Speaker discusses race, poverty and politics

Mitchell Grogg

A Vanderbilt University professor talked about her spiritual and political conversion at WKU’s Faculty House on Friday.

Carol Swain, who is a professor of law and political science, titled her speech “Black, Conservative and Unashamed: My Life as a Public Intellectual.”

“I came up with that title based on my struggle of trying to, I guess, find my own identity,” Swain said.

Swain grew up holding liberal political beliefs, but began to adopt a more conservative point of view in the late 1990s and early 2000s, she said. It was also around that time she said she had a Christian conversion experience.

“My stereotype of black Republicans and black conservatives were that they were people trying to advance themselves,” she said.

She noted in her speech that she felt called to spread her message and help people other than herself. It was a message with which Glasgow freshman Jacoby Shannon connected.

“I could relate to some of it, you know how, growing up, she had to be strong for herself and striving to become the best woman she could be,” he said.

Part of her strength included earning a G.E.D. after dropping out of school. She then went on to earn her bachelor’s degree, along with a master’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a master of studies in law from Yale University.

Her activities in advocating conservative causes encouraged Dalton Workman, WKU College Republicans Chair, to listen to her speech and ask her personally how he might improve his own outreach, especially among minority communities.

“To some extent, being a younger Republican, I think there is change that the party definitely does need in order to win more elections and have more of a broad base when it comes to poverty and dealing with people that are minorities as well,” he said.

Swain also discussed what she sees as flaws in programs meant to help people out of poverty, such as affirmative action programs.

“I’ve always felt that affirmative action ought to be based on need,” she said. “It should be class-based.”

A breakfast with the Christian Faculty and Staff Fellowship followed the presentation Friday morning.