Hilaria Baldwin. Hilary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren. Justin Trudeau.
There is a long list of white Democrats who love, love putting on rhetorical “blackface” to try appearing less white, more ethnic, and more authentically authentic.
Hilaria Baldwin (neé Hillary Hayward-Thomas) famously “became” Spanish after a single semester abroad in Spain, despite not actually being Spanish and living her whole life in the United States.
Justin Trudeau is a subject matter expert in all forms of blackface, as he demonstrates whenever he dons Indian (feather and dot) mufti. Sandy Cortez, theater kid from Westchester, was rebranded as a “fiery Latina” to win her seat in Congress.
Who is the audience for these clickbait performances? Well, the usual suspects of course: Middle-Aged Liberal White Women. These lonely ladies gobble up fake ethnicities, feel-good cultural stereotypes, and white guilt like they’re gobbling chocolate-covered antidepressants. “50 Shades of Patriarchal Oppression” is their titillation of choice.
These vapid virtue signalers have just discovered their new culture warrior-of-the-week—a man who makes their rusty innards churn, a man who sends a tingle up their leg to body parts that haven’t felt like this since they first saw Barack Obama at the 2004 DNC convention.
The object of their adulation is a 27-year-old Tennessee politician named Justin Pearson. Pearson is enjoying worldwide fame at the moment as the most visible member of the “Tennessee Three” — three local state representatives who incited an insurrection inside the statehouse in favor of gun control after the school shooting on April 3.
When I first saw Justin Pearson in his 1970s drip, I thought it was a joke. Were the ’70s really this back? Did I need to buy myself some cork platform sandals and start popping ‘ludes?
Pearson is a state rep by day and a preacher by night. Here’s one of his recent sermons “at a Memphis Unitarian Universalist church [that] began with a prayer to ‘Mother God’ and an invitation for dead ancestors to speak through him.” (To anyone who hates this essay, please note that it was written by my dead ancestors speaking through me. Blame them, OK?)
Pearson also sports a comically huge, “Spaceballs”-sized afro that towers over his narrow frame. It acts as an angelic halo for his unassailable divinity. He delivers speeches in the mellifluous cadence familiar to anyone who has attended a black church in the deep South, employing a singsong voice and a pulpit-pounding performance.
As some of his superfans noted in my tweet about him, this is how black preachers talk, OK? What’s the big deal, racist? Preachers gonna preach — that’s fine, the Mother God is working through him and filling him with the Holy Woke Spirit!
But it does seem a little odd for him to do this same pulpit-worthy performance in the context of his job, as in the viral speech he gave in the statehouse last week.
I’m sure no one would be so nakedly cynical to use the “look, I’m a man of God” persona to deflect critics and win sympathy. That’s crazy talk!
Fake It Til You Make It
If you remember Arsenio Hall doing his preacher character in “Coming to America,” or saw the Robert Townshend cult ’80s comedy “Hollywood Shuffle,” you might be forgiven for thinking Pearson’s persona is all a bit … much. The hair, the disco ties, and suits, the cadence — is he for real? Or is he doing what I can only call a modern-day minstrel show for clout?
If you dared to think that perhaps Pearson might be faking it, congratulations, your fraud radar works!
My friend Inez Stepman recently sent me a video of Justin Pearson from 2016 taken when he was a student at Bowdoin College. Bowdoin!
As podcaster Aimee Terese notes, “Justin Pearson was a normal, middle-class clean cut black college student in 2016 when he ran for BSG president. He spoke about bringing together liberals and conservatives, to meet in the ‘radical middle’ and waxed lyrical about the importance of “hearing every voice.”
I’m sure the Bowdoin student body is a bit different now, but when I was applying to colleges, I didn’t even bother with Bowdoin — I wasn’t nearly white enough. I didn’t own a Rugby shirt. I’d never rowed. I couldn’t pronounce “coxswain.” I hated ultimate frisbee. Not that there’s anything wrong with that stuff, it’s just that Bowdoin was for real preppies, not a fake California beach preppy like me.
In his 2016 video, Pearson speaks to the camera and makes a good case for becoming the next Bowdoin student body president. He is strikingly handsome, clean-cut, afro-less, and sports a nice suit. He’s like a black Alex P. Keaton. But it’s his voice that is startling. Shockingly, he shows no trace of the strong southern accent. Instead, he uses an Obama-esque “white” accent that could step smartly into any network newsroom. This kid is going places, you might think.
But when you see and hear Justin Pearson today, you think: “Who groomed him?” Who decided to “brownwash” him to be a lot less “Bowdoin” and a lot more “Boondocks,” as Inez Stepman puts it?
Answer: Princeton. After Bowdoin, he won a spot at its elite Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the Woodrow Wilson School, a grooming program for future political leaders. These scouts are looking for the next Obama the way basketball scouts seek the next Michael Jordan. So far, all we’ve got is a Canadian Obama (Trudeau), gay Obama (Buttigieg), and “American Psycho” Obama (Newsom, whose Obama impression remains undefeated).
Some may insist Pearson is just code-switching, you ignorant white person! OK, you can call it what you want, but it’s still putting on a performance: Code-switching “involves adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behavior, and expression in ways that will optimize the comfort of others in exchange for fair treatment, quality service, and employment opportunities. Research suggests that code-switching often occurs in spaces where negative stereotypes of black people run counter to what are considered ‘appropriate’ behaviors and norms for a specific environment.”
Code-switching, of course, is what Obama excelled at. He used a different accent depending on where he was. Hillary Clinton sometimes tries to code switch too, to hilarious effect.
But what Pearson is doing is not code-switching — his newly developed “preacher” persona has no off switch. He’s in full Black Panther mode at work, not just on weekends. He’s the Hilaria Baldwin of Colin Kaepernicks!
Was his “white” Bowdoin persona a survival mechanism? Or was that the real Justin: the nice, suburban middle-class son of a prosperous minister?
Maybe Justin Pearson is something new: black-to-black trans. He was groomed and “racially affirmed” in a transition from normie Obama-esque centrist into a more politically desirable racial stereotype for the current era: militant activist race revolutionary. He got his “Colin Kaepernick glow up,” as Aimee Terese put it.
This all is taking place in the wake of an awful event everyone has since forgotten: the massacre at a nearby Nashville Christian school. In honor of the three murdered students and three adults killed by one of their own, a left-wing woman pretending to be a man, the radicals are now marching for “freedom and justice” — right over the newly dug graves of 9-year-olds.
It’s a galling display of the raw power tactics the supervillains on the left excel at.
After all, why waste time mourning dead kids killed by one of your own when you can flip a white-on-white school shooting around into a … [checks notes] black civil-rights issue?
Maybe Pearson was radicalized by losing his campaign for Bowdoin student government president. In response, he turned full Joker — or in his case, full punch line.
If I ever go into politics, I am going to take a page straight from the Pearson Playbook and lean in hard into my mixed European peasant ancestry. Maybe I’ll develop a thick Irish brogue and learn to eat haggis. Perhaps I’ll start wearing a babushka to Whole Foods, sup on bangers and mash in the carpool line, and keep jars of borscht and ossetra caviar in my LL Bean tote.
One never knows when one’s deep-seated, totally authentic ethnicity must be expressed!