Y’all, I’ve made a huge mistake. I took something for granted, and I would never advise anyone else to ignore such an experience or disregard it or assume that they were insulated from it. There are not many freedoms or safeguards that I consider to come naturally with being a Black person in America, and I’d say that the national conversation around race in America is coming to acknowledge and accept that as fact. But if there was one thing I assumed I’d never have to deal with, it was having a Trump fan in my family.
My reasons for this were shallow and undoubtedly naive. I believed that no Black person of color “in their right mind” would find common ground with that man or his constituency. My mind’s image of the dedicated Trumper was nothing like my family, who still keep huge gardens in their front yard and drink moonshine shamelessly. But more than that, I was relating to that community in a way that was very much influenced by their mass media image: poor, uneducated, single-issue voters who are always, always going to be white.
That characterization is as inaccurate as it is ridiculous because it ignores one of the reasons that people cling to fringe beliefs and communities. In some way, they feel isolated from or maybe even shunned by society, and othering yourself can sometimes lead to finding a whole new community of people who are glad to accept you, warts and all. I’m no political analyst or psychologist by any means, but I know that I certainly felt interesting and alluring and unique during my “David Icke is making some good points” phase at the end of my ‘20s. That is until the casual (and sometimes blatant) antisemitism of his theories wouldn’t stop slapping me in the face. But that was a fun time in my life, a time surprisingly full of parties and casual sex and more drugs than you would think. Reptilian Conspiracy Bonita believed a lot of dumb things, but she had a blast while being really stupid.
That’s not to say that people who espouse fringe beliefs are dumb, and I certainly wouldn’t describe my cousin that way. I just can’t make heads or tails of what I’m looking at, and this time it’s my well-educated military veteran of a cousin who writes poetry and once lived in Venice, Italy. I feel almost silly for being shocked that this could happen, that someone experiencing the realities of systemic racism would want a world where its existence isn’t even acknowledged. Did I forget that Candace Owens existed? Diamond and Silk may have terrible wigs, but they also have families that are probably as exhausted and disappointed as mine is right now. This is hardly the cut-and-dry situation that I’ve assumed it would be for people who have written to me to seek advice on family drama such as this.
Y’all know me. I’m a “dump him” kind of grrl. I am strongly in favor of severing the ties that don’t serve us and living our lives fully. But damn, I grew up with this guy. He was a favorite cousin of mine, and I love him with as much passion as I love my immediate family. I can’t have anyone saying anti-Black garbage to my face ever, but I am also completely uninterested in cutting off a family member who needs me. I am reeling at my own naiveté in assuming that my people were “above” this when I was trying to get them all to read Icke’s gobbledegook back in 2007.
I can try to justify all of this as some kind of rebellious phase all I want, but my cousin still voted for Trump twice. He believes the election conspiracies, Qanon stuff, probably “FEMA death camps,” the whole nine. That’s more belief than rebellion, but being part of fringe communities makes us feel cooler than the next guy. Ask any old punk. I don’t know what to believe about my cousin’s choices, but this has certainly allowed me to come up with more nuanced responses when people ask me how to deal with extreme ideological differences amongst family. I really thought I had it all figured out.
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