“The apple,” some say, “doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This idiom predicts we’ll all become our parents, or at least some version of them, and we have little to no say in the matter. But in the case of Kellyanne Conway — longtime Republican pollster, everlasting meme, and counsellor to US President Donald Trump — the inverse couldn’t be any more true: her daughter has gone viral, over the last week, for totally opposing her mom’s right-wing political ideologies.
Claudia Conway is 15 years old, which is another way of saying she has a TikTok account. And on that TikTok account, she has been hell-bent on showing her rapidly growing following (at the end of June she had 30,000 followers; as of this —updated as of Oct. 6, 2020 — writing, she’s got just over 1.2M) just how far she’s strayed from the metaphorical tree, all by fervently criticizing President Trump and voicing her support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Believe it or not, you can have your own opinions not be influenced by your parents at all, simply by educating yourself,” she says in one clip. “My views don’t have anything to do with my mom’s.”
Watch: Gen Z is using TikTok to playfully roast Millennials. Story continues below.
Indeed, they don’t. In one of her videos, Claudia dances beneath text encouraging people to leave one-star reviews on Trump’s restaurants, hotels and golf courses. In another, she writes, “why do people hate on Trump supporters… like why can’t we just respect everyone’s opinions?” before adding, “SIKE nah block me pls and then educate yourself.” Her bio demands justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black medical worker who was shot dead in her own bed by Louisville police officers. On Instagram, she declares herself an “activist” and an “ally,” and she has made recent posts in support of BLM.
Her mom, of course, is not her biggest fan. Apparently, Kellyanne asked her daughter to remove some of the videos, but Claudia “respectfully declined.” “We get into arguments a lot — I’m not going to lie,” she told Insider, in a recent interview. “My mom is my best friend, but we do fight all the time over politics, and I’m always shut down by my entire family.”
Claudia’s whole family consists of devout Republicans. But in her father, the lawyer and conservative columnist George Conway, she’s found an unlikely ally on the matter: George is himself a founding member and advisor of the Lincoln Project, a conservative super PAC dedicated to “defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.”
“My dad thinks it’s awesome that I’m speaking for myself and expressing my views,” Claudia said, which is an unsurprising revelation, since, in 2019, George expressed that tweeting his reservations and criticisms about the president is the only way to get it all out without screaming at his wife.
Ordinarily, TikTok is for messing around. Its most attendant features are clips of teenagers lip synching to popular music, enacting their own interpretations of viral dances, and cracking jokes in a distinctly youthful humour. But Claudia wants to use the app for a different purpose: She’s hoping to educate her followers on matters of social justice.
“I know a lot of my friends are so informed and I think they wouldn’t be if it weren’t for social media, which is why I think using one’s platform for good and for the education of others is so, so important, especially in our day,” she told USA TODAY on Tuesday.
In fact, Claudia’s virtual body of work is part of an emerging genre of viral TikTok videos, in which impassioned Gen Z kids, usually white, are forced to confront the sudden realization that their parents’ politics, stoked and emboldened by global protests against anti-Black police brutality, are totally at odds with their own. And when they identify the gulf that separates them, these kids choose to cling to the beliefs they arrived at on their own, denouncing their parents’ ideologies in a very public way.
In one such example, another 15-year-old girl films her tearful reaction to a conversation with her parents about the murder of George Floyd. “I literally hate my family so much,” she says, choking back tears. “They just tried to argue with me that George Floyd... they just tried to tell me that he deserved that because he did something wrong, and that it was OK. That is not OK. And it’s just making me so upset. I do not wanna live here. I hate living in Louisiana. I hate living around these racist f***s. I just wanna leave.”
And in another, a girl films herself in the midst of an intense argument with her mother. “Mom, people are dying,” she says, “people are dying.” Her mother’s reply: “People out there. Why does it concern you? It’s going to happen, it’s life.” (When the girl says she’s going to do her part to try to change it, because “that’s not the way life should be,” her mother shouts back, “You’re not gonna change nothing, Marissa! What’s wrong with you?)
Lots of these videos have been popping up on TikTok since protests broke out over the death of George Floyd. There are Gen Z teens posting videos of themselves at Black Lives Matter rallies. There are teens sticking BLM posters on cars in response to their parents’ disapproval of the movement. There’s a video of a teen sitting in a field, wiping her face after being tear gassed by police. “My parents don’t even know I’m here,” she admits. Then: “I guess they will now.”
Parents often tell their kids, “you remind me of myself.” Cue the rebellion! As concerned as people might be with Generation Z, intent on defining those kids by their loneliness or general anxiety, it’s also worth recognizing their obdurateness in the face of political discussions: the apple falls far, far, far from the tree, and wherever it lands, you might find it on TikTok.