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Diamond and Silk gained viral popularity as two of Trump's most avid supporters.
Some critics say the sisters became a way for conservative lawmakers to shield themselves from allegations of racism.
Lynnette Hardaway, widely known by her stage name Diamond, died in January.
When the popular conservative influencer Diamond died on Monday, January 9, the Republican party lost one of its most vigorous supporters.
"Diamond's death was totally unexpected, probably her big and precious heart just plain gave out," former president Donald Trump wrote on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded.
Diamond and Silk — whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson — went viral during the leadup to the 2016 presidential election, becoming two of Trump's most vocal and animated backers. At a December 2015 campaign rally in the sisters' home state of North Carolina, Trump invited the duo on stage and told them to, "Do your routine."
The sisters swiftly became influencers, amassing an avid fan base for their unbridled energy and humor. Their Twitter account, which reads "President Donald J Trump's Most Loyal Supporters" in the bio, has 1.9 million followers, while their Facebook page has 2.4 million.
Diamond and Silk came to represent the small, yet vocal, cadre of Black Trump supporters. They also sometimes became a way for conservative lawmakers to hide their own racist policies and behaviors, political experts say.
"A lot of the work that Black Republicans do is to make Republican positions on race bearable and tolerable to white audiences," said Corey Fields, associate professor of sociology at Georgetown University and author of "Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African-American Republicans."
A Black conservative performance for a white audience
While figures like Diamond and Silk, Candace Owens, and Herschel Walker might sway some Black voters to support conservative policy positions, they are most effective for white audiences — particularly when it comes to divisive issues like abortion and immigration, according to political experts.
"Having Black influencers is a way for hesitant white conservatives to say, 'How racist can this be if these Black people support it?'" Fields said.
Conservative lawmakers have recognized the usefulness of Black influencers like Diamond and Silk, who can talk about Republican policies in a way that appears race-neutral, while using language and mannerisms that are broadly associated with "Blackness."
"The performance they engaged in drew heavily on the aesthetics, attitude, and language of Black communities. But they deployed those things to talk about policies that were consistent with what white conservatives wanted to hear," Fields told Insider.
"It's a discourse about Blackness where actual Black participants are almost secondary characters," Fields continued. "It's a version of Blackness that has to read as legitimate to a white audience."
Advancing conservative policies
Republican lawmakers have called on Diamond and Silk as a way to advance conservative policies.
In 2018, the sisters appeared before Congress to testify about their allegations of censorship during the Facebook hearings. They claimed that the social media company had shut down their page because of their support of Trump. Conservative lawmakers were quick to piggyback onto this argument.
"What is 'unsafe' about two Black women supporting Donald J. Trump?" Republican representative Billy Long said in a hearing with Mark Zuckerberg.
Experts testified there was no evidence of discrimination, but conservative lawmakers used the drama to their advantage, according to scholars Insider spoke with.
"Part of the role of having people like Diamond and Silk around is to signal, 'Hey, look, this party isn't just white people, and this isn't an issue just about white people,'" Fields said.
But the onus also falls on influencers like Diamond and Silk, who "speak about racist double standards, but themselves misrepresent how racism operates," according to James Jones, who teaches Africana studies and sociology at Rutgers University.
"Rather than tackle the very real issue of how race influences algorithms across the internet, their testimony centered on protecting and elevating their own personal brands," Jones said.
Sidestepping accusations of racism
The sisters also became the faces of an anti-sanctuary city bill introduced by conservative politician Steve King in 2019.
Formally called the "End Sanctuaries and Help Our American Homeless and Veterans Act," the proposed bill aimed to redirect federal funds for sanctuary cities to help homeless military veterans. King referred to the bill as the "Diamond and Silk Act" saying that the sisters helped author the bill.
The bill, which ultimately failed, drew criticism from both sides of the aisle: Conservative pundits derided the bill as a political stunt at the expense of homeless veterans, while left-leaning media lambasted King's partnership with Diamond and Silk as an attempt to shield himself from allegations of racism.
King had been stripped of all of his committee assignments by Republican leaders after questioning how terms like "white supremacist" have become "offensive." He previously made other statements that have been criticized for racism, including suggesting that people of "western Europe" and "eastern Europe" had contributed more to the world than any other "subgroup."
"Republican leaders have openly embraced and elevated these conservative Black voices, however, these figures are only useful to deflect allegations of racism," Jones said. "What we do not see is figures like Diamond and Silk holding Republicans accountable for their dangerous rhetoric and policy positions."
Read the original article on Insider