In the zany world of Utah politics where Republicans naturally remain right of center, but Democrats venture toward the middle, Mia Love’s recent rise to national prominence came about after defeating former state legislator Carl Wimmer for the right to run against the well-funded Democrat incumbent, Jim Matheson, thus positioning herself as the first Afro-Haitian American Mormon GOP House candidate. 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.
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 national attention. There have been insensitive racial statements made from former church authorities in past time (see pdf here). However, BYU religion professor Randy Bott’s recent remarks of justifiable racism found within the LDS cannon 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.
Additionally, comedian David Ackerman’s interviews with predominately white students while dressed in “blackface” on the campus of BYU in February 2012 went viral on YouTube, as it highlighted the ignorance of race awareness in Utah (by both Ackerman and the students alike). Highly publicized in the national media, it proved embarrassing, yet again, for the flagship school of the LDS Church. 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 America, 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), educational status, and English language proficiency are but a few codes of power found in U.S. society, particularly with respect 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, however, carries the burden of disease. The consequences for their health and well-being take the form of higher cortisol levels, which produces higher rate of chronic ailments 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. Not only have Blacks historically and continually had to battle for their right to coexist as equals in U.S. society, but women have similarly pushed against a glass ceiling. Even today, women still struggle for equal pay, equal rights and equal protection under the law in the workplace as well as in the armed forces.
Mia represents one of the most racially discriminated groups in the country as a black female. The same can be said for her Mormon identity as the LDS faithful endured bitter hatred and state-sanctioned terrorism in Missouri and Illinois in the 1800s. Mormonism remains grossly misunderstood and often unfairly judged with respects to their religious views while mainline evangelical traditions continue to wield Christian privilege at the expense of ‘fringe” religions like Mormonism. (Many republican supporters outside of Utah politely ignore Mia’s membership in the LDS Church, lionizing her as a fresh face in the party while secretly lambasting her for belonging to a “religious cult.”) Yet, Love’s political convictions show a strong support for values that do not necessarily represent her interests as a member in any of these oppressed groups.
In fact, Mia along with other conservative Blacks such as Allen West, Michael Steele, Amy Holmes, Alan Keyes, and Herman Cain ascribe to a party that rejects any notion of group inequality within its basic tenets of individualism. What many conservatives fail to recognize is that individuals are connected to larger groups, and those groups display patterns and behaviors that assess their levels well being in relation to society. When a group lags as a whole in the American scheme of profitability, it is because they typically display conduct in variance to the all around code that the white, male norm subscribes to. For example, Blacks aren’t doing well with respects to education, economics, and health outcomes while women still lag behind in salary and positions of power. These actualities of Mia’s reality seem to be in concert with her values that are based in a white male Christian context.
But the biggest quandary with respect to Mia lies with her inability to grasp Du Bois’ double consciousness. Whether this is due to her Mormon faith and the apparent Stockholm syndrome of black Mormons (whose membership in the LDS church differs widely from those of The Black Church which helped to sustain the African American community through some of the most difficult and turbulent times in American history rather than perpetuate racist folklore to justify black marginality) or due to her racial consciousness, by lacking the ability or refusing to code switch with the black community, Mia and others like her are seemingly out of touch with the political realities of African Americans and what remains at stake for them. It would be a mistake to assume that all black people are cut from the same cloth and share the same political inclinations. The Pew institute estimates some 3 million self-identified Black Americans are registered republicans; however, there has yet to be a ground swell of support for the right-wing ideology amongst the vast majority of African American voters. Thus, for most African Americans, it appears absolutely preposterous that someone black, Mormon, and female could possibly support the GOP so strongly given its history of anti-black, anti-feminist, and anti-Mormon sentiment. But this isn’t so preposterous when we recognize that American politics is a broken system in the business of servicing big corporations wherein Americans are duped into voting their values even when they contradict their political interests and success as a social group. African Americans are the only racial group that votes in blocks and, I would argue, the only group to vote their interests. But Mia Love does not align herself with African American interests, which is why a figure like her is so fascinating.
As potentially the first Mormon, black female from the state of Utah in the House, she has captured national attention. And her recent ascendency onto the political scene could not have come at a more convenient time when there has been a surge of interest in Mormonism due to definitive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. With the race beliefs and ideology that Mormons have been subjected to defending, Mia Love, as a seemingly bright and well-spoken GOP candidate, will prove to be a counter-answer to those raised eyebrows.
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In the above article Darron stated: “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.”
I understand this. Let me begin by saying I’m white. So that definitely puts me outside complete immersed understanding. Even though one set of grandparents were “recent immigrants” and I do know something about how they had to try to “adopt” more Americanisms for lack of long explanations. They were also subjected to “little jokes” by neighbors. I remember playing with children of their neighbors when growing up and I was aware of these little slurs. But at the end of the day they were still white.
What I truly don’t understand is WHAT EXACTLY does the black community expect from an African American who has achieved American success? I would appreciate specifics.
Does that person need to periodically make visits to housing projects and volunteer to babysit or tutor children for free? Does that person need to have an equal number of black friends and white friends, even though they have slipped through the Looing Glass like Alice, and now are in a white world? Should that individual work in the white world but only associate personally with African Americans? I am aksing very sincerely, because for a white person it is difficult to decipher exactly where the resentment lies when all the goals that African Americans are fighting for (lack of discrimination in housing, employment etc) are overcome by an individual and then deemed disloyal to the black community.
I would really appreciate specifics as to how to straddle both worlds so the black Americans that the individual “left behind” are not offended. I WOULD APPRECIATE SPECIFICS, because just claiming general resentment because the individual “just acts too white” is not answering my question.
Does she need to speak in the black vernacular? Is this part of the problem? Does she need to live withing all-black communities? Does she need to shun white friendships for the most part? Because I’m not black, I can only relate to what my grandparents did to slide into being more American. But they didn’t experience resentment at the hands of other people of their national origin. Their successes were lauded by their common origin community. But then again, they weren’t black.
Or is the solution to dismantle all rules of conduct deemed white altogether? Most, what I would call “professional” and “customary” rules of conduct in America, I would define as originating from European standards. Should we abolish those standards and try to blend them with standards from other cultures? I see this as a huge task. Is this the answer?
To be totally multi-cultural, it’s problematic in the light of common communication. If we don’t all agree on SOME common forms of association, then we can’t communicate with each other on a daily basis. In science, the names of plants and animals are in Latin so that all different countries can understand when one student discusses an organism with a student from another country. The burden is on each student, however, to learn the Latin names of the organisms. A time consuming task. But without this common link, there would me a great deal of confusion. Nobody would understand exactly which organism of which species you were referring to.
Again, I would appreciate SPECIFICS as to how an African American who has gained middle class status in a white dominated environment, is supposed to straddle both worlds without offending other African Americans. Or is the goal to dismantle all white “standards” in favor of a society that addresses all cultures living in America at all times? This is a daunting task, but perhaps it can be done. It’s debatable.
Hey there cordoba blue, I just wanted to leave some thoughts not on behalf of Dr. Smith, but more so from my own understandings that come from both studies and experiences, etc. I have no idea if they would be helpful or not.
In Texas, the majority of my regular social interaction happens to be with not “poor” but “po” Black friends and family. I do not have African ancestry unless it’s case that the origins of the human race originate in Africa and therefore, we are all of African ancestry…which is probably the case but that’s an entirely different topic here. So I am not here to speak on behalf of, or for, Black/African American individuals. But wanted to share an example that might help with your questions.
So we all know two Black men named “Shawn”. One loves rock music, the punk culture, etc., etc., etc., speaks in a manner that sounds “white”–if you were talking to him on the phone, you wouldn’t know you were talking to a Black individual. Both his parents went to college and he started college but took some time off. The other Shawn loves rap music, wears clothing that’s often associated with “thug” life. He comes from extreme poverty and his mother has been in and out of prison for dealing, and so forth. Both these Shawn’s know each other and are friends. Both Shawns are not really religious, in fact one is not religious at all. And when one of the Shawns are brought up in conversation someone always asks, “which Shawn?” and it’s either “White Shawn” for the former and “Black Shawn” for the latter, neither of which are meant to be insulting within this particular context and within this particular group of people. Now, if others made those references, there would be obvious offense taken by everybody for rather obvious reasons. But nonetheless, both Shawn’s self identify as Black, are Black, and are without question, considered Black by all others with the only white reference being related to the Shawn who likes rock music and punk culture, speaks “white”, etc. There’s one example. Both Shawns, while not religious, embrace Black Liberation Theological values and ideals. Both Shawns are ongoing victims of racism, despite one having parents who went to college.
Another example that is a bit different is with a family member whose Black. I say “Black” because that is how he self-identifies and this particular term has important meaning for him with relation to his identity and history in U.S. society. This particular individual challenges and argues with contemporary Black Panthers and strongly differentiates the “New Black Panthers” with the Black Panthers of the 60’s and 70’s. Whose more “Black” here the individual challenging contemporary Black Panthers or the New Black Panthers? At face value perhaps some would see him as advocating for white supremacy and so on…New Black Panthers would. Yet, Black’s around here who know him will say this person is “BLACK BLACK”. This particular individual is a Christian, but of a denomination/orientation that is not accepted as “Christian” by Protestant churches and denominations…and no not a Mormon, but of a group that has too suffered incredible oppression including being victims of genocide in the German Holocaust. With his own religious orientation aside, he strongly adheres to the Black Liberation Theology values–that’s his core.
All three individuals just noted above are Black, self identify as Black, and are considered Black within the Black community. All three of them embrace Black Liberation Theological ideals and values, despite their very different religious orientations. More examples could be added on of course, but for the sake of space, will stop here. But let me say here quickly, that all Blacks I know are strong Obama supporters, who too is highly educated, well articulate, etc. Blaque Swan always provides excellent comments on President Obama and racism, which is of course always in line with Black society, at least around here. Why have different feelings for Love? The main post, well both posts do a beautiful job of explaining this.
Black Liberation Theology embraces the principles of freedom, justice, and equality for all people and the dismantling of power hierarchies, which in this society, is based largely on skin color. We live in a capitalist society, which relies on racialized class stratification and pacified masses for its survival. Capitalism inevitably relies on oppression and exploitation…. In a capitalist society true notions and realities of “freedom” and “justice” and “equality” for all are inherently impossible. The principles of Black Liberation Theology, of which one does not need to be religious or even black for that matter to embrace, challenge racism and all types of oppression–check out Dr. Wright’s explanation and definition on this. It’s not that Black/African Americans do not like to see others “succeed” (this definition being within the white conceptions of what constitutes “success” in this capitalist society) but do have serious problems when Black/African American’s buy into and advocate for policies that are against their own best interest–this point was mentioned in the main post.
Anyway, I don’t like leaving long comments, but thought I would leave these examples for what it’s worth because it’s so much more than speech, dress, and even SES and these were things that sort of came to mind when reading your questions. Just my thoughts….
Seattle wrote:. “It’s not that Black/African Americans do not like to see others “succeed” (this definition being within the white conceptions of what constitutes “success” in this capitalist society) but do have serious problems when Black/African American’s buy into and advocate for policies that are against their own best interest–this point was mentioned in the main post.”
Thank you Seattle. Well, that was easy to understand actually, from the perspective of Mia being a Republican and therefore opposed to many of the Democratic more liberal-minded policies. Yes, Republicans and capitalism have, for a long time anyway, been pretty synonymous.
Thank you also for explaining Black Liberation Theology. There are many subtleties of being black that you obviously understand better than I do. Much better. I know very little about Black Liberation Theology. That explains a great deal.
I wish I could explain something to you regarding capitalism though. (I really appreciate that we are actually having a nice, calm conversation, by the way.)
I am an advocate of the idea, if you will, of Capitalism, because it’s supposed to be based on a meritocracy. I know what I’m going to say may sound knaive. But you have to understand my family managed to succeed only by dint of hard work. It was Capitalism that allowed them to go from being basically penniless to being able to buy a home and live a middle class life.
Many people have achieved the American dream, so to speak, because of the free enterprise system. The ability to come here “off the boat” at Ellis Island, and through miserable perseverence manage to own a home and put their children through college.
Now my family was WHITE. Please don’t think I am not aware for one second that this was in no way comparable to being black.If they were black and had worked as hard as they did, maybe they’d make SOME economic progress, but probably not much! So that’s a given.
On the other hand, so many people who’ve lived under a Communist system (and this is just one alternative to Capitalism) were miserable! I mean miserable. And you talk about pacified masses. That’s exactly what Communism as practiced in the Soviet Union totally depended on. A soporific population. Just give them enough to get by to keep them ignorant and docile.And ignorant is a key component. All media was controlled by “the Party”. Nobody read anything that contradicted the philosophy of the Party. Criticizing the government was unheard of. In America we can criticize until we’re blue. It’s not against any mandate.
Did I mention I actually tutor two children whose parents came here from Russia 10 years ago? I digress.
Anyway, I have also known quite a few people who were members of the Communist party in America during the 40’s and 50’s. Some of them were older FAMILY MEMBERS. I heard straight up from these family members, who would have no reason to exaggerate years after the fact, that they were very disillusioned with the manner in which Communism was practiced in the Soviet Union. They had very close ties with the Soviet Union and actually “took instructions” as to how to conduct their meetings etc straight from Moscow. This is all part of my family history.
This is one of the reasons that I cringe, when I hear people dismiss Capitalism. Everybody has different experiences Seattle. Mine influence me and yours have influenced you. For me, myself, to make Capitalism the fall guy is pretty much not possible for me, given my family history. The knowledge of the way Moscow functioned to manipulate the masses will always influence my thinking. The contempt (this is according to my family members) with which they regarded their citizens was horrible. “Just do what you’re told and be quiet. We know what’s best for you. You are children and we are your parents. You are better off here than anywhere else in the world.”
Now I know what you’re going to say. Sounds like the way plantation owners treated slaves. You are correct again. The irony of this has not escaped me.
In addition, I also surmise, Seattle, that you are younger than I am. So many of the concepts I grew up with were not concepts you repeatedly heard or are familiar with and vice versa. For example, your knowledge of Black Liberation Theology is something I need to learn more about. This was eye-opening for me. You can relate better, also, to young black people because you are young. At least I think you are. In some comment you hinted at your age. And it was definitely younger than me. Maybe I’m totally wrong about the age thing. But this is my memory. Anywho,,,
The point is I bring a different perspective to this blog than you do. Probably because of my family members who had intimate knowledge of the Soviet Union and its workings. So even though I truly hate that people are so freaking narrow-minded that they still treat others based on stereotypes and not as individuals,and make ridiculous judgments based on their race, it is a leap for me to flush Capitalism down the drain.
Maybe one of your solutions to diminishing racism in America is to do away with Capitalism and Free Enterprise. That’s a tough one for me to buy into because of the afore-mentioned reasons.
I once said that Capitalism can be used for good or evil, like many political systems. I still believe this. You can be a responsible, compassionate Capitalist or a manipulative, avaricious one without any moral principles at all. You do have a choice. I know many sincere Christian capitalists who conduct their businesses with much integrity. Anyway, my two cents.
Darron, did you see some of these puff pieces on Mia Love, and the white comments that she proves we are in a post-racial America? http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/power-players-abc-news/kind-republican-101708014.html
Darron did an excellent job of presenting the oddity symbol in the form of Mia Love. Your verbal paint brush was superb in providing us with the myriad of emotional pastels swirling around the vortex of conflicting social coping mechanisms; all of which appear to markedly distinguish the character of Ms. Love.
I have only one criticism with your depiction of Ms. Love, and that is without justification you attempt to conflate Ms. Love’s Haitian ancestry with our African American population through the ill-advised use of the mythical ethnic idenitity of “Afro-Haitian”. The only commonality here is Haitians and African Americans trace their ancestry back to the African continent and both groups are products of the European participation in the African slave trade. It is both demeaning and insulting to look upon Ms. Love’s features and skin color and then find amazement in her current achievements as an African American female. I am certain that Ms. Love’s Haitian parents provided her with a set of values and an established settled world view that is the rock solid resource supporting her ambition and success.
We have a sizeable Haitian population in my city, and even through many Haitian families have settled in areas that once were solidly populated by African Americans. I am certain that there are many such cities throughout the United States where these demographics are repeated again and again. Aside from the language differences there is something else markedly different mainly in the bearing and attitude of the Haitian population that distinguishes them from the other African American residents. I am certian that some components common among these Haitian residents can also be found in the attitude and personality traits of Ms. Love.
Mary, yes? You know I cold dig you. Gotta say that.
Having said that, in ‘part 1,’ Darron does make the distinctions you mention.
If Love keeps her seat and continues to advance in Republican party politics after 2016, then I’ll be impressed both with her and Utah Republicans. That said, should she win her election, it wouldn’t improve my perceptions of Utah. It’s still a bastion of whiteness.
Moreover, I’ve always been suspicious of white America’s self-professed “individualism.” After all, most Republicans seem to have no problem conceiving of Jews as a separate and distinct group. Evangelical support for Israel may be self-serving, but people who believe being pro-Jewish is equivalent to being anti-white (or anything else NoI) are generally viewed as antisemitic. What’s more, not all black Republicans fail to see themselves as members of distinct and separate group. For example, Colin Powell, and I think Condoleeza Rice, support affirmative action.
Lastly, I’m still waiting for Romney to explain why he didn’t advocate for racial equality in the LDS church and what he intends to do now to ensure equal justice.