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Black Travel Questions | What’s It Like Living Among Republican Retirees?

When I first considered RVing, a lot of people warned me I would dislike it because of the lack of diversity. They were right, but not for the reasons they originally supposed. I don’t care whether I see another Black face at a campground or not. I find what I miss most is being around young people.

Younger people are statistically more likely to hold liberals views. In contrast, not only are retirees statistically likely to lean Conservative, but they believe they are too old and wise to learn from us young folks. I encounter this all the time and have learned to leave them to their ignorance.

This ignorance sometimes walks a thin line between mere ignorance and being racist, xenophobic or some other descriptor based on hate. In fact, I can sum up what it’s like to live among Republican retirees in one sentence:

I knew about the Capitol Insurrection before it happened.

They are miserable.

When I get to a campground, I can almost immediately spot the Conservatives and the Liberals, based purely on their facial expressions and general openness. The liberal retirees are more positive, more friendly and more welcoming. They also tend to take better care of their belongings, seem financially better off, and have higher education levels. Republican retirees have a sterner countenance and are generally not as open. Many of them are nice, but there is always something stiffer and more awkward about their social behaviours.

Negativity controls their lives.

This miserable look on their faces may come from the fact that they are among the most negative people I have ever known. I met some lovely and well-meaning Conservatives on the road, but I have met no exceptions to this. Republicans are extremely negative and make decisions based on what they hate and what they believe should be restricted. Democrats, on the other hand, make decisions based on who or what they love and push for more openness.

For example, Liberals tell me they voted for basic decency, human rights and social equity. Here are some of the reasons Republicans have given me for voting for the Orange Man in the White House:

Most are either racist or racially ignorant

I am often appalled by the things that come out of White Conservatives’ mouths when they discuss race in America. They genuinely do not understand what racism is, but you can’t tell them what it is either, because they are old and know everything. Ask them to explain racism and you will either laugh or want to punch them in the face.

I heard some of the most disturbing remarks from an elderly White couple raising a Black teenage boy in Arizona. They acknowledged racism existed, but could not seem to understand what it was or why it was concerning far beyond interactions with the police. So far, I have met only one White Conservative who had a great grasp of racism and was genuinely eager to learn more.

Most grew up in diverse neighbourhoods.

We have this idea in our heads that Conservatives grow up in the middle of nowhere and never see Black people, so that contributes to their racism. Cure yourself of this notion. The most racially ignorant and racist White people I have ever met in America are exactly the ones raised in diverse communities.

They brag about how close they were with Blacks, Natives and Hispanics, when growing up, and how welcomed they were by the community. All while still trying to convince you they understand what racism is because they felt uncomfortable, in spite of the warm welcome. For the record, every White racist I know has Black friends or even Black spouses.

They try to fix racism by fixing you.

When I first shared my Arizona experiences with a Conservative friend of mine, she was horrified. Once I had cleared the threat and high-tailed it to California, she changed tactics. Instead of trying to fix racism within her political circle, she tried to fix my response to racism.

She said, “Has it ever occured to you that maybe people look at you like that because you’re beautiful and they don’t know what to say?” She repeated this to me daily. One day I snapped and asked her if she thought I just got my face yesterday. I told her I’ve had it for 31 years and had worn it in six countries and 30 states. Yet, I never had those experiences in Arizona, until Arizona.

They give lots of backhanded compliments.

When the vaccine first came out, one Conservative told me excitedly that the first woman to receive it was Jamaican. She said she could tell right off the back that the woman was not American because her English was very formal and proper. “She sounds like you!” she said. “You know, there’s a big difference between how educated and uneducated Black people sound. Uneducated Black people sound like a text message that didn’t send correctly. But, not you guys!”

On a serious note, do prejudiced White people know how they sound when they, too, are uneducated — or nah? I met plenty of them in Arizona. Why is this considered something exclusive to Black people?

They are opportunists.

The White Conservatives at my campgrounds are extremely helpful, but many are also users. They talk a lot of crap about people in the park, especially Californians and Liberals, until they need favours from that person. Many also agree that the Orange Man is an a**hole and an idiot, but then they always follow up this admission by talking about the economy.

Similarly, almost all the Conservatives who voted blue and all the Liberals I met in Arizona who voted Democrat did so because they wanted free healthcare and weed. From a values perspective, they were very much still Republican. They just wanted to do drugs in peace. Likewise, an alliance with the police was convenient when they wanted to be racist, but “Blue Lives” became as disposable as Black ones when they stood in their way at the Capitol.

They have no community values.

Conservatives talk a lot about family values and church fellowship. Considering that so many of them belong to small, tight-knit communities, I expected stronger community values. The pandemic and my personal experience among them showcase the opposite. I have never met a group of people so proud to put individual rights and personal freedoms above community values and public health.

One posted on Instagram that the pandemic was a hoax because “only 73,000” more people had died in 2020 compared to 2019, at the time of his post.

Only 73,000.
Let that sink in.
Would 73,001 have made a difference?

The cognitive dissonance is high.

One Conservative asked me why Black people overwhelmingly vote Democratic. I told her it’s because Republicans are overwhelmingly racist. She took personal offense to this and proceeded to make a case for her colleagues and herself. I replied:

Not all Repulicans are racist, but racists flock to the Republican party. At what point are you going to stop and ask yourself, why? Tell me, when was the last time you saw a Democrat with a Confederate Flag or a Nazi tattoo.

She has yet to answer this. I won’t hold my breath.

They love their guns.

A staunch Trump supporter at the last campground I stayed at once ended a one-sided political rant by telling me, “I don’t debate politics with unarmed persons” and storming off to his RV, like a teenager. This all stemmed from me asking him how he spent the holidays. He proceeded to tell me how he spent Christmas stocking up for the Second Civil War and assisting a group in Nevada. Two days later, the Capitol Insurrection occured. I packed my things and left the campground by the end of the week. I have no desire to be parked across from terrorists.

Republicans are not all villains. After all, Republicans helped me get out of Arizona when I was having a Cold War with the Confederacy. I have also had a Trump Supporter rush outside in the middle of a winter storm to help me secure my RV in high winds. In fact, outside of Arizona, most of them have tried to be courteous and kind — especially when they wanted Black votes. Even so, one cannot be Republican without giving a pass to racism in one form or another.

Funny enough, I started this adventure looking forward to meeting Republican retirees. I was eager to hear their thoughts and have meaningful discourse about our political differences. I thought these people would be more level-headed and mature. Boy, was I wrong! Turns out, when it comes to race and racism, 90% of Republicans are exactly like their stereotypes —and worse.

May I never live to be this bitter.
This hateful.
Or to see myself become a parody of my own beliefs.

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