Back in February, 13-year-old CJ Pearson became a sensation when he took to YouTube to applaud Rudy Giuliani for questioning whether President Obama really loved America. Since then, the Georgia teenager has become a hero to the right–a young black man who was conservative and not ashamed of it. Well, those days may have ended. On Friday, Pearson said that he didn’t think the Republican label fit him anymore, and he considers himself an independent.
In an email to CNN, Pearson said that one of his friends asked him why he wasn’t speaking out on racial discrimination. Initially, Pearson wasn’t willing to speak out on it for fear of alienating his 100,000 Facebook followers and five million YouTube fans.
That changed, however, when he got a chance to see the police dashboard video showing Laquan McDonald being riddled with 16 bullets from a Chicago police officer’s pistol. It made Pearson realize that systemic racial discrimination was very real. He took to YouTube and not only ripped into those defending Officer Jerry Van Dyke, but also called for heads to roll in the wake of the apparent cover-up of the dashboard video showing McDonald’s death.
The McDonald death also caused him to start looking at things without red-colored blinders. Once he took those blinders off, he realized that he couldn’t label himself as a Republican anymore. He told CNN:
“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.”
This is quite a sea change for Pearson. For much of the summer and fall, he was a staunch supporter of Ted Cruz, and was even chairman of Teens for Ted. However, he walked away from the Cruz campaign in November because he didn’t think Cruz was truly concerned about issues affecting young people.
When some of Pearson’s followers saw CNN’s headline–“Viral teen YouTube star renounces conservatism”–they thought Pearson had hopped the fence and become a liberal. However, that isn’t the case, as the actual body made clear that Pearson doesn’t label himself as a Democrat or a Republican. From now on, he said, his views “aren’t going to be dictated by one political platform or another.” He went further in a post on Facebook.
Earlier, he told his Twitter followers that there’s only one label that really fits him for now.
I'm an American. That's the only label that matters to me from this point forward. So, to all the haters- suck it.
— CJ Pearson (@thecjpearson) November 28, 2015
In an interview with Time, Pearson said that he’s been shredded by some of his conservative fans. The same people who praised him for speaking his mind are now calling him a “flip-flopper.” This isn’t all that surprising. After all, Pearson was initially reluctant to even speak out about racial discrimination for fear of turning off his conservative fans. As most of us know, a significant sector of the GOP seems to think that critical thinking is the eighth deadly sin.
When Pearson got blasted for having the idea that maybe–just maybe–we should sit and talk with those who don’t think like we do, he said this on Twitter:
I seriously can't get over the fact that people on the right are so mad over me having good relations with people on the other side. Petty!
— CJ Pearson (@thecjpearson) November 30, 2015
Pearson reminds me a lot of how I was during my high school days, though admittedly I was considerably to the left of him. He’s not afraid to speak his mind or think things through before deciding where he stands. We need more people on both sides of the aisle like him. Maybe then we can finally break the gridlock in this country.