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Illustration by Tom Abi Samra

The Tokenism of Candace Owens

One of the few high-profile minority Trump supporters is nothing more than a puppet. Her ignorance is leveraged by conservative media and politicians to rationalize the agenda of the far-right.

May 4, 2019

Starting from her lowly days on YouTube – posting poorly edited homemade videos to a non-existent following – Candace Owens has impressively climbed up the obscurity ladder to become one of the most well known African American female Trump supporters in the United States.
Candace Owens brands herself as a conservative activist. She was formerly the Director of Communications at the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA and created the popular website and YouTube channel Red Pill Black. It was made with the intention to facilitate a movement she calls a “blexit”, to create a mass “black exit from the Democratic Party” to far-right Republicanism.
Owens attracted national attention with her disparagement of Black Lives Matter, describing them as "a bunch of whiny toddlers, pretending to be oppressed for attention." She is also known to be an outspoken critic of the Democratic Party, who created a video entitled “How to Escape the Democrat Plantation” that now sits on YouTube with more than half a million views. Similar to other far-righters such as Ben Shapiro and Tomi Lahren, Owens tends to rely on fast-talking and provocateur-ish wit over tangible evidence or suitable research.
But her rhetoric has also dipped into the indefensible and unreasonable.
Owens was criticized after she made comments rationalizing the reign of Adolf Hitler. In a statement she made at an event with Turning Point USA, she explained that “You know, [Adolf Hitler] was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is… he had dreams outside of Germany.”
She was also briefly elevated onto the international stage when she was named in the Manifesto of the New Zealand mass shooter, who noted that “The person that has influenced me above all was Candace Owens,” likely in reference to her anti-Muslim remarks such as warning the U.S. that “Europe will fall and become a Muslim majority continent by 2050,” and that, “There has never been a Muslim majority country where sharia law was not implemented.”
Owens casts herself as a savior of sorts. From her perspective, she is the one and only African American that sees the truth behind a dubious Democratic Party. According to her, all other African Americans, still cognizant of racism and the impact of slavery, are collectively blinded by victimhood.
But no matter how Owens perceives her own work, her presence in conservative media is tactical and tokenized.
According to The American Prospect “The [Republican Party] has been adept at identifying and elevating the very few African Americans who personify the party’s core belief that race is irrelevant.” From the perspective of Republican media elite, Candace Owens is nothing more than a puppet. An agreeable anti-Democrat that validates their refusal to address systemic misogyny and racism still rampant in U.S. politics.
In the same strain as influential female leaders including Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway, who spout resentment towards policies meant to reduce the wage gap, or minimize sexual harassment, Owens’ hollow bravery is leveraged by far-righters, who hoist her up to represent themselves as non-racist. Far-righters have now found a women of color that spouts as much bigotry and ignorance as any Trump-loving white male – nevermind that she’s one of the only black woman that publicly supports them.
The GOP’s use of Candace Owens highlights the hypocritical nature of Conservatism in the U.S. The GOP, a party that positions itself as the enemy of so-called identity politics, still feels the need to note Owen’s intersectionality each and every time a high profile interview is conducted. Whether it be with Fox News, or Conservative commentators such as Dave Rubin, Charlie Kirk, Ben Shapiro, or Ali Stucky, the dialogue goes out of its way to weave race and gender into the conversation. Yet, all of these commentators at different points seeth at liberals for acknowledging these qualities as still worth mentioning.
Despite Owens’ repeated remarks on her hatred for identity politics, this is a reality that she herself highlights. At the widely viewed speech at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference, Owens rattled off mind-numbing Conservative talking points filled to the brim with Kellyanne Conway-esque alternative facts; all of which seemed to allude to the topic of racial identity again and again.
Accordinging to Candace,
“A hard hitting truth is that the most unsafe place for a black child is not on the streets, it’s not when they see the police… the black population would be double what it is today if it wasn’t for abortion, we’ve lost 18 million black babies, how’s that for a progressive policy, is that what they’re celebrating?”
As well as:
“Stop taking away our self confidence because of racism, because of of slavery, I’ve never been a slave in this country, stop telling us that we need to be obsessing over our future when we should be obsessing over our future and the potential we have.”
It appears, from the perspective of the GOP, that race and gender are only important when they are used to criticize their opponents or rationalize racist policies or politicians.
Whether or not Candace Owens truly supports the bigoted views she articulates – it is just as likely that her everlasting support is only due to the pro-Trump super PACs that fund her – from the perspective of the GOP, this does not matter. Owens is nothing more than an instrument that can be manipulated and propped up to spout rhetoric deemed too racist and contentious to be legitimate when it comes from a white male Republican.
Despite her idiocy, she is still popular in conservative circles, resting comfortably with 1.4 million followers on Twitter, and is beloved by much of right-wing media – her humorous feud with Tomi Lahren notwithstanding.
But shown with the GOP’s refusal to help women of her demographic, it’s clear Owens is nothing more than a mouthpiece. Republicans use Owens as an African American cover, a blanket of protection to prevent them from being rightfully labeled as racist. This allows for the rationalization of harmful policies that, as a result of characters like Owens, now have publicized support from the very demographic their policies harm the most. She’s being used, and from the history of the GOP’s treatment of black women, I pity Owens for not realizing it yet.
Ari Hawkins is Deputy Opinon Editor. Email him at
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