Bringing Up Slavery When Talking About Modern Politics Is Always a Bad Idea

Illustration for article titled Bringing Up Slavery When Talking About Modern Politics Is Always a Bad Ideaem/em
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Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) may be playing coy about potentially running for president in 2020, along with roughly 30 other shy guys, but his attempts at presidential rhetoric about the divisions in America are a bit much.


Hickenlooper recently appeared on Politico’s “Money” podcast where he discussed the polarization of attitudes between people in rural areas and people in urban areas. This is a vital issue, but while I’m not sure I would go so far as to liken the situation to pro-slavery versus anti-slavery states, Hickenlooper did, via Politico:

“We are seeing a divide in this country that is as significant as when we had slave states and anti-slavery states,” Hickenlooper said. “This rural-urban divide, people in rural areas of Colorado and across the country feel like the urban areas have just left them behind and don’t care.”


Perhaps this is why my French teacher, who gave classes in a Boston Market every Sunday, used to refer to Hickenlooper, then mayor of Denver, as “Chickenlooper” (it’s not why).

The urban-rural divide has been an issue of growing concern for Colorado. While Denver continues to develop, households in rural Colorado are still working to get high speed internet and gain access to dwindling funds. But comparing that, or broader national divisions, to the disagreement between states that supported the enslavement of black people versus states that did not is absurd and diminishes the importance of both issues.

It’s also an extremely careless comment on race. The changing racial demographics of Denver and Colorado do play a role in how the state is developing, but invoking the language of slavery automatically restricts the active players in the conversation to white people. It’s not like Hickenlooper was affording a political voice to the slaves themselves with that analogy.

So yes, the growing urban-rural divide in Colorado and across America is an increasingly dire situation that does need to be addressed, but let’s just leave the slavery imagery out of it, OK?

Isha is a staff reporter who covers pop culture, representation in media, and your new faves.

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