Making History Isn't Always Good: Mia Love Elected to Congress

Oluwa Jones '15 Staff Writer 

Mia Love is the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, where she will represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Mia Love’s election is significant, as there have only been 33 black women ever elected to Congress. Love gave an interview with CNN in which she blamed the Congressional Black Caucus for “igniting racism when there isn’t any.” In a 2012 interview with a Utah newspaper, she joked that if elected, she would join the Congressional Black Caucus and “try to take that thing apart from the inside out.”

Love has made it very clear that she does not want to be thought of as the black candidate but as a post-racial, post-gender candidate. Her status as black Republican says everything about her views on race. Many people don’t understand the depth of racial inequality in the United States. Statistics show that African Americans are half as likely as whites to graduate from college, unemployment for African Americans is twice that of the national average, one in three black men and one in 19 black women will be imprisoned, and that an African American baby born in the United States is twice as likely to die within their first year of life. Any political candidate that denies these structural realities is a supporter of white supremacy.

In “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander details the ways in which Republicans realigned the two parties along racial lines. Republicans since Richard Nixon’s time have been using anti-black coded rhetoric to “appeal to the racism and vulnerability of working class whites.” In U.S. politics there are only two different schools of thought towards the problems of race, poverty and social stratification. As Alexander notes, there are those who believe poverty is caused by culture; particularly black culture, which they believe promotes social ills. Then there are those who recognize structural factors such as failing schools, chronic underemployment and housing segregation, as the causes of poverty and crime.

The Republican Party, especially in light of the recent debates on massive income inequality and the 1%, has held steady in their belief that the poor are undeserving and that poverty is easy to escape. Promoting this view of the poor as cheating freeloaders has an obvious racial dimension. This so-called “Southern Strategy” has been successful in convincing poor and working-class whites that they must align with a political party that is only concerned with corporate interests and the extremely wealthy conservative elite.

Republicans advocate for policies that hurt all people, especially women, people of color and LGBTQ people. Love supports all convention Republican policies, including closing the department of education, a department that was created so that all students can receive an equal educational regardless of their race or class. People like Love believe this is not the federal government’s job. Love is also pro-life, a standpoint that any women’s rights advocate would object to, as abortion is absolutely essential for women’s full participation in society. She supports the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline and is a firm believer in gun rights. Love, and her party, support voter suppression laws and paranoid crackdowns on welfare and oppose affirmative action.

I wonder how Love could be elected by a political party that refuses to recognize her existence as a racial being. Many argue she would not have had this success before Obama, who has changed black political candidacy. According to the Associated Press, over 100 African Americans ran for office this past midterm election. This number is up from 2012, in which 72 black candidates ran. African Americans are more informed than ever and, as AP notes, voted “at a higher rate than any other group of minorities in 2012.” The data showed that for the first time, “Black voters… outnumbered white voters in America.” Republicans are taking note. Damon Cann, a professor at Utah State told the Salt Lake Tribune, “Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been more serious about trying to showcase the diversity within the Republican Party. And Mia Love is potentially the poster child for diversity in the party.”

In Love’s defense, there is an enormous stigma towards blackness in the United States, and Love’s decision to be a Republican is not entirely uncommon. There are two general stances towards racial assimilation. First, there are those who comply with the dominant group’s interests and do what they can to seek approval within the current system. Then there are those who believe in collective resistance and who promote racial self-love and the idea that we can abolish racial hierarchies. Love represents the former group that will do what it takes to be accepted by whites, and members of the latter group call this self-hatred.