Skip to main content

Please, leave CJ Pearson alone

Written By | Nov 28, 2015

LOS ANGELES, November 28, 2015 — CJ Pearson, a 13-year old Black conservative activist, is under fire after he told CNN on Friday that concerns about the Republican Party and its views on racial and gender disparity and youth issues have convinced him that he can no longer be a mouthpiece for conservatism.

The response to the Laquan McDonald video, which shows the victim being shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer, helped open his eyes to the lack of focus on true racial injustice in the Republican Party.

“I was tired of being a champion of a party that turned a blind eye to racial discrimination. Tired of being a champion of any cause that denies equal rights to every American. Tired of being a champion of a party that doesn’t care about the issues important to young people,” Pearson wrote in an email.

“The 13-year-old, African-American YouTube star from Georgia said in an interview that he began considering the change after a conversation with another teen friend, who asked why he doesn’t speak out on racial discrimination — to which he replied he was concerned his followers wouldn’t be pleased.”

That is pretty telling. He chose not to speak out about certain issues due to his new found celebrity. What is also telling is that he equally decided that he needed to speak his mind on certain issues, even if that meant he would tarnish his image as a champion of a certain political platform.

The CNN piece continued, “I don’t want to be the conservative wonder kid that people follow because I make them feel good and like young people are part of their movement. I want to be followed because I’m the voice of a generation that doesn’t have a voice at the table.”

This response is both clear and thoughtful. Other responses, not so much. There appears to be a conservative pile on, similar to what happened a few weeks ago with the “scandal” surrounding Ben Carson’s West Point scholarship offer (or lack thereof).

Many Twitter users, some who consider themselves among the #TCOT voices had nothing good to say. Writer Chidike Okeem, who has been critical of CJ since he came on the conservative scene, proffered his thoughts:

What tween or teenager isn’t an attention seeker? Many adults get sucked under by the type of adulation and offers CJ has received, and we expect a 13-year old to not be affected?

When CJ first started making media appearances, some wondered about giving someone so young so much attention. Many child stars are adored and used up at a young age, then discarded when they start to grow up and lose their charm. No wonder so many are suicidal or on drugs before 20.

In August, when CJ and his family were threatened on social media by a liberal activist, there was even more concern about allowing someone so young to be a political public figure. The vitriol spewed at Black conservatives is hard enough on adults; what must it be like for an adolescent? CJ made a decision to take a step back, then after a few days, moved back into the fray, perhaps because of the attention, perhaps because he genuinely felt he was making a difference. Had he been my child, I would have put him on a more extended hiatus.

Chidike went on to paint CJ with the same brush as Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, who, like Rachel Dolezal, was discovered to be a champion of a cause in which he or she had no skin in the game—literally.

Conservative writer and analyst Kurt Schlichter has dubbed CJ fraudulent as well, and believes there is an adult behind the curtain pulling the levers, rather than a 13-year old kid:

Kurt Schlichter has been in the movement for quite some time and he’s sharp. But maybe this kid is genuine. Growing up in Democrat-run Chicago, I had similar thoughts and opinions about politics to CJ’s. I didn’t have a YouTube channel to spout them on; my journal was the safest place.

CJ must have his parents’ permission and blessing to do what he does; he probably gets help in determining what content to post. But having looked at his videos and Facebook page for some time, I believe his words and thoughts are his own, even when they shift.

This is what young people do: They change—sometimes from minute to minute. They mature; their opinions and views change. They learn new ways to reason; they become adults.

In this social media age, the world gets to see this process of growth and change on full display, where before it was only in the close confines of family or school.

CJ took to his Facebook page to address the CNN interview and the criticism he has received.

CJ Pearson-FB Message

CJ has a lot of growing up to do; no doubt about that. He is learning to think and work his ideas out. He is learning from experience to make decisions, just as a young man should. Whether we agree with him is our concern, not his. Nor is it up to us to judge whether his advocacy or conservatism is legit. Time will tell, just as it has with others.

Child-adults with much more education and sophistication than CJ are struggling much as he is on American college campuses. Students at Yale, Princeton and Mizzou are making demands with less clarity and maturity than CJ has displayed. They want their “rights,” without knowing what those rights really are.

Columbia University student Nissy Aya demands literary diversity because she suffered severe trauma from reading too many books by and about white people. Missouri and Yale students want “safe spaces” where their ideas will be unchallenged; they want the right to opine without thinking, to be free to offend without having to defend themselves.

So do we want to condemn CJ because he decided to step away from being a champion for the Republican label and think about his conservatism? Isn’t he exactly the type of thoughtful young person we want in the conservative movement, a young man who can take a stand, yet think about his stand even after taking it?

Some wanted CJ as a poster boy for young people and black conservatives—not his mind, but just his face. Now that he has deviated from their orthodoxy, he is persona non grata. He voluntarily became a poster boy, but conservatives bitterly complain about black Americans on the “Democratic plantation”; are they so eager to build their own? Isn’t the power to step off the plantation what individual liberty is about?

Those who condemn Mizzou and Millennial groupthink want CJ to stop thinking.

Make up your mind, folks.

CJ came out of the blue when his videos condemning Obama went viral. He didn’t have the clear and “approved” conservative trajectory of a Ben Shapiro or a Mary Katherine Ham. He no longer wants to champion Republican hobby horse issues; more than a few conservatives—black, white, Hispanic, and Asian—feel the same way. That is why so many are registered independents.

I hope that CJ seriously studies politics and social issues, discovers how conservatism will work for his life, and continues to find his voice as an advocate of conservatism. If he learns to think for himself, without being the poster child of a particular agenda, he may well turn out to be a huge influence not only on conservative thought, but on his generation.

Jennifer Oliver OConnell

Jennifer Oliver OConnell offers witty, insightful, and direct opinion, analysis and musings on local and national politics and popular culture, with occasional detours into reinvention, food, and Yoga. Jennifer also teaches Yoga, and coaches clients on careers and reinvention. You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website.