The Huffington Post recently published a controversial piece on newly elected congresswoman, Mia Love. In his piece titled “She Looks Black, but Her Politics Are Red: What Mia Love’s Victory Means for the Face of the GOP,” Dr. Darron T. Smith argues that Love’s conservatism compromises her identity as a black woman. He accuses Love of benefiting from white privilege, and questions the legitimacy of her experience as a person of color, saying “These actualities of Mia’s existence seem to be diametrically opposed to her values that are grounded in a white, male, Christian context. She appears publicly unhampered by the daily grind of white racism that affects other racial minorities within the United States.”
Throughout his article, Dr. Smith diminishes the ideas and experiences of conservative black Americans. He equates true blackness with leftism, and ignores the increasing ideological diversity of a dynamic community of black individuals. To say the least, I found Dr. Smith’s article irritating. But this piece was merely the cherry atop a pile of disappointing Mia Love coverage. Even more irritating is how the majority of media coverage on Love’s run for Congress has made her race and gender the central issues of her candidacy.
So, here are some cool things about Mia Love that have nothing to do with her skin color or number of X chromosomes:
“Fiscally Responsible” is her middle name.
Alright, not actually. But it should be! Love served Saratoga Springs UT for nine years, first as a city council member, and then as mayor for three years. Under her leadership, Saratoga Springs was able to cut expenses, and reduce the city’s deficit during the economic slump of 2008 from $3.5 million to $779,000. According to recent reports, Saratoga Springs now has the highest possible municipal bond rating for a city of its size. You go, Mia Love.
She’s a problem solver.
In 2002, during a particularly buggy year, residents of Love’s Saratoga Springs community faced a huge mosquito problem. Residents found their homes blanketed by mosquitoes, but had no luck persuading the community’s developer to spray for the bugs. Residents quickly became fed up, and needed someone to solve the problem. So they turned to Mia Love. She argued on behalf of her neighbors, and eventually the developer conceded and agreed to spray for mosquitoes. Mia Love quickly became known as a problem solver within Saratoga Springs, was elected to city council, and has been kicking butt and taking names ever since.
When it comes to public schools, she practices what she preaches.
Typically, politicians love public schools, but love sending their kids to private ones. Not Mia Love. She says “American families want better quality education, lower education costs, and more local control over decisions related to education.” And she speaks from firsthand experience because her three children all attend Utah public schools.
Love is also a proponent of charter schools, and while she was mayor, Saratoga Springs experienced a surge in charter school enrollment. One charter school, Lakeview Academy, received greater funding to increase enrollment from 750 to 1000 students while Love was in office.
When she falls, she gets back up.
In 2012, Love ran a great race for Congress, defeating a handful of formidable GOP opponents in the Republican Convention. (The Utah Republican Party selects its candidates in conventions rather than primaries.) Love made it to the general election, only to lose to Democrat Jim Matheson by the narrowest of margins. But Mia Love doesn’t quit, and come 2014, she was ready to win.
On top of everything else, she’s an incredibly talented performer.
Mia Love’s passion for theater started in high school. She was one of 11 people in her school district to qualify for the University of Hartford’s Performing Arts Program, which is considered by many as a stepping stone to Broadway. Mia Love was even offered a role on Broadway! She turned down the opportunity to perform in the production “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” the longest running musical revue in Broadway history.
While electing the first black Republican congresswoman is certainly monumental, and ignoring race in an attempt to be “post-racial” is rarely fruitful, solely focusing on race is not productive. It’s important to recognize Mia Love’s race and the historic role it assumes in the outcome of her election, but Love is so much more than the color of her skin. More diversity in the GOP is great, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of celebrating the individual accomplishments of its members. In the coming term of Congress, I look forward to seeing Mia Love bring the same fiscal discipline and problem-solving attitude she showcased in Utah to the issues she’ll face on the national stage.