Sunday, February 17, 2008

Race Trumps Gender

The Boston Globe asks a question the answer to which is a no brainer: In American history which bias runs deeper, that against blacks or that against women? In manyw ays this is a silly debate, but it is a silly debate that people are having, so it is still important and relevant.

Excluding for now the dual bonds of race and gender that black women have historically faced, this is not even a subject that warrants more than passing debate. Race trumps class in this debate. Slavery is the obvious example -- of course women were enslaved, but they were enslaved as Africans, as blacks, and not because they were women. Women contributed to enslavement, and further relied on the psesumed virtue of white womanhood not only to allow but to contribute to lynching and the general violance of the radical racist era, benefitted from and supported Jim Crow in all of its guises, and generally reaped the fruits of white supremacy.

I do not intend to argue that the plight of women has been easy. But in this day and age, Hillary Clinton walks around under the census category of arguably the second most privileged group of human beings ever to walk the planet: Affluent, politically-connected white American women. Only their white male counterparts are higher in history's food chain.

1 comment:

montana urban legend said...

Amen to that.

Many (white) female supporters of Hillary seem to resent Obama's rise, as if he's cutting in front of a demographic "turn" in some sort of line. I think the African American community, on the other hand, has made the more mature decision. They, first, wanted to see if Obama's appeal would be broad enough to find reason to back him. Those who support Hillary out of a misplaced or disproportionate sense of solidarity to their gender need to understand what qualities make for an effective president regardless of biological identity. In any other year, Hillary might have been the nominee. But her negative qualities as a potential leader need to be understood in gender-neutral terms, as they surely exist. And they can't be ignored as an excuse to deny the clearly more exceptional candidate from representing his or her party in '08.

Michelle Obama is already catching flack for some comments she made about not having had opportunity to feel proud of her country as an adult. But I can already tell that, as far as first ladies go, she has qualities that would make any hypothetical political ambition on her part much more effective than those which Hillary displayed. And as I also noticed with Obama supporter (Mo senator) Claire McCaskill, we seem to be entering an era where selfless honesty and a sense of open-ness to new ideas is rewarded with much more political capital than Hillary realizes. I think other female politicians in the world have been able to capitalize on this trend, and with Hillary it's either just not in her character to do so or she doesn't realize how to capture a long-overdue idea whose time has finally come.