Editor’s Note: The following is the first part of a 2 part article on Mia Love, the newest Black Republican on the scene. This piece comes to us from Dr. Darron T. Smith. -M.P.
Understanding the Complicated Psyche of the New GOP Darling, Mia Love
Part 1: I Might Look Black, But I Ain’t Like “Y’all”
By Dr. Darron T. Smith
In the zany world of Utah politics where Republicans naturally remains right of center, but Democrats venture toward the middle, Mia Love’s recent rise to national prominence came about as she captured the GOP nominee to the Utah House 4th District, and she was further propelled to national stardom with her speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. If she wins, Mia could make history as the first black female politician ever elected to the House of Representatives from the state of Utah, an amazing feat when considering the odds of her of actually winning in a predominately white, conservative, Mormon state. Even more interesting, she would be the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. If Mia Love is victorious in her bid for the House seat, it will do wonders for the image of the state of Utah, and especially the LDS Church whose recent spate of high profile race-based debacles captured widespread attention. Insensitive racial statements made from former church authorities in past time ((http://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/126-31-33.pdf)) were highlighted once again with BYU religion professor Randy Bott’s recent remarks of justifiable racism found within the LDS cannon. This triggered one the strongest public statements against racism to date uttered by LDS Church headquarters (()), but not before the Church’s own racial beliefs were once again questioned. Against this backdrop, emerged Mia Love.
How does a black female who is a conservative and a Latter-day Saint manage to negotiate so many foreboding white spaces and, yet, publicly appear oblivious to the racial tensions found within each space? This is a complicated question that, in all fairness, only Mia can truly answer for herself; however, research has been beneficial at elucidating the complexities of racial identity development as we observe groups. We begin by understanding what the eminent scholar W.E.B. Du Bois meant when he coined the phrase “double consciousness” over one hundred years ago to explain the sociological conditions and democratic contradictions of living with everyday racism(s) that black Americans endure. That black and white folk live in two existentially dissimilar worlds with opposing codes of power and rules of conduct, Du Bois argued those rules and codes preferentially benefited whites at the expense of African Americans. The respective codes of power form a fairly predictable and sanitized environment where the dominant ideology of whiteness is proffered and diversity of bodies and experiences is generally discouraged, particularly in predominately white-controlled organizations. Though the language of these organizations will profess diversity, their actions insinuate otherwise, chiefly when viewing the structure of these institutions.
In order for someone like Mia Love or myself, for that matter, to gain some rewards and advantages in white American, we along with scores of other typically middle-class and well-educated people of color have to be proficient in these preferred racial codes of power which are often hidden from plain sight, but have enormous consequences for social mobility. For example, religious persuasion is highly valued along with particular hairstyles, musical tastes, and clothing. Additionally, white sounding names (as compared to black sounding names) ((http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html)), educational status, and English language proficiency are but a few codes of power found in U.S. society, particularly with respects to hiring. For African Americans, the need and ability to tread between two separate and opposing codes is identified as “code switching.” Though this is often unconscious, it affords black Americans the ability to traverse white norms and values in order to “succeed” in the illusion of the American Dream, while still maintaining a connection with and understanding of the black community and its struggles as they move up the social ladder and try to preserve their status as middle class. The constant shifting of context that African Americans must tolerate not only carries a heavy psychological burden, but an additional burden of disease in the form of higher cortisol levels that lead to increased morbidity and mortality.
To many African Americans and other individuals interested in politics who are following Mia Love’s Utah candidacy, she is a paradox. As a black, female Mormon, her conservative ideals are deemed peculiar as she runs for office in the Republican Party while balancing a triad of oppressive social constructs that are leveled against her.
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