Have you ever been in a debate with your right-wing uncle and when you ask him for proof of his wild claims, he pulls up a Fox News article? Instinctively, you roll your eyes. Of course he sought out Fox News as a source—it’s a haven for people like him. Everything he already thinks about minorities, LGBTQ people, Muslims and single moms is there. Automatically turning to Fox News to search for information that he knows will affirm what he already believes is called a confirmation bias.
On December 29, news broke that Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the new House majority whip, had addressed a white supremacist group in 2002. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke founded the European-Unity and American Rights Organization, or EURO, in 2000, and Scalise, then a member of the state legislature, rallied the support of EURO members to oppose a proposed new tax. Amid critics’ demands that Scalise be pushed from his leadership role in the House, his fellow Republicans half-heartedly expressed support for him, calling his appearance before the group a “mistake,” while Democrats offered a mixed response. The most vocal support from inside Congress, however, came from Mia Love, who represents a district in Utah.
Love recently made history by being the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican. Despite her personal history as a child of Haitian immigrants, she holds extremely right-wing views on immigration and now, apparently, white supremacy. Congresswoman Love essentially gave Scalise a pass, saying that he should stay in his new leadership position. “He has been absolutely wonderful to work with. He's been very helpful for me and he has had the support of his colleagues," Love said on the January 4 edition of ABC’s This Week.
What Love and other black conservatives like Ben Carson and Allen West may not realize is that their very presence serves as every racist’s confirmation bias. When blacks and other people of sound mind decry Scalise over associating with a racial hate group, right-wingers can point to Love and say, “See? Good black people are totally cool with a top elected official palling around with white supremacists!”
Members of minority groups who seem to be blind to racism—or purposefully ignore it—are either looking for political gain or have internalized society’s bigotry. It is likely that Love and others like her desire the approval of their white peers and have bought into the idea that they’re “not like the others” of their own racial or ethnic group. They’ve bought into the dominant culture’s bias against their own people, and deemed themselves to be righteous exceptions to the trumped-up rule.
Writing off Mia Love and Allen West as out-of-touch right-wingers is easy, but the truth is that these very visible blacks hurt the cause—the ongoing quest for equality. As long as they continue to disregard racism, and side with those who would pander to white supremacists, racists with an agenda will always have a valuable token to confirm their biases.