Why I Cannot Celebrate Mia Love's Historic Victory

by Kinsey Clarke
Not all of our skinfolk are our kinfolk. - Zora Neale Hurston

In light of the election of black Congresswoman Mia Love, I’d first like to say that I was raised a Black Conservative. I’ve written on this before, and my experiences growing up with parents who were heavily influenced by right-wing politics made me blind to race and gender; and how both of those things intersect in America. As I’ve grown and left behind those ideas, I can see how wrong the erasure of my identity as a Black woman is; and how it ultimately served to negate the relevance of my experiences as a Black woman as they relate to politics.

That being said, newly-elected Congresswoman Mia Love falls into everything white Republicans love: her insistence during a CNN interview that her victory “had nothing to do with race” is a part of their mantra of assimilation. However, it is strangely contrasted to her victory speech where she stated, “Many of the naysayers said that Utah would never elect a black, Republican, LDS woman to Congress… Not only did we do it, but we were the first to do it.” Love hypes up her race and gender when it’s time to show how “progressive” the Republican Party is becoming, but she quickly casts aside her blackness at the first opportunity to show that she’s not one of “those blacks” who discuss and try to dismantle the racist system that has kept us from having this representation.

Love fits the Republican narrative of: “Look at this minority person. They did it, so why can’t you?” She will be used and paraded as a token, and her election will be yet another tool the right-wing will use to criticize the rest of black America. Her enthusiastic colorblindness is yet another facet of Republican dogma. This was also evident when she referenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech in Chicago last year: “Think about people like Martin Luther King. Imagine if he had decided to fit into this mold that society told him to fit into.” In her quest to embrace the whitewashed image of MLK, Love seems to forget that the civil rights leader pushed for recognizing people of color’s humanity, rather than assimilating to the point of becoming colorless.

As a black woman, Mia Love’s election is a step in the right direction in giving politics the representation of diverse people it so badly needs. But I can’t help but wonder if her denial of her race and gender is supposed to make her more relatable to the people who vote for her: conservative white people. As she sheds two of the most significant parts of her identity to become a leader in her community, it is evident that being a black woman in politics means publicly abandoning who you are in order to get the vote—at least in the Republican Party .

I look at Mia Love and I remember what it was like to believe that ignoring my skin color and the color of others would simply make all the problems in the world disappear. I remember thinking that black people didn’t try hard enough, and the issues that plague our community were entirely our fault. I remember thinking that distancing myself from my race would set me apart, and thus, improve how people perceive me; but I didn’t think about how white Conservatives would still view me as a “special Negro,” a constant reminder of why Affirmative Action is unnecessary. I remember using my blackness to cosign the conservative idea that black people who voted on the left were only doing so because they wanted handouts.

I know better now. But seeing Mia Love verbalizing all the ideas that black Republicans hold dear reminded me that internalized racism is a problem they will never admit to having.

Mia Love may share the same skin color as the black community, but her willingness to distance herself from the rest of us is telling. I applaud her for making history, as she worked hard to make her dreams happen. Even so, I cannot support someone who denies her Black womanhood, as soon as she succeeds.

If that’s the case, the Republicans can have her.

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here.

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