Btn_red_77x28 Green website certified by Greenscroll Clip to Evernote

Friday, February 15, 2008

sexism and racism - 2008

Here's a good discussion of sexism and racism in our current presidential election contest between Clinton and Obama. The idea that Rush Limbaugh feels comfortable putting a parody on his show called "Barack, the magic negro" speaks volumes as does the fact that some web site can parody Sen. Clinton with toilet brushes sporting "First Cleaning Lady" label. Both of these examples are part of the new "sport" of politics and go with the territory. But what has really given me pause is the op-ed piece by Gloria Steinem making the case that sexism is worse than racism. Now, women of a certain age are supposedly supporting Hillary because we believe in the feminist cause, grew up in the fray, and support our sister. I guess I missed the meeeting, because I support Obama. Here is the link to her article and a link to the CNN discussion.

Here's the key quote from Steinem's article that I think bears reading fully:
"I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that."

Unfortunately, the point of her message is in fact to compare racism to sexism and that Hillary is not getting fair treatment.


As a white woman (who fully embraces the liberation movement, mantra, and mantle) who lives in an African-American neighborhood, I feel I have a perspective on sexism vs. racism that Ms. Steinem may not have. This gives me great pause because I fully embraced the "Ms." designation when it made its debut and continue to use it to this day. The idea that I have a different perspective from GS is important for me to acknowledge. But do it I must.

Racism always trumps sexism. In my very first post on this blog I noted that I, as a white woman and my roommate, as a black man, could each only disguise our gender, but not our race. Hillary can do many things to demystify, ignore, and downplay her gender. Gender is an ascribed characteristic. What if Hillary is a lesbian? Does that change the sexism discussion or not? But you cannot change, cover, or erase the issue of race. Hillary will always, always, always have a head start on Barack Obama by virtue of being white. Hillary has white privilege to draw on, use, and gain favor. Obama will never be able to gain those points no matter how he plays the race card or tries to invoke JFK (issues raised by GS). I take issue with the very issue that GS raises - that somehow Obama gets a pass on race while Hillary has to defend her gender. A pass??? Every day Obama starts from a negative position simply because of his skin color. Surely my feminist heroine cannot be so blinded by her zeal to advocate gender that she does not see the privilege she enjoys every day.

So, while I can throw volleys at the national pundits on this topic, do I see any reflections of the issue in my own neck 'o the woods? I feel the anxiety of sexism all the time - men reacting to me in ways that are dictated by our gender differences (and darn it, not in a way that creates valentines :). When white men engage in sexism, it seems unbeatable - white men trump white women. But when men of color engage in sexism, it seems less difficult - white trumps black and that can overcome the barrier of men trumping women. Sad isn't it? I can be comforted by my white privilege even if a man is giving me grief for being a woman.

The answer to this conundrum, of course, is to recognize and reject my position of privilege. I do this on a regular basis. It is not easy to do, but essential if we are to ever get over the sexism vs. racism debate.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

Racial politics is local

If you haven't been paying attention, there is a racial divide that is brewing in the Democratic party. It is shameful. Bill Clinton piled on what the Clinton campaign chief started - race war on Sen. Obama. Notice how silent our former President was after South Carolina. But in today's New York Times, Frank Rich writes a right on target op-ed piece. Please read it for yourself: Link

The Obama campaign has its own response to racial divides through the Yes We Can video that is on the web everywhere. has brilliantly put to music what will be remembered as a great speech by modern politician that speaks to our racial divide in a way that all of us can embrace. The video is available on this blog.

I just read an article in my local newspaper about a security guard at a store that ran out into the street after a shoplifter who grabbed a package of batteries. He chased the suspect for two blocks. What happened next is anyone's guess. But the suspect had a knife and stabbed the security guard. The security guard shot and killed the shoplifter. What a horrible tragedy, whichever way you look at it. The pages and pages of comments on the newspaper website in reaction to the event provoked racists, law and order types with no tolerance, liberal redemptors, black resistance, white fear, and a general cacophony of people talking past each other - each convinced that their POV should prevail.

Yes. We. Can. is a message of hope. We can get past a horrible and needless incident like this shoplifter shooting. We can find a way to deal with race in this country that doesn't point fingers at those who are discriminated against and those who do the discriminating. We can start at the national level and let the conversation trickle down to every corner of our country to allow us to have a discussion on race that is real, productive, and transforming.

My friend that is running for local office had a wild day on the campaign trail yesterday. In the morning he was quizzed by a white guy who was convinced that my friend was nothing but a black stooge, who would be used by the entrenched black politicians in our very divided city. By the end of the event and the dynamic conversation that my friend - the candidate- constructed, the guy from the audience became a supporter. Later that day, my friend had the opportunity to meet up with a large group of high school and middle school kids that he has worked with in various settings such as Anytown - a racial justice and equity program. These kids get the conversation. They love it. Black and white parents that accompanied some of them (to oversee their precious one's interactions and well-being) were stunned at the open and candid interactions of the kids. The adults all learned something.

We desperately need a national dialogue on race and the Obama campaign is giving us what we need. But it will not be as effective as it needs to be unless we have vehicles to continue the conversation locally. Be part of that conversation. Transform the dialogue in your town. We all have to take responsibility to make this happen and it is essential that it happen.
Yes. We. Can.