05-23-2018  3:47 pm      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Mississippi Avenue Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, May 22, 10 percent of proceeds from participating Mississippi Ave. businesses will go to SEI ...

Raina Croff to Speak at Architectural Heritage Center

'When the Landmarks are Gone: Older African Americans, Place, and Change in N/NE Portland’ describes SHARP Walking Program ...

Portland Playhouse Presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Through June 10

May 20 performance will include discussion on mental health; June 10 performance will be followed by discussion of fatherhood ...

Peggy Houston-Shivers Presents Benefit Concert for Allen Temple CME

Concert to take place May 20 at Maranatha Church ...

Lawmakers hold hearing to discuss Oregon dairy's downfall

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers are asking questions about what went wrong with a large dairy that is facing a lawsuit, regulatory problems and bankruptcy in an effort to find ways to prevent a similar situation in the future.The Senate Interim Committee on Environment and Natural...

Editorials from around Oregon

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:_____The Oregonian/OregonLive, May 23, on rebuilding faith in police oversight board:Derek Ashton, an attorney representing former Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea, didn't mince words in criticizing a committee's recommendation that O'Dea lose his police...

Tanker spills 3,500 gallons of liquid asphalt near Cle Elum

CLE ELUM, Wash. (AP) — Officials say a tanker rolled spilling about 3,500 gallons of liquid asphalt as it was taking an exit off Interstate 90 near Cle Elum.KOMO-TV reports the incident happened Wednesday when the tanker took the exit and went off the shoulder.The Washington State Patrol...

Amazon, Starbucks pledge money to repeal Seattle head tax

SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon, Starbucks, Vulcan and others have pledged more than 0,000 toward repealing Seattle's newly passed tax on large employers.The Seattle City Council on May 14 unanimously passed the so-called head tax that will charge businesses making at least million in gross...

OPINION

Prime Minister Netanyahu Shows Limits of Israel’s Democracy

Bill Fletcher, Jr. on racial politics in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uneven treatment of African immigrants ...

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

Will Israel’s Likud Party Ever Respect the Rights of Palestinians?

Bill Fletcher weighs in on the precarious future of the two-state solution between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Milwaukee chief apologizes for arrest of Bucks guard Brown

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales apologized to Bucks guard Sterling Brown on Wednesday for officers' actions during a January arrest that included use of a stun gun, and said some officers had been disciplined.Morales' apology came as the department was set to release...

Offshore worker alleges bias in federal lawsuit

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An African-American offshore oil worker has filed a federal lawsuit saying he was intimidated on the job by a supervisor who drew a picture of him dangling from a high rig structure while surrounded by co-workers in Ku Klux Klan hats.The lawsuit claims the worker was...

Comedian Josh Denny not sorry about N-word tweets

NEW YORK (AP) — Comedian and Food Network host Josh Denny has called his tweets using the N-word and comparing use of "straight white male" to the racial slur as "very incendiary," but he said he's not sorry.The host of "Ginormous Food" appeared on Van Lathan's podcast "The Red Pill" on...

ENTERTAINMENT

Deadliest Catch' star pleads guilty to misdemeanor assault

SEATTLE (AP) — Celebrity crab-boat captain Sig Hansen has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that he spat on an Uber driver last year in Seattle.The Seattle Times reports (https://bit.ly/2s3scWE) the 52-year-old "Deadliest Catch" star pleaded guilty Wednesday.Under the plea deal, a...

Lawyer: Harvey Weinstein targeted by federal prosecutors

WASHINGTON (AP) — Harvey Weinstein's lawyer said in a court filing that federal prosecutors in New York have launched a criminal investigation into the film producer, in addition to a previously disclosed probe by the Manhattan District Attorney.Attorney Benjamin Brafman said in a...

Comedian Josh Denny not sorry about N-word tweets

NEW YORK (AP) — Comedian and Food Network host Josh Denny has called his tweets using the N-word and comparing use of "straight white male" to the racial slur as "very incendiary," but he said he's not sorry.The host of "Ginormous Food" appeared on Van Lathan's podcast "The Red Pill" on...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

BE MINE: Maker of candy hearts, Necco Wafers sold at auction

BOSTON (AP) — The bankrupt 171-year-old candy maker known for its chalky Necco Wafers and those little...

Estimated 7,000 bodies may be buried at former asylum

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Some of the boxes stacked inside anthropologist Molly Zuckerman's laboratory...

Stand or stay out of sight: NFL takes on anthem protesters

ATLANTA (AP) — NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday aimed at quelling the firestorm over national...

French government orders evacuation of Paris migrant camps

PARIS (AP) — Police are preparing to dismantle makeshift camps holding close to 2,500 migrants in the...

2 patients who fled Ebola ward among the dead in Congo

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Two infected patients who fled from an Ebola treatment center in a Congo city of 1.2...

Summits give aged North Korean spies hope of returning home

GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — He's spent nearly six decades trapped on enemy soil, surviving 29 years in a...

Keli Goff the Root


Utah Congressional candidate Mia Love is married to her white husband, a rare
interracial couple in American politics

 

Though the latest census data confirms that the number of interracial couples in America has grown significantly in recent years, there is still one place in American society where their numbers remain largely invisible: the campaign trail. Despite our country electing a president who is of mixed race, mixed-race couples remain a rarity in American politics.

The furor that erupted over coverage of Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's admission that he once dated a black woman raises an interesting question, with few easy answers. If society is becoming increasingly multiracial, then why don't those leading society, or running for office to do so, reflect that? Why aren't there more interracial couples in American politics and government?

According to political consultant Michael Goldman, who has advised the late Ted Kennedy and current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the lack of multiracial families in politics is not that surprising. The reason, he explained, is that having a spouse of a different race still represents a political liability. "To be as ordinary as possible is the goal for a candidate," Goldman said, adding that most voters feel comfortable voting for someone they can relate to. Since most people still marry people of the same race, for many voters a candidate with a spouse of a different race is simply less relatable. He drew comparisons to the struggle faced by candidates who practice a different religion than the majority of their constituents.

New York public advocate Bill de Blasio has not allowed such concerns to deter him from a career in politics. He is mounting a campaign to become New York City's mayor. Should the Democrat win, he and his family would make history. De Blasio is white. His wife Chirlane is black. De Blasio admitted, however, in an interview with The Root, that the unique challenges multiracial families, including his own, have faced, can be a deterrent to entering politics. "If you're an interracial family you're still dealing with a certain amount of challenge from society around you just in having that family and in trying to make that family work." He explained that the glare of the public eye that politics brings could make coping with those challenges even tougher.

Echoing Goldman's sentiments, he said, "Society as a whole is not totally acclimated to interracial families yet." He added, "We can't think of another black-white couple active in politics."

They are out there, but to de Blasio's larger point they are few and far between. The highest profile mixed-race couples include former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who is white, and his wife Janet Langhart, a former Ebony Fashion Fair model and news anchor, who is black. They wrote of the challenges they faced early in their relationship in a memoir titled Love in Black and White. The only black justice currently on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, is married to Tea Party activist Virginia Thomas, who is white.

It is worth noting, however, that neither of these couples faced the scrutiny of a campaign. Both men are best known for appointed positions, which means they did not have to defend their unions before voters. In Cohen's case, though, he and his wife married while he was still a Republican member of the U.S. Senate, in the last year of his final term. He has previously acknowledged that the relationship gave some of his supporters pause, meaning their union could have become campaign fodder had he run for re-election.

Studies show that interracial relationships are gaining increasing acceptance with younger generations and that nearly all millennials do not take issue with such unions. Many observers noted that Rep. Paul Ryan is the first member of a major party ticket to disclose an interracial relationship, and at age 42, he also happens to be the first member of a major party ticket who is a member of Generation X. (Some have mentioned in comparison that President Obama had a white girlfriend at one time, but since his mother was also white, it doesn't make such a disclosure quite as noteworthy.)

Ryan is not alone. Thirty-seven-year-old Republican mayor-turned-GOP congressional candidate Mia Love, who is speaking at this week's Republican National Convention, is also a member of Generation X and has also dated interracially, and subsequently married. Love is black, while her husband is white.

Basil Smikle, a New York-based political consultant who once worked for Hillary Clinton, speculated that couples like Love's and de Blasio's may have an easier time than others, and not just because the public is growing more open-minded. Smikle theorized that black men with white spouses are likely to have the toughest time of all mixed race matches in a campaign. "I think for an African-American male candidate with a white spouse there is a credibility hurdle that he will need to overcome with black voters that another candidate would not face," he said.

He explained that while black voters may look at a black woman married to a white man and assume perhaps she simply did not meet the right black man, they see an accomplished black man married to a white woman and assume perhaps he married a trophy wife. This makes visiting black churches and other locales to which black candidates often go a challenge. For instance, as a candidate for the senate in Tennessee, Rep. Harold Ford was the target of an ad featuring a white woman suggestively telling him to "call me," which many viewed as a racially coded reference to his interracial relationships. Ford later explored running for the senate in New York, but by that time his white girlfriend had become his wife.

Though New York is not Tennessee, it still would have presented a challenge for him, Smikle explained. "I don't think it is something he could not have overcome," he added. Yet Smikle did conclude that "If Obama had a white wife it is unlikely he would be president."

Despite the challenges their unique family may bring in the political sphere, de Blasio and his wife are optimistic about where our country is headed when it comes to race. They recalled that they met weeks after the racially charged Crown Heights riots in New York, and it was love at first sight. Yet after the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever was released that year they were harassed by a group of teens that cornered them while shouting, "jungle fever."

Now, two decades later they are preparing to possibly become New York's first family. "Today we feel broadly respected and embraced with a few exceptions," he said. His wife pointed out, though, that there are still times when people see their family together and treat them like they couldn't possibly be a family, what both of them referred to as "awkwardness."

"The day I look forward to is when we are a country without awkwardness, where people just accept people in every configuration," de Blasio said. "You would think that by having a biracial president that would be the end of the chapter and we could all go home now, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have a long way to go."

Keli Goff is The Root's political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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