Candace Owens, an American political commentator, television personality, and New York Times bestselling author, has swiftly become a national star in conservative media. Boasting over four and a half million followers on Instagram, Owens has interviewed former president Donald Trump and entertained the idea of running for president herself. Owens argues against transgender rights, abortion rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement. While Owens’ political beliefs are by no means unique, she stands out for one reason: she is a Black woman.
To liberals, Owens is a frustrating concept. She not only refuses to acknowledge her own marginalization, but also advocates against other marginalized groups. To conservatives, Owens often serves as the justification for damaging, provocative, and explicitly hateful rhetoric.
Owens on Black Lives Matter
When Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020, Owens was quick to criticize Black Lives Matter’s response. Not only did she call the organization “a fraud,” but she also filmed a documentary to expose the apparent corruption within the organization.
The documentary, published by conservative media outlet The Daily Wire, alleges that Floyd died from a drug overdose. Owens then exploits Floyd’s criminal record to argue that his death did not warrant systemic change and to call for Derek Chauvin’s exoneration.
Despite the documentary’s claims, Floyd’s autopsy report is clear that he did not die of an overdose, but “homicide” due to “cardiopulmonary arrest” from compression on his neck. Owens’ rhetoric depicting Floyd as a “criminal” and a “thug” diminishes the gravity of his death and the work of Black Lives Matter whilst also minimizing the police’s role in the situation.
Owens’ stance on Black Lives Matter aligns with those of many conservatives, who have continuously backed the police and pushed sentiments of “law and order.” As protests after Floyd’s murder became unruly, conservative commentators and politicians jumped at the opportunity to refer to protesters as “mobs” and “criminals.”
This demonization and dismissal of Black Lives Matter protesters was rooted in conservatives’ disregard for the systemic racial issues that plague the U.S. criminal justice system. Most American conservatives are White; even in the South, the region with the highest percentage of Black conservatives, White people still make up seventy percent of conservatives. For this demographic, Owens serves as a playing card. When liberals accuse White conservatives of racism or insensitivity, they can point to the fact that she shares their views.
In her book Blackout, Owens argues that the Democratic Party is responsible for Black Americans’ oppression today. She cites the Compromise of 1877, where Democrats allowed Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to become president in exchange for Republicans removing their armies from the South. The compromise halted Reconstruction, a series of policies meant to rebuild the country following the Civil War and to heal the wounds of slavery.
These armies were stationed in the South to maintain order. Republicans worried that many Southerners, still bitter about the end of slavery, would express their opinions with violence. The Republicans’ military withdrawal allowed organizations like the KKK to emerge, local governments to enact oppressive Jim Crow laws, and generally threatened Black American livelihoods.
While this history is irrefutable, the Democratic Party of 1877 is vastly different from the Democratic Party of today. Since 1877, the Democratic and Republican parties have virtually switched platforms.
Ironically, Owens’ attempt to blame past Democrats for American racism today acknowledges the idea of systemic racism, a concept that conservatives generally disregard. By blaming Democrats for the racism she claims doesn’t actually exist, Owens manages to deflect all blame from the Republican party and Conservatives. Unfortunately, Owens’ book is a New York Times bestseller: millions are not only reading, but also subscribing to her flawed argument.
Owens also points to Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency and Great Society Programs as a source of oppression for Black Americans. She claims that Johnson was a “classic Democrat” who thought of Black people as below him and in need of social support.
Despite Owens’ claims, Great Society Programs made voting for Black Americans more accessible, fought poverty, and expanded welfare programs dramatically. While Johnson was far from perfect—and did use the N-word as Owens claims—modern Democratic policies are not a reflection of Johnson’s individual views and actions. Many of Johnson’s welfare programs were completely separate from his racial beliefs, just as welfare programs are today.
Owens’ book also focuses on modern cultural issues that she says prevent Black people from success, claiming that “thug culture leads to victimhood.” Owens writes that Black culture has made it “cool” to be a non-achiever, and because of this, Black children do not study as often as other children. She blames Democrats for this, claiming that they force Black children into under-resourced public schools rather than supporting “school choice,” a policy to provide tax credits for well-funded private schools rather than supporting already underfunded public schools.
In Owen’s argument, she acknowledges that many Black children do not get the same educational opportunities that White children do, but she wrongly attributes this to students’ lack of school choice. Instead, educational disparities date back to Redlining, a 20th century practice that discriminated against Black homebuyers.
Policies like Redlining prevented Black families from owning homes both in the suburbs they wanted to move to and the neighborhoods they’d already lived in. By the time Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968, prohibiting discrimination in housing loans, the homes were no longer affordable. Through redlining, the government prevented many Black families from accumulating real estate wealth.
Today, because majority Black neighborhoods are often less wealthy than majority white neighborhoods, their public schools receive less federal funding, which provides Black children fewer educational opportunities.
While Redlining was enacted by Roosevelt, a democratic president, current Democrats have proposed legislation to combat this. In 2018, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which includes payment assistance to residents of formerly redlined districts attempting to purchase new homes.
A large part of the current Democratic platform prioritizes equal education; yet, Owens attempts to blame previous Democrats for current educational disparities and suggests policies that would only further inequality. Owens’ proposed school choice policies entail pulling children out of public schools and sending them to private schools. She criticizes Democrats for advocating against school choice whilst sending their own children to private schools, claiming that Democrats prevent black people from advocating for their own education and advancement.
While school choice has certain merits, the reality is that not every child has access to a nearby high-performing private school. While the subsidies she suggests might allow for certain students to gain access to a better school than their local public school, the reality is that there are far more children getting left behind in this system. School choice does not allow for every child to have access to private or higher standard education, so it is a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches.
Ultimately, the people that will be hurt by this the most will be children whose families cannot afford to send their children to private schools, as fewer children within the public school system will result in less funding, lower-quality education, and fewer opportunities.
Owens wants her readers to believe that personal victimization and Black culture holds Black Americans back and blames Democrats for America’s history of racist policies. But in doing so, she ignores the complexities of race in the United States and deflects blame away from conservatives for their complacency towards racist policies. Despite her blatant incorrectness, there are still people reading and subscribing to this ideology, which ultimately benefits conservatives who are unwilling to focus on liberal racial reforms.
Making Sense of Candace Owens
While Candace Owens has the right to believe and advocate for whatever she chooses, for many liberals, it is hard to understand how she could spew such harmful rhetoric about her own marginalized group. Owens is incredibly beneficial to conservatives, who often oppose legislation to promote social and systemic change. Despite the fact that she is one of a small fraction of conservatives who are Black, Owens represents what conservatives believe a Black person should be. Instead of advocating for legislative change, Owens urges Black people to challenge their “victim mentality,” to blame the Democrats, and to distance themselves from their culture.
While Candace Owens alone cannot inhibit racial progress, she represents a system that is content with inaction. Conservative politicians, commentators, and voters look to her as justification for their racially insensitive beliefs and policies. As much as conservatives benefit from Candace Owens, they also benefit her. With every person who buys her book or follows her on social media, she makes a bigger profit. Ultimately, Candace Owens has made a career out of controversy; however, she has done so at the expense of social and political progress for her fellow Black Americans.