Pearson is an anomaly among Gen Z, whose members, polling suggests, are more liberal than any generation before them. But they’re also more skeptical of the political system and its establishment leaders. For a young Black man like Pearson, skepticism trumps loyalty to the party of his parents and grandparents. He may not be representative of the views of his cohort, but he mirrors their attitude in a way that politicians are quick to notice: He is an iconoclast.
“You know, a lot of people make the argument on the left that conservatism is the antithesis of Blackness, but I think conservatism is Blackness,” Pearson said, citing his culturally conservative but politically liberal roots. “When you look at my story, as far as being raised by Democrats and things like that, it’s weird. It’s crazy. But it wasn’t a huge leap for me. Conservatism, I believe, spoke to who I was, where I was and what my upbringing was.”
From the time he was 12, the University of Alabama freshman has advertised his commitment to conservative values and politics. At 13, he joined Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign as chair of its youth outreach program. His name was later floated for a speaking slot at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Now, as a surrogate for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and founder of his own political advocacy organization called the Free Thinker Project, Pearson spends most of his days on the road, speaking at rallies across the country alongside Eric Trump and other White House figures.
Pearson’s meteoric rise to fame within the party, fueled by his large and often controversial web presence, offers a look at the future of the Republican Party’s youngest Black members, who are willing not just to embrace conservatism under Trump but to renounce Democratic politics as they relate to race. While they understand the racism embedded in the president’s rhetoric, they see him as one of the few leaders to deliver results on issues affecting the Black community. Moreover, they recognize their value as representatives of a demographic the Trump campaign views as integral to their success at the margins: young people of color.
Pearson joins many young Black Republicans in saying that the conservative values espoused in his household laid the foundation for his party switch. Data backs up this claim: A 2019 study from Pew found that, while liberals make up a majority of the Democratic voting bloc, 43 percent of Black voters said they identified as moderate and 25 percent identified as conservative. Faith, fiscal responsibility and achievements earned through hard work are values central to both the Republican ethos and many Black lifestyles.