Conservative performer Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway, best known as half of the pro-Trump duo Diamond and Silk, has died at age 51.
The news was shared on the duo’s Twitter account and by former President Donald Trump, who wrote on Truth Social that Hardaway’s death was “really bad news for Republicans and frankly, ALL Americans.” The cause of death was not announced.
The real-life sisters became popular among conservatives in the lead-up to Trump’s 2016 election for their minstrel-style performances, which saw them leaning into Black stereotypes and fawning over Trump at rallies and conservative events, as well as content they published online.
At times, this included rapping, finger-wagging, neck-twisting and snappy one-liners.
Hardaway and her sister, Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, effectively became tools for conservatives to downplay the overt racism in the GOP and attack anti-racist causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement. As a prime example, Hardaway was invited by former Rep. Steve King, the white supremacist Iowa Republican, to attend the State of the Union address back in 2019.
I think it’s important to go a little deeper into why the duo appealed to white conservatives. In my experience, when some white folks see Black people performing in the ways they expect — brash, averse to logic, snappy — it brings them comfort. Joy even. Their bigotry is affirmed. When they see Black people who break that mold, it’s mysterious and unsettling to them. It defies their expectations and, in their view, threatens their stature in the world.
So I think there was an exchange at play when it came to Diamond, Silk and the GOP. The two women offered up their dignity in exchange for popularity, all to give a mostly white movement the joy of seeing them shuck and jive.
Diamond and Silk parlayed their right-wing popularity into a show they were hired to host on Fox News’ digital platform in 2021, but they were ultimately cut after repeatedly using the show to spread Covid-19 conspiracy theories. Ironically, they suggested systemic racism may have been the real reason for their removal.
I think this video is the best summation of the stereotypical Black caricatures both women portrayed for their overwhelmingly white audiences. Keep your eyes and ears open for a few things as you watch. You’ll see Trump telling Diamond to “do a little routine,” at which point she does exactly that, breaking out the finger-wagging, neck-twisting, rhyming Black woman whom Republicans came to know and love.
You’ll also note a Black woman in the audience, who seems to look away as this happens.