I recently had a conversation with a friend — a liberal — about how libertarians don’t always agree on everything.

“Of course you won’t agree with everything libertarians say,” she said. “You’re black.”

With shaking hands (I was angry), I responded that my race had nothing to do with whether or not I agreed with libertarians. They aren’t a monolith. And neither are blacks.

I am very aware that I am black. If I forget, there always will be someone to remind me—usually it’s the media or… a liberal.

The obsession with race disturbs me on so many levels. As someone who prides herself on being an individualist, comments like the one my friend made enrage me. Why must everything be about race? Libertarians, thankfully, are less concerned with group welfare and stereotypes and more interested in individual rights and liberty for all.

This is why I am a libertarian.

I know some people think libertarians don’t talk enough about racism and sexism; but I find it refreshing. This isn’t to say there is not a place in libertarianism for those discussions. I am fully aware that this isn’t a colorblind or post-race society. But I don’t consider this to be discouraging, even if it is frustrating at times. In fact, it has its comedic moments.

It is worth it to see the amount of confusion and astonishment that crosses a person’s face (usually a liberal) when they find out I never voted for Obama, disagree on affirmative action or mention how I want Al Sharpton to retire and stop sputtering his foolishness. But it’s also kind of sad that people make the assumption that black people can’t be anything but a liberal democrat.

They say there are no black libertarians. There are no female libertarians. There are no black female libertarians.

Hello! I’m right here.

We might be small in numbers; but we are growing. And on the Internet at least, I’ve observed that we are always welcome. No defensiveness and no judgements based on the color of my skin.

And that’s how it should be.

  • Robert Kenneth Kirchoff

    Great piece! Welcome aboard.

    This bit made me chuckle:
    “If I forget, there always will be someone to remind me—usually it’s the mediaor… a liberal.”

    I would have added, “But I repeat myself.”

    • Addie Hollis

      Lol! That is a good one. Thank you for your support Robert.

      • Pochy

        I hope you find other like minded people. I’m sorry for the liberals crapping on your views due to race. That’s kinda racist.

  • Brad

    Libertarians tend not to discuss people as groups, we’re all about the individual. It’s an uphill battle to practice that bit of ideology, to distinguish a person for themselves rather than what group they belong to or what race,sex, or religion they are.. And you’re right, that is how it should be.

    • Addie Hollis

      Exactly, Brad. Sometimes I think my experiences have led me on a personal journey to understanding why individuality is so important!

  • Noah

    Great article, Addie. Thanks for having the courage the present your very interesting case. I applaud you breaking down stereotypes. I am concerned, though, that, as you break down stereotypes about yourself, you reinforce stereotypes about others.

    “If I forget, there always will be someone to remind me—usually it’s the media or… a liberal…Libertarians, thankfully, are less concerned with group welfare and stereotypes and more interested in individual rights and liberty for all.”

    I’m sorry that someone behaved in a manner that made you feel uncomfortable. My interpretation of the root of your discomfort with the association between racial minorities and liberal politics is the assumption of material interests capturing votes.

    According to conservative, rational-choice political scientists, like James Q. Wilson, incentives for engaging in political actions fall into three broad categories: material, purposive, and solidarity incentives. Material incentives are rooted in tangible objects deliverable by participation. Purposive incentives are more esoteric, like the ideological fulfillment, and solidarity incentives come from feeling a part of a group.

    People generally respond strongest to material incentives, even though they are least apt to recognizing it. There is evidence to suggest that Americans are deeply uncomfortable discussing personal, material issues because they feel cheap, base, and low. Material incentives create a more directly transactional kind of dynamic due to the materiality of the incentive.

    In American politics, this kind of transactional relationship can feel awkward because it can feel like votes–almost sacrosanct–are traded for something more fundamental, like rights and benefits. Some Americans feel like this debases them, reducing them to the characteristics of whatever group others ascribe them to be. There is some evidence that Americans will eschew material incentives for purposive incentives as symbolic behavior to signal their independence–that they are not “bought and sold” politically.

    I disagree with this behavior. I take pride in recognizing and acting on my material interests. I don’t think others should be so ashamed. According to rational-choice economics–the only Gospel for libertarianism–this is the only appropriate course of action. Voting against your material interests is irrational, inefficient, and detrimental behavior. For me, my rational choice is to vote liberal.

    Of course, this all depends on one’s construction of those material interests. Negative rights–the actual, but not only, construction “liberty” in libertarianism (but certainly not in America)–seem to be of higher importance to Addie than some positive rights. It is worth noting how individuals’ weighing of particular facets of interests differs between individuals, even if they might share some common characteristics.

    Similarly, it is worth noting how liberals might differ among themselves. Just as one must be cautious not to paint all blacks or libertarians with the same brush, as Addie noted, I think it is equally important not to paint liberals or the media with the same broad brush. Unfortunately, Addie was too vague in her critique of the liberal she identified and, as the quote above demonstrated, painted liberals in general with the same brush.

    I can address this in two ways: first, demonstrate how liberals’ attitudes, like blacks’ and libertarians’ attitudes, are not monlithic across the group. I would hope that a group of open-minded people could reason this one out. Second, I would like to establish a reasonable basis for the liberals’ inappropriate remarks.

    Before, though, I would again assert that the liberals’ remarks were inappropriately reductionist and invoked stereotypes and assumptions about Addie that may be very inaccurate, therefore, the liberal should have refrained from this behavior, if only out of politeness and decency, but certainly for respecting and genuinely exploring the unique thoughts of another individual.

    That said, some credulity may be warranted for someone identifying as a minority and a libertarian. Certainly, in its emphasis on negative liberties, libertarianism offers something to minorities: protections from intrusive government. This is the same thing it offers to all cis-people, too, but such may be particularly meaningful to minorities, who may have more recently felt the sting of government interference with everyday lives.

    However, it seems that, just as often as libertarianism can be used to establish individual freedom by protections from government, it has been used to establish systems of private oppression, free only from that public, government intervention that would free others from such private oppression, which negates as fundamentally the individual liberties the Framers’ intended as the intrusive government that libertarians claim to dislike.

    When libertarians gleefully reference thought leaders, like the Pauls (Ron and Rand) or Murray Rothbard, whose racist tendencies have been well-documented and linked with their political ideology, one could be forgiven for generalizing this association between libertarian thought justifying and creating a safe space for racism and the individual praising thought leaders and their ideas, and then, more broadly, to the movement of which they are a part and, daresay, lead. This is how someone might make a claim that libertarianism is racist. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s sketchy, but it is at least a sketchy for libertarians to ignore the inconvenient evidence of some of their leaders’ neolithic attitudes, especially if they proclaim reverence for the individuals.

    Here are sources on Rothbard, Pauls, and some other libertarian luminaries as racists. I have selected from centrist or conservative sources, like the business press, that libertarians might less easily dismiss.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/exposing-the-racist-history-of-libertarianism-and-murray-rothbard-2011-10

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/06/16/racism-civil-rights-and-libert

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/07/libertarian-populism

    And now for Chait, Sullivan, and Hartman

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/01/how-ron-pauls-libertarianism-supports-racism.html

    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2012/01/03/is-libertarianism-fundamentally-racist/

    http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/libertarianism-covers-racism

    Libertarianism doesn’t specifically permit racism or discrimination, but it undermines any formal recourse against racism, discrimination, or for combating group-based disparities. These problems affect the material interests of minorities, certainly to a much greater extent than they do the rest of the cis population. Given Wilson on material interests and libertarianism’s emphasis on rational self-interest, then, when an individual–a minority, for instance–self-defines as libertarian, an onlooker could be forgiven for wondering why they identify as such, when such generally harms their material interests.

    Indeed, it is clear from the article that Addie is more interested in ideological consistency–a purposive incentive–than anti-discrimination measures–a material incentive. Perhaps she even believes that she may benefit from markets hopefully closer approaching a point of clearing. This could constitute a material incentive, but I don’t think she would be as bothered by this one as much as the other, group-specific material incentives of non-discrimination. This is interesting behavior because it would seem to eschew the purely rational, material understanding of the world advocated in much conservative, rational-choice, objectivist, etc. thought that libertarians prefer.

    Fundamentally, Addie seems to take pleasure from not following her material incentives and choosing to follow purposive incentives. There must be some symbolic value here to choosing purposive incentives over material ones to compensate for any material harm. In short, I think that the act of choosing a political ideology is meaningful to her.

    Even more interestingly, she may be willing to hurt her interests, disregarding a central tenet of the ideology, to stick to maintain the consistency of the ideology. This latter point emphasizes Addie’s purposive interest in the ideology and its consistency, rather than its material benefits for her or how her adoption of the ideology might relate to her own decision-making qua the ideology. While an onlooker has reason to wonder why Addie is a libertarian, a rational basis for her decision exists: purposive denying of rational materiality. In short, the rational explanation for Addie’s behavior is fundamentally some degree of irrationality, especially ironic because of the rational content of libertarianism.

    This is far from the paragon of consistency and rationality commonly associated with libertarianism. I think it is reasonable to be understanding of how non-intuitive some of this might be, especially given the inconsistency even within the libertarian thought espoused. Certainly, I think Addie could have been more understanding than she demonstrated in the article, especially since a lack of understand was the root of her complaint, but I would readily concede that anger and frustration can cloud judgment.

    However, it is also important to note that the confusion that bothered Addie represented the thoughts of only one individual. Just as Addie reminds us how important it is not make generalizations about libertarians and their beliefs, it is important to not make generalizations about liberals and their beliefs. Nonetheless, this doesn’t excuse an individual’s presumptions about another.

    In summary, there is a reasonable and rational basis, even within libertarian thought, to question why someone who looks like Addie might be a libertarian. To do so can be offensive because it can seem to reduce Addie to these characteristics, disregarding her intellectual independence. Addie’s piece here seems to imply that she places great value on this latter characteristic, particularly to the point where she is prioritizes this ideological purposive incentive over most material incentives, even if this contradicts the content of the ideology she purposively prefers. Addie’s case is complicated. One could easily become confused by such inconsistency in the pursuit of consistency. This story seems to me to be about the dignity that comes from finding your own beliefs. It’s easy to miss this, especially amid all of the noise about race, class, politics, and freedom in this country. However, the lesson for liberals–and libertarians–in communicating with Addie–and the many young people in America who are defined by more than their family and history–in a way they will respect and find pursuasive is to understand the rational incentives that motivate–even if the incentives are themselves irrational. The moral of the story is that rationality does not necessarily come from rationality; rationality may share roots with irrationality.

    • Addie Hollis

      You are right about needing to be careful about making generalizations about other people, but from MY day to day interactions, majority of the comments come from liberals.

    • Michael Philip

      So as far as Chait is concerned, correlation is causation. Because some racists argued for slavery in terms of property rights and individual rights (of property owners), those principles must therefore support racism. Never mind the whopping contradictions involved. Never mind that the abolitionists were also speaking in such terms, but without such contradiction. Never mind the actual, logical causation of the ideas involved. The non sequitur is the thing.

      What Chait is doing is the equivalent of walking up to a house on fire, observing that the house is full of fire and full of water together, and concluding that the firefighters are actually the arsonists. That’s the argument he presents to the public as being worth taking seriously. No joke.

      For defenders of liberty, Chait’s decision to publish this is telling. If this is meant solely for internal consumption by Leftists seeking reassurance, it tells us how intellectually crippled Chait’s audience is (or he thinks it is). If he imagines that this is serious and incisive argument that is somehow supposed to impress those of us outside the Leftist compound in external reality, it tells us how intellectually crippled Chait himself is.

  • Carole

    I appreciated this. I have had liberal friends tell me I can’t be a libertarian because
    I am —-fill in the blank—-. It’s a stupid human trick to be discriminatory because we generalize about what we don’t understand. I am interested in why females and blacks and smart people and agnostics (or whatever) aren’t easily identified as libertarians. Somebody out there point me in the right direction please (no pun intended). I want to read more.

    • Addie Hollis

      The friend I mentioned in the article admitted thinking libertarians were only white males because that’s all she sees on television. So, admittedly, I can see where people may get the idea (and also the idea that blacks are liberals, etc). It may even reflect real life. Perhaps, more of us should speak up? Food for thought. :)

      • Jared Martin

        happy to have you on board.

        The libertarian movement needs more diversity. It isn’t an accident that a movement with a disproportionately high percentage of white males doesn’t spend much time talking about racism or women issues in general.

  • Dave

    As a libertarian, race (and other collectivist labels) are just something I don’t even think about. Great article. You’ll be a great asset to the movement.

    • Addie Hollis

      Thank you for your support Dave!

  • michaelstrong

    FWIW, my wife is a Senegalese entrepreneur who is essentially a “libertarian,” though she shies away from the term because of the weirder aspects of the movement (as do I sometimes). That said, because she cares passionately about personal responsibility and individual dignity, it was not a big stretch to show her that the progressive world-view was not aligned with her values. When I also pointed out the fact that African governments were responsible for African poverty (through over-regulation, cronyism, etc.) and the harm that is being done to the African-American community through government schools, welfare, and the drug war, she was quickly alienated from the so-called “progressives” and their righteousness and pretentiousness. She now describes herself as a “libertarian with a heart, and a progressive with a brain,” deliberately implying that the two categories are the same.

    • lberns

      ” “progressives” and their righteousness and pretentiousness.”

      Isn’t that the truth. I’m no longer polite to proglodytes anymore in discussions with them. They have absolutely no desire to explore anything outside their violent collectivist belief system.

      • http://www.clichegames.com Anthony

        >they have absolutely no desire

        Aren’t sweeping generalizations like that exactly the type of things you should be against?

    • lberns

      “libertarian with a heart, and a progressive with a brain,”

      Sounds more like this:
      http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/

  • Nick Sorrentino

    Nice to meet you.

  • MAC

    Very well said!

    As a libertarian, I see hereditary poverty in the US as an American problem; I see the erosion of the 4th Amendment as an American problem; I see unemployment as an American problem.

    Even though African Americans are disproportionately disadvantaged because of all of these issues, these issues injure all Americans and it will take all Americans to solve them.

  • John

    Are you married because I think I’m in love.

  • Random Libertarian

    You’re awesome and who cares if you’re a woman or man, black or white, green or whatever, you’re a human being and deserve liberty, respect, and to be judged on your works in society.

    If anything, I’d say more traditionally disadvantaged people should be libertarian so everyone stops treating them like children or as if they are ‘special’. People are people and the only way to get ahead is through merit and mutual respect. No one should be as bold or arrogant enough to suggest they ‘know better’ when it comes to another person’s life. Or, worse, that a person should be made to feel inferior by a system that has to ‘help’ them because they are ‘too weak’ to do it on their own. It only gives the racists, bigots, and assholes of this world an excuse to continue preaching their hate and garbage.

    I commend you completely and pray you see yourself as a person first, a libertarian second, and everything else as just characteristics. And I doubly hope that others do as well.

  • Rashad A. Turner

    Love this article and I can relate to it so much since most of my friends and family are liberals/progressives/damn near communists.

    It’s really disheartening to be like the only libertarian in the family with the whole family disagreeing with you lol. But again great piece and I hope you like the little bit of exposure I was able to do. I love sharing things like this.

    https://www.facebook.com/AAforLiberty/posts/268352529980760
    #RashadAAfL

  • mikewb1971

    This article was one of the bright spots of an otherwise crappy day for me. Thank you, Addie!

  • JoeCushing

    There are definitely women and black people. I would like to see more of you both. We will never be free unless a significant portion of society craves it. The message of freedom knows no colors or genders.

  • Lora

    I applaud you.

  • http://twitter.com/cmpdev cmp

    Awesome! One of my best members in Young Americans for Liberty (I am a chapter president) is a black female libertarian. She keeps us on track when we start ranting with each other ;P

    Couldn’t do it without her.

  • PGTB

    Summae laudes! Fuge ne libelli ignorantia stultitiaque te inficiant!

  • Kevan Saab

    people have troubles picturing a black libertarian, even though quite a lot of preeminent libertarian intellectuals are black (e.g: Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, etc.), quite weird…

  • Nick de Cusa

    Dear Addie & TOL Team, we couldn’t find how to contact you, so we went ahead and translated this great text into French and made it available for the public to read here: http://www.contrepoints.org/2013/12/08/149092-noir-et-liberal-un-combat-quotidien. Hope you don’t mind too much. Obviously, we’d much rather have your upfront green light to do this, please could you let us know if you agree to our translating your texts into French and publishing them on Contrepoints. TOL’s approach brings greatly needed diversity of content and tone, so I can’t express how grateful we’d be. All the best. PS: those translations would then be free for you to use any way that could help you, of course.

    • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

      That is, of course, fine! For the future, you can contact me at editor@thoughtsonliberty.com

    • http://www.clichegames.com Anthony

      I think it would be polite to acknowledge the original source and link back to it. As it stands it looks like there is no acknowledgement that the article was not originally from contrepoints.org

  • Mr_Massa

    Most people don’t understand it’s more than a color/race thing or being lumped into a group of people (many of which may be degenerates). It’s about freedom. I never needed my friends permission for my thoughts, tomorrow, I plan on thinking the same way. LIberty is good for all, splitting people into certain groups has always been bad, except for the supposed “chosen” few. A good article, I wish you many years of success in voicing your opinion and thoughts. BTW, regardless of your background or race, it’s a beautiful mind that attracts attention. Looks and colors fade, a beautiful mind shines…

  • Bill Kelsey

    Do you have any thoughts on Zora Neale Hurston? I discovered her recently and reading her autobiography it seems she was libertarian. Can we claim her as a foremother?

  • tim_lebsack

    I’m starting to believe that the concept of race is a liability.

  • Lightly Tan Dan

    Great piece! Wish there were more black women or black men…or white women…or whatever races…in the libertarian mindset. It’s not that I don’t not care about women’s right or racism…it’s that I find it appaulling that these are the movements used to trick tons of people into doing things like voting for Obama…or actually fighting for the right & tax payer funding to murder children as if it’s a right. I see through these movements. They aren’t genuine once taken over and guided by political groups & MSNBC or Fox for that matter with the whole Tea Party takeover. What once meant well…gets taken over.

    I also find that anything that labels race is sickeing. Have you seen TVone? There’s a commercial for “black news.” What the fuck is “black news”? The truth twisted to make it look like the 60′s still? Am I not allowed to watch? It’s not for “me” right? Why do black Americans…hell I hate black…the word does not describe your tan nature…it divides….but why do tanned Americans take that shit? Why do they allow people to group them and talk down to them and guide them like an orchestra? Why do any of the tanned Americans put up with BET? Is that what entertains tan people? Juice? Menace 2 Society? Lil Wayne? Tyler Perry? Sickening to think that they are spoon feeding you the culture they think you should have since your tanned. Sharpton on TV in these commercials is trying to take your right to self defense…but says “we” a million times to make you think he’s with you…taking up for you! It’s fucked up. I don’t get it. Why tanned Americans put up with it. I would be outraged…White Entertainment TV…fuck that. What they gonna play? Dolly Parton? Hee Haw? Fuckin’ Andy Griffith? (I love Andy Griffith but it’s not just for white people…like how Living Single isn’t just for tanned Americans.)

    Anyways, I digress. Glad you are not afraid to break from the pack. So tired of talking to people around here who don’t have internet…or don’t use the internet for news…spouting off left/right paradigm bullshit like a parakeet. I just sit back and think…man…when will I die? Cuz I can’t wait to leave this place. Jeesh.

  • Pjclee1

    Nice to meet another black female in the movement.

  • Erin

    I thought this was great; I admire the fact that you can find comedic value in the lingering racism in our society. I look forward to reading more from you!

  • Danllo

    Great article, Addie.

  • April Lamba

    Perfect post! I am an ex-Liberal, because I was so sick of them looking at my tanner skin tone before anything I had to say or think. Liberals often view us as simple minded (only care about welfare, and black-issues) and have group-think mentality! We come in all shapes, sizes, ideas, ideologies, religions, cultures etc. Being black is as diverse, and complex as being white or any other race. I was sick of being treated as a child, and libertarianism gave me the peace of mind, freedom and the adult responsibility 18 year old me deserved and loved! I came from a poor immigrant family and have always love hard-work and self-improvement. I know first hand how advantaged and abundance of opportunity the west (esp. America and Canada) has for everyone! Minorities can be interested in economy, education, academia, government, freedom, liberty and rights other than ones about skin colour!

  • Alexiah Carter

    great piece, I feel the same way myself, and literally found your article by typing in “black female libertarian”. I got lucky. We are out there

  • Nando_P.O.V

    I love this piece so much! I am a proud black libertarian !

  • Youonlyliveonce

    Amen, seriously we need to be educating more of our black brothers and sisters, we think and live out of ignorance. All we care about is the “black condition”. honestly i think its a little sick, its not even just blacks, we all form political and important opinions on superficial information, sounds like it will only lead to disaster.

  • brett r

    The US sucks. A bunch of spineless pinheads. Heading to Chile to Ski in August. Buy a ticket. Race don’t matter in Latin America.