Brandon Tatum, a black former police officer in Tucson, Arizona, says he used to be a liberal but became a conservative through a personal evolution.

“I started out like most young, black men in the country, where default is being liberal. Default is being a Democrat,” Tatum explains, adding:

All of the Democrat positions that you see most African American men believing today is what I believed before, even though I wasn’t politically involved as much as I am today. But over time, I began to wake up and be more involved, and I woke up to what the reality was. A lot of that happened when I was in college. I started to see that the country isn’t as racist as I thought it was.

Tatum joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss this and more. This episode was recorded at Turning Point USA’s seventh annual Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida, so please excuse the background noise. Listen or read the lightly edited transcript below.

We also cover these stories:

  • The Senate moves forward with a 2,700-page, $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
  • House Republicans assert that COVID-19 was released accidentally from a lab at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
  • Former President Barack Obama, who turns 60 on Wednesday, plans to celebrate with a huge birthday bash this weekend at his mansion on Martha’s Vineyard. Concerns about COVID-19, however, prompt some to question the plans for 475 invited guests. 

Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Brandon Tatum. He’s a former Tucson police officer. Brandon, thank you so much for being with us on The Daily Signal.

Brandon Tatum: It’s an honor, thank you.

Del Guidice: … So, we’re here talking at a conservative conference, and I want to talk about your career in law enforcement and some of the things you did, but I first want to talk about yourself and your journey in the conservative movement. Were you always a conservative, was that something that you gradually learned about? How did you get to where you are when it comes to what you believe, in terms of conservatism?

Tatum: Well, I started out like most young, black men in the country where default is being liberal. Default is being a Democrat. All of the Democrat positions that you see most African American men believing today is what I believed before, even though I wasn’t politically involved as much as I am today. But over time I began to wake up and be more involved, and I woke up to what the reality was.

A lot of that happened when I was in college. I started to see that the country isn’t as racist as I thought it was. I’m in a majority-white university, and I was seeing things that [were] perpetuated to me as a young man that were just becoming unraveled. I got saved in 2008, I found Christ. That really helped me, as well, start to look at people not by their race per se, but by the fact that we’re all God’s children, and I judge you based on your character. The Martin Luther King mantra is something that I internalized more when I got saved.

Then when I became a police officer, I was still a liberal. I voted for Barack Obama. Thank you, Barack Obama, because Barack Obama is what really made me leave the Democrat plantation, what I call the plantation.

I paid taxes for the first time, significant amount of taxes when I was a cop. I said, “I need to be more politically involved, because I don’t like these taxes. What is happening here? I thought I was going to get an apartment, a car, and with these taxes I ain’t going to be able to buy nothing.” It made me feel like I need to know what’s going on.

Then Barack Obama started talking real bad about police, and that really turned me off. I opened my eyes in understanding to the other side. I was totally inspired by Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Donald Trump emerged. I loved the fact that he was keeping it real and being himself, authentic. Wasn’t a politician, big money man. I like him. That pushed me more to realizing that I’m more on the conservative side than I would ever be on the liberal side.

Del Guidice: You had mentioned that it was President Obama that made you a conservative. Can you tell us more about that and how that happened, and what specifically made you start thinking and make that switch?

Tatum: Yeah. It’s funny because I think a lot of people become conservative not because of conservatives, but because of liberals. It was policing, because I was a police officer at the time. I was on duty in the streets patrolling every day. He was really making negative statements about police regarding police shootings, and he was never correcting the record.

He would say the Cambridge police, I think they were Cambridge police, they were acting stupidly. He made that statement, and they weren’t wrong. We’ve come to find out that they were incredibly accurate in detaining a person that they thought was breaking into a house, and he never corrected it.

Then he talks about, Trayvon Martin would have been like his son. It’s like, what are you talking about? Your son will never be like Trayvon Martin. He’d be in a hood buying Skittles and running down the street and getting into altercations with people.

He kept talking about police in a negative way, and it just really turned me off to the point where I said, “I would never respect anybody who wouldn’t support the men and women who wear the uniform.” I don’t care who it is, it could be my mama. I lose respect for people that don’t respect police, and that was the genesis of the downfall for me being what I would call a Democrat or a liberal.

Del Guidice: Well, you’ve had quite a career in law enforcement. You were a Tucson police officer for six years. You became a SWAT operator, field training officer, general instructor, public information officer. Can you tell us about, first how you became interested in law enforcement, and then maybe some of your memories or some things that stood out to you from your time in your career in law enforcement?

Tatum: Yeah, I started out when I was younger. I didn’t like police officers growing up. They were racist white people, that’s what I heard, you know? That’s what I was taught, and what I thought.

I actually got arrested when I was 8 years old for smoking marijuana in a vacant house. Me and six of them, my other cousins and my brother, we all got arrested for smoking weed. We were doing some nefarious things at the time.

It was a pretty traumatic experience to a certain degree. They pulled guns on us and stuff like that, because we were in a vacant house. They put us all in a patrol car, we got put in handcuffs, we went to the substation. The most traumatic thing wasn’t really the police, it was the fact that my dad showed up and I thought he was going to kill us.

That was the most trauma that I had. That experience kind of scared me when it comes to law enforcement. But I needed a job.

I was in the NFL draft in 2010, I didn’t get drafted. My mentor told me that I need to turn the page. You know, “Hey, if it’s not working out for you, you need to do something. You got a child, you got responsibilities.” So I said, “I’m going to apply for everything in the city of Tucson,” and policing was one of them.

I didn’t think they would call me back. I knew nothing about being a police officer. The funny thing is I had an argument with my at the time fiancée, and I remember the next morning the police department called me, Tucson police called me. I didn’t think nothing about the application, I thought that she called the police on me.

I’m like, “I can’t believe she called the cops on me. She wants to get me arrested over an argument over the phone?” Then they were like “You applied for the job right?” And I’m like, “Oh, OK, yeah. Now we can talk.” I almost hung up on them.

Then I said, “Well, I need to figure out what the heck is going on, because I know nothing about policing.” I did a ride-along and I was blown away. Officer Sean Payne blew me away. I saw a hero in Sean Payne that I’ve never seen in another person. I said, “You know what? I want to be a hero.” That’s how I joined the police department.

Del Guidice: Working in law enforcement, what have you learned about what the general public think of police? Also, with the added issue of racism where people think police are racist, what’s your perspective on that and how should that be addressed?

Tatum: Well, people have no idea what police officers do. Even people that support police officers have almost no idea what they actually do. Policing is a very different monster. It’s a very different profession than most people understand. If they do ride-along, or they were actually a police officer like I was, then you’ll realize that it’s so much more going on here than what people may understand.

Also, the majority of the people who are anti-police, they’re completely wrong. When you talk about policing being a racist institution, that is the biggest lie that I’ve heard in a very long time. Police officers and policing in America is probably the least racist institution in America. “Why do you say that, Mr. Tatum?” What person can be a racist and put your life on the line for the people that you hate, that you’re racist against? It’s almost an impossibility.

Every day you go out, you don’t get to pick what people you serve on a call. You have to go and serve people with your life. This is not a video game. You don’t die and then hit the reset button and come back. When you die, it’s final. When you get critically injured, it’s final. Your friends die in line of duty, it’s final. When you have to kill somebody, it’s final.

You wouldn’t do all that stuff in a black community if you was a racist, white, Ku Klux Klan police officer. Because most of it is not arresting people and putting them in prison, most of it is serving and protecting people. Then there are occasions where you have to put people away. It’s the least racist organization that I’ve ever been a part of.

I think it’s a very heroic profession. That’s something that I’ve learned. I have an incredible respect for people that put on the badge. It’s hard to explain how difficult it is to be a police officer, especially now.

The stress of being a cop, the things that you see that you can never unsee, you don’t get a chance to put a filter and a blur over a person that is going 80 miles per hour down a public road, hit a light pole. You know what that’s going to end up looking like. A guy getting run over by three cars on the freeway, you don’t get to unsee that. A man beating his wife to the point where her eyes are swollen and blood is coming out of eyes. You don’t get a chance to unsee those things.

Being a police officer is incredibly difficult, it’s incredibly inspiring at the same time. That’s one of the biggest things that I took away from when I actually became a cop.

Del Guidice: Thank you for sharing that. You mentioned something earlier about how your dad stepped in when you all were in that vacant house.

Tatum: Oh, yeah.

Del Guidice: That he was the person that showed up and called you on the carpet. How important are dads in today’s society and what do you have to say about the crisis of fatherhood? I think we see this in so many different communities, the black community, but other communities as well. What would your advice be, and why are dads so important today for society?

Tatum: Yeah, great question. Men are an incredible asset to our community, men in general. Then fathers are even more incredible to the family. … If I didn’t have a dad, I wouldn’t be here.

I’m going to be honest, I love my mama. She wasn’t going to come to the little holding cell and do what my daddy did. My daddy came in there like he was in the WWE or something. I thought it was Hulk Hogan in there. He said he was going to kill us and everything. The healthy fear of my father kept me out of a lot of things.

Also, people don’t understand how invaluable a man is to a young man. When you see an example of who you can become, you don’t have to imagine it. You don’t have to rely on an outside source to determine who you are, what your legacy is. Seeing your father, he doesn’t even have to talk to you. Just seeing the man that created you is something that’s so inspiring subconsciously to a lot of young men.

The woes of our society are on the backs of men. Not women, men. Men are responsible for the fallout. Men are responsible for the recovery. Men need to be in their proper position if we want to do great things in this country.

If we want to see a change in young people in the inner city, we want to see a change in marriages, all this stuff, the man is responsible. That’s why I think is so incredibly important for us to talk about these things.

When you look at the Bible, for all the Christians out there, Christ is the head of the church, the man is the head of the household. There is an order that we need to be in, in order for us to reach success. The ultimate thing in successful young men is having a father.

Del Guidice: Well, you went viral in 2016 for some videos that you made on politics and society. Can you tell us about the story behind that and what happened, and how that was sort of a rise to where you’re at today?

Tatum: Yeah. I’ve always been a person to keep it 100, I keep it real. I just say what I feel. I’m just me, you know? I’d never made videos before, I never thought about making the videos, but I went to a Donald Trump rally, because I wanted to see, “Is this guy a racist, white supremacist like they say he is? Do black people get kicked out of his rallies, or are these people making up something? I want to see for myself. He kicks me out of here, then I’m going to know.”

I was blown away, I was like, “This is the coolest dude ever.” He’s probably my favorite politician, and these leftists are nutjobs. They’re out of control, they’re outside screaming. One of them called me a white supremacist, and I was like, “You guys are completely lost.” So that inspired me to just say, “I’m going to document this on a video, because the 100 followers that I have, we’ll see what they think about this.”

I had no idea, I didn’t even know what “Fox & Friends” was. I didn’t know nothing, I’d never watched Fox. When I made that video and it went viral, I remember waking up and thinking, “Oh, I’m going to get fired. They’re going to fire me.” You know, because I did talk some trash about the guy that got beat up at the rally. I said he deserved it. And I’m like, “Oh no, I’m going to get fired.”

I had Hannity and all these things, and it kind of blew up. I just realized that I had a voice. So I said, “You know what? I’m going to keep speaking the truth and saying what I feel.” And that’s just it. Then it turned into this big thing, but initially it was just me telling them the truth.

Del Guidice: Well, Brandon, you did another video talking about what happened with Colin Kaepernick.

Tatum: Oh, yeah.

Del Guidice: You felt it was important to speak out about that, can you tell us why?

Tatum: Let me tell you the backstory to that, because most people don’t understand this. I was getting into it, I had already mentioned Colin Kaepernick the year before in 2016, it was viral. Colin Kaepernick was an idiot in 2016 and ’17.

However, I was arguing with one of my friends who I play football with, who was in the NFL. He did a low blow, man. He messaged me and said, “You’re just mad because you’re not in the NFL.” Oh, that got to me. So I said, “You guys are playing a game. You’re not in real life. You lose the game, you go home. As a police officer, if you lose the game, you never go home.” That really got me fired up.

I’ll say this: One of my friends had already made a video, it had 14 million views. I was like, “I don’t need to make a video.”

I had a friend in Australia call me on the phone and say, “Hey, man, you need to make a video about this. You have a unique perspective.” I was like, “Nah, man, I don’t need to beat a dead horse.” Then the argument with my friend happened, the football player, then that just made me go off. I was like “Oh, I’m going to say it all. Screw Colin Kaepernick, screw all these people who are out here pushing this false agenda, who hate this country for no reason.”

That’s what my inspiration was. I made that video and it had 70 million views. It was crazy.

Del Guidice: Big picture, Brandon, what is your perspective on the conservative movement as a whole right now?

Tatum: Oh, we need to improve, I think we’re doing good. I’m in the conservative movement, Candace [Owens] and a lot of people who weren’t in the conservative movement in 2016. Obviously, there are conservatives that are paving the way for young people to come up and be inspirational in the movement. We need to improve. We need to really be conservatives.

Sometimes we’re lackluster a little bit. I hear some conservatives talking about, “Abortion is a viable choice, a woman’s choice.” That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. We need to stand on that. Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn Jenner, whatever his name is, we shouldn’t support people like that. Not just because the person is a trans person, but the person’s not conservative. The person is not upholding conservative values.

As conservatives, the more we give, they’re going to end up overtaking our party, our movement. I think that conservatives need to be a little more strict on those things. Not saying that you got to cast people out, but speak up, keep it 100, tell the truth. Are you a believer? Are you not a believer? Do you believe in the sanctity of marriage or do you not? Do you believe that abortion is murder or do you not?

It’s fundamental things that I see us creeping away from that eventually, just like the liberals, we’re going to go far to a point where conservatives are not going to be recognizable. I’m not trying to be mean to people, but we have to be more strict in our conservatism.

Del Guidice: You mentioned how some conservatives say abortion is an available choice. When it comes to the black community in particular, there are abortion clinics disproportionately in these black communities. What do you want to tell people about that situation and how Planned Parenthood and other abortion organizations, they are racist?

Tatum: Well, I want to tell people that you have choices, right? The manipulation of people in poverty, which is where it starts, because you look at communities in general, the Planned Parenthoods are in poor communities, they’re not in nice wealthy communities, they’re not. Poor communities, a lot of African Americans happen to live in some of these poor communities, so they fall victim to it. With the lack of knowledge and the exposure, they fall victim to it.

I think that obviously the origin of Planned Parenthood, if you look at Margaret Sanger and them, is a eugenicist perspective, to exterminate people that they didn’t want to be around, which are black people.

Now, let me tell you how that has come to fruition. African American people in this country still are hovering around 13% of the population, while Hispanic people are soaring. Eventually, they say, people of color are going to run the country. No, it’s going to be Hispanic people, it’s not going to be black people.

If we keep having abortions—which, black people have the most abortions per capita out of any race, and it’s consistent, in some states they have more abortions than give birth—we are hurting ourselves with political leverage.

Now 13% of population, what is that? You want to be 40%, 50% of the population, so when you go out and vote, it makes an incredible difference, local level and federal level. But if our numbers are diminishing, and we become 10% of the population, 8% of the population, our votes are going to be somewhat irrelevant, when people have fought so hard for us to have a stake in his country. Those things are hurting our communities.

Also a perspective is that, is it’s allowing men to not be accountable for their creation, and this allows women to not be accountable for their actions.

If you can just go out and have an abortion on a whim, why would you protect yourself? Why would you not wait until marriage to have sex or whatever, or at least protect yourself? Why would you do that when you can just go have an abortion? Why would a man value a woman enough to, if he creates something, that he stays around and have responsibility, if he believes, “Well, I’m going to walk away because she can just go to the clinic”?

These things have a residual effect that are really harming communities in this country. I really wish people would wake up and realize they have other options.

Del Guidice: Well, Brandon, as someone who mentors youths, I’m sure in your capacity in law enforcement and even now working in the conservative movement, what advice, what message do you have for young conservatives, but just young people in general, who have critical race theory being talked about in their classrooms?

So many college campuses are talking to young people about communism and elevating that as an acceptable solution. What would you say to them as they’re fielding through all these different barrages of information that they have being thrown at them?

Tatum: Well, understand one thing, is that you’ve got to stand firm on what you believe. What you believe should be firm on evidence and facts, not emotions.

If you have evidence of facts that support what you believe, which is that critical race theory is trash and that communism don’t work—even the press secretary said it is delusional, she said that communism is a failed mechanism—if you are confident in doing your research and understanding that what you believe is based on reality and facts, then stand on that. If you don’t, we lose. If you do, we win, we’ll be victorious. It will ebb and flow.

Right now, it seems like they’re winning. But just like any other sporting event, you can be losing, but the game ain’t over until the fat lady sings is what they say. Now that’s probably not politically correct, but until the fat lady sings, the game is not over. Until the clock is over, you’d better keep fighting, you’d better keep playing in the game. All you need is a Hail Mary, and you’re going to win the game, right? Inch away, kick that field goal, you win the game. Don’t give up too early.

So conservatives, stay strong. Believe in what you believe. Don’t let these people punk you and cower you into feeling like you’re a racist. Screw these people. If you know you’re not a racist, screw him and tell them to their face, “Screw you. I’m not a racist, you’re a racist.” That’s what you should say to them. Be strong, be firm, and you’ll win in the end.

Del Guidice: Brandon, thank you for joining us on The Daily Signal. It’s great having you with us.

Tatum: Thank you, incredible interview, thank you.

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