe the left can’t acknowledge that all lives matter. I think it’s semantics. 

Me: I have seen people say racist things and act in racist ways, but when called out on it, they get very offended, because of the term “racism or racist,” In your mind, or the mind of others,  what is a racist?

Russell: A racist is someone who believes a person different from themselves is inferior in some way. Sometimes that is color and other times it can be religion, etc.

Me: In your video, you mentioned the United Daughters of the Confederacy when referring to the statue. Do you think that many Americans are familiar with the UDC and their history?

Russell: Most Americans don’t have a clue about the UDC.

Me: So, you believe we should pay reparations?

Russell: Yes I am a super firm believer in reparations. It is a legal debt according to the constitution.

Me: And you’re a Trump voter?

Russell: Yes.

Me: Haha, I bet the two combined don’t win you many friends.

Russell: It is a tightrope. But I have brought many conservatives around on it. Interestingly a liberal can’t do it.

Me: Do you have conversations with other Trump supporters about reparations?

Russell: Oh yes. I have had many get angry at me.

Me: Do you think white privilege exists?

Russell: Yes, to a degree much less than liberals believe. But I know that being Black in the US adds hurdles.

Me: Do you think on one side or the other that there are people who grapple with history? Or more so, are some of the things we are dealing with now related to historical facts or events? Like the Confederate monuments?

Russell: I think most believe that after civil rights, whether the Southern Strategy happened or didn’t became a moot point. I also think that they can find many Democrats registered to the party that were racist. So I think they really believe it is a mixed bag. But mostly they think there are very few true racists in either party today.

Me: So you think the people in Weatherford who came to counter protest last week knew that the organizer was a local Black resident whose ancestors were lynched in the lawn where the courthouse is during a slave insurrection in 1861? Also, if they didn’t know, do you think that if they knew it was going to be peaceful and they knew the reason it was initially organized, they still would have come out?

Russell: I doubt it. But once again, they don’t necessarily all believe that the statue should stay. They believe that nobody should decide that something needs to go away, so they drive over with paint, a truck and a rope without some due process. If they were sure it was going to be peaceful and that the statue want going to be torn down they would not have come. But do we know for sure that without interference that the statue would be there today?

Me: Interesting. I wish talking to conservatives was always this easy. It’s not.

Russell: It is good to have a meaningful conversation.  

***

Take what you want from my interview with Russell, but the biggest thing I felt as I learned is that much of what we are dealing with today is the remnants of the Lost Cause. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, because many of the Republicans are Baby Boomers and were taught Lost Cause mythology in school in the 50s and 60s. 

We still have so much work to do. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I can start with me. And from here on out, I plan on working towards having meaningful dialogue and erasing the Lost Cause mythology which has plagued our country for over a century.

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