PSA Member James Courage Singer Running for U.S. Congress in Utah
The 2016 protests at Standing Rock resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was a pivotal moment for indigenous peoples, environmentalism, and tribal sovereignty. It was also the catalyst for PSA member, Navajo citizen, and Salt Lake Community College sociology faculty member James Courage Singer to run for public office.
At the time, James was working on his comprehensive exams at Utah State University. When the protests began to reach more national attention, he was helping to organize rallies and #NoDAPL protests in Salt Lake City along with many other community members. In one of his speeches, he asked that someone rise up and work alongside activists and organizers in government to make sure that this kind of exploitation would not happen again. He never pictured himself being the one running for office.
James cites his background in sociology as being one of the main reasons that not only sets him apart from his opponent but is also one of his greatest assets. “The sociological perspective is essential for policymaking because it helps us to understand that systemic problems require systemic solutions,” he said. “I get to talk to people about sociological concepts that are meaningful for our society right now: cultural hegemony, the Power Elite, class consciousness, the Double Movement, patriarchy, color-blind racism, and host of other ideas. It’s like teaching ‘Intro to Sociology’ but to a lot more people,” he said.
James is running in Utah’s 3rd congressional district which spans from the urban core of Salt Lake City’s suburbs into one of the fastest growing metro areas of Provo-Orem. It covers rural coal country and the Red Rock Country of Moab and Arches National Park. The district also includes the newly minted Bears Ears National Monument and the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in the Four Corners region.
In San Juan County, where both Native tribes intersect boundaries, there has been a long history of racial gerrymandering. The courts ordered new boundaries for county-level political offices and 2018 may be the first time that the majority Native population will see a majority of the county commissioner seats.
At the state convention in April, James won the Democratic party nomination with 77 percent of the vote. His platform focuses on protecting public lands and the environment, lowering economic inequality, expanding civil rights, and securing universal healthcare. He cites being a millennial as bringing a different, but needed, perspective in politics.
To find out more about James and his campaign, he can be found online at jamessinger.org and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@urbannavajo).