The Decreasing Importance of Melanin: the lesson from the 2014 elections

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Last night’s episode of The Daily Show featured a segment that discussed the diversity of the Republican wins on election night. Jon Stewart and Jessica Williams discussed the nontraditional and seemingly strange victories of Republicans (the first Black female Representative from Utah was elected, and the First Black Senator from the south since reconstruction was elected, both are Republican). Stewart asked Williams if this meant that the Republicans were the party for people of color, Jessica Williams assured him and the audience that no, it didn’t mean the Republicans were stealing the Democrats base and that it would remain clear that Republicans still “fuckin suck.” The country can expect this to be a pretty often repeated refrain coming from Democrats leading up to the 2016 elections. There will also be endless analysis of how Democrats can secure the Black and Latino vote and the lessons they need to learn. We can also be sure that the Democrats will not learn the most important lesson, the lesson that Republicans have seemingly embraced: melanin level has nothing to do with white supremacy.

Republicans are capitalizing on the all too common misunderstanding of race that associates ones values and opinions and interests with melanin level. They have realized that the country is getting more brown and in order to be relevant in the future they have to reflect this browning, the easiest and most superficial way to do this: run candidates of color. They don’t need to worry about turning off their base because they have remained steadfast in their policy positions and it is unacceptable to explicitly state you don’t want people of color represented. So, while the Democrats are doing everything they can to convince the white moderates in their party that they are not too closely aligned with policies and positions that are commonly associated with bettering the position of people of color such as: universal health care, taxing the wealthy, aggressively combating climate change and more general environmental issues, opposing militarization, ending the Drug War,  increasing SNAP, the Republicans are free to prop up token candidates of color that fully intend to perpetuate the culture and system of white supremacy while coming off as diversifying the party. The fact of the matter is that conservative policies hurt poor people and people of color. The small government approach takes away from the ability of the federal government to correct the monumental violence that has been perpetrated against communities of color. The conservative obsession with personal responsibility results in a world where the police take the life of a person of color once every 28 hours and the country actually debates what the victim did to justify being killed. Conservative fiscal policy and tax cuts for the wealthy have resulted in wealth creation being limited almost exclusively to the top 7% of our country while the wealth gap has only continued to grow. These Republican candidates will do nothing to stop that, black or white.

The problem is that Democrats don’t want to oppose white supremacy, they just want it to be a bit softer so they can count on people of color choosing them as “the lesser of two evils.” No matter how many Black people get elected, either Democrat or Republican, we are a country founded on white supremacy; it is in our very make-up. It is up to us, the people, to see through this charade, to reject white supremacy and abandon both of these manipulative, self-serving parties and start organizing and voting for our actual interests. We need redistribution of resources. We need to protect the earth. We need to stop valuing profit and property over people. We need to have a living wage. We need to end mass incarceration. We need to feed people. We need to shelter people. We need to educate people. We need to cure people when they are sick. We need the common good. If no party is talking about those things then we need to run candidates ourselves.  Until we do this, until we understand that white supremacy and whiteness have nothing to do with the color of our skin I fear the okie doke will continue to be successful, Republicans will continue to prop up token candidates of color and Democrats will continue to cater to the white paranoia of its members and the people will be stuck with no options because we already know they both “fucking suck.”

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