No income tax? Sign me up.
Concealed Carry? I’m packing heat.
Supporter of small business entrepreneurs? Of course!
My name is Victoria Wakefield, I am 21, Hispanic, and conservative.
To many people, this is puzzling; to some, it is an oxymoron. In fact, many a Thanksgiving dinner has been thick with the tension because my own family members just cannot understand why I would support conservative ideals. As I got older and started to vocalize my opinions, I became remarkably adept at alienating many a relative—one of my uncles and I have not spoken since the 2008 presidential election, and any chance of reconciliation is about as likely as the Bible Belt states turning blue.
I am a first-generation, American-born Hispanic, proudly raised here in North Carolina by parents born in South America. I grew up watching my parents face the ups and downs of owning a small courier business. Over the past twenty years, the industry has changed drastically. I have seen their struggles and their triumphs, and know that this experience is invaluable. They came from nothing and were filled with a passion to give their children a better life than their own. This dream is shared by many, if not all, Hispanic immigrants. When I told my parents I wanted to work with politics and attend law school, their support and encouragement was amazing. Such pursuit of the American Dream is at the heart of conservatism—we all want this for our children. But many people I encounter, Hispanics and non-Hispanics, conservatives and liberals, look at me and my political views as if I am a lab specimen with two heads.
During the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference in the beginning of March, I spent time with an incredibly influential conservative who happens to be a member of a minority group– Michelle Malkin. My assignment at the conference was to be her “handler,” escorting her throughout the event, making sure she was everywhere she needed to be on time and to whisk her through the crowds of people dying to speak to her. I admired how down-to-earth she was, and did my best to remain strictly professional during my time with her.
Then we started talking about our hair.
Michelle was standing in front of the mirror, trying to tame her long Filipino mane, when I first mentioned that I am Hispanic. We shared a quick joke about our exotic hair — textured hair is much more difficult to maintain, as I’m sure you know — then we headed off for her speech. During her keynote dinner speech, Malkin spoke about the hardships of being a minority-group member who is also conservative and I felt so energized by her words. It also was reassuring to know that even despite her prominent role in conservative politics, she too finds herself going head-to-head with her own family.
It does not matter what anyone calls me or who berates me, I believe what I believe and I am obligated to say that loud and proud. What all Americans, regardless of religion, race, or creed strive to obtain the American Dream. The only difference is how to obtain it. The left believes that everyone is entitled to a hand-out of this ideal, whereas the right understands the importance and significance of bearing down and fighting for it. The things we work for we appreciate more — it is as simple as that. The Hispanic community has worked incredibly hard to get where they are and they continue to work hard because they want better lives for themselves, for their children, for their grandchildren. This is a fundamental ideal of conservatism! The Marco Rubios, Michelle Malkins, Artur Davises, and Ben Carsons of the right are leading the charge for conservative minorities. But they cannot be responsible for doing it alone.
I listened intently to Israel Ortega of the Heritage Foundation during his CLC session on engaging the Hispanic community. The discussion was riveting. Questions were being launched across the room and emotions were running high when someone brought up the novel idea of getting involved in apolitical efforts to truly see what the needs and wants of the Hispanic community are.
Light bulbs lit up above heads all over the room.
When my grandmother came to our great nation and established citizenship, I remember seeing her cry, full of joy and pride to call herself an American. I would be hard pressed to find anyone else who loves this nation more. So when I ask her why she considers herself a Democrat and she candidly replies that Democrats help “our” people, and Republicans do not, my heart breaks.
I explain to her, again and again, in English and in Spanish, that the right does care. I am proud to say that my dear grandmother did not vote for a certain someone’s reelection in 2012, and she even told me that she thinks she is less of a liberal than she previously thought. It is nearly impossible to convince an 80-year-old Hispanic woman that she does not actually believe what she thinks she does. So I’ll consider her election decision a win for me.
My name may not show it, my face may only hint at it, but my cultural background permeates my entire being. I am not ashamed of my heritage, but I am disappointed with my comrades on the right. There is no reason why this voting bloc should be conceded to the left. But we will have to fight to change their minds — and Hispanics will have to reconsider their community’s status quo.
When I was younger, my dad would always tell me a story about a group of crabs. The poor little crabs were all put into a pot, about to be cooked. But one crab was determined to get out. As he climbed and struggled to the top, his sights were set on getting out. When this crab reached the top, however, the other crabs pulled him back down into the bottom of the pot. Whenever I was dubbed an outcast from my Hispanic heritage or forced to prove just “how Hispanic” I was, I felt like the crab being pulled back down.
Neither the right nor the Hispanic community is solely responsible for this state of affairs. But both groups must take responsibility for changing.
To my Hispanic community: We cannot be the crabs. It is our duty to support one another and encourage “our” people. We cannot chastise those who choose to think differently, but rather we should open ourselves to all ideas before committing to a side. We are a hot commodity — we can make politicians show us why we should share their ideals. Make them prove themselves. Not only will this open the eyes of politicians to the needs in the Hispanic community, but also help us identify our own priorities and unite around them.
To my conservative friends: We cannot give this up. Do not merely tell Hispanics about how conservatism works, show them. Dispel the stigmas placed upon us. Our duty is not to get Hispanics to vote Republican, but rather to show them which policies and politicians truly support them. They will be surprised to discover how many conservative ideals can help Hispanics succeed in life.
Volunteerism is also crucial. Conservatives think they know what the Hispanic community wants and needs. But do we? Don’t just think, know. If we involve ourselves in their communities, we will see the benefits it will reap. For example, many ESL classes are offered in the evenings for adults but have low attendance due to a lack of childcare. Perhaps there is a neighborhood near you that simply needs involvement, whether it is at schools, groups striving to empower young professionals, or at a shelter for women and children. Entrench yourself into the community. Not only will you develop an understanding of the community, but they will develop an understanding of conservatism. We are not the bad guys — but it is up to us to dispel the media stereotypes and show Hispanics that we do care about them.
I encourage readers to rethink your roles. Your role may seem pretty clear if you are Hispanic, but you should still challenge yourself to understand your own beliefs. Moreover, you should challenge politicians, think tanks, and interest groups. If you are a conservative, challenge yourself to analyze and update your policies and stances, and reach out to the Hispanic community instead of waiting for them to come to you.
I’m Victoria Wakefield and I only have one head. And I think it is screwed on straight.
Victoria Wakefield is an intern for the Civitas Institute. In the photo above she is on the left; Michelle Malkin is on the right.