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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gender and Race - Still a Perculating Issue

My heroine, Maureen Dowd, has written a fabulous piece comparing Sen./candidate Obama to Mr. Darcy of Jane Austin's novel. Read it here.

The upshot of her thinking is that Sen. Obama is perceived by Hilary women supporters as haughty and not worthy of their vote. Sen. Obama must win them over by demonstrating his caring side and vulnerability. This is not an easy show and sell in a historic political campaign where a lot is riding on the outcome. In previous posts I wrote about the gender vs. race factor and the institution of privilege be it men or be it white. Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton share status as United States Senators but he is considered junior due to length of service. But it is there that the comparisons end. Sen. Clinton's supporters continue to rail against the gender bias that was leveled against Hillary during the primaries. Yet they say nothing about the racial bigotry leveled against Obama. The Hillary-ites want the Democratic Party to include a gender bias issue in the platform, which seems fair enough, only some want the item to be in specific reference to Hillary. Issues now become pulpits for candidates, and it is not the first time. Hillary wants her pound of flesh. Ok. I get it. I support it. But can it be done without casting aspersions at Obama? Can the feminist position cast a narrow net, or must all men be caught up in it. Well, it's kind of like white privilege - do any whites get a free pass just because their heart is in the right place? No. So Obama can't take a pass either.

What he can do is get out in front of the issue and champion it. He could score more points by embracing what the Hilliary folks want than trying to finesse it. Let your guard down Mr. Darcy. Embrace what you are not sure of and take a chance. Millions of whites are afraid to take a chance on a black man. Surely Mr. Obama in this historic setting can take a chance on women and support the cause. It may make taking a chance on him less of a risk than currently is sensed by some.

Face it. If someone is not going to vote for you only because you are black, do you really think you are going to jeopardize their potential vote by supporting women? Doubtful, because you were never going to get them anyway.

Supporting women can be part of the profound change movement, that seems to be ever so slowly ebbing away from us as Sen. Obama seeks to cling to his lead. Hedging bets is not the one that brought you to this dance and leaving with a new admirer is not going to generate the enthusiasm and support that you need to win. Black voters have supported Obama because of his race AND for some because of his hope and inspiration. He can't run from that now and by not giving something to the Hillary camp, he risks being seen as a cut and run guy.

White privilege is so easy to dismiss in our minds and pretend we don't have it. But the very fact of being white is to have privilege. What we can do is refuse to use it and that is hard. Obama has privilege by being a man and he can never shake that off. However, he can refuse is use it and that is what he must do now.

I am finding a similar twist of fate in my new city. While I am living in the city and not the suburbs, and gaining points with other whites who are dazzled at my courage (oh puleeeze), I am not living in a part of town that challenges my privilege. In fact my privilege is on display every day as a kind of I can live here and you have to get used it kind of scenario. I am very conflicted by the position I am in. I need to figure out how to take a bit of my own advice and eschew this privilege in a way that empowers those who are brought down by my position. I don't expect everyone to get my sentiment or to agree with my stance. But it is mine and I have to live it. Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted.

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