Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm a Woman and of Color. Maybe I'll Just Vote for a White Dude

*sigh*
*sigh* *sigh*
I'm already growing sick of presidential politics.

The presidential election seems to already be getting ugly and my guess is it will only get worse. Take for example a recent op-ed Gloria Steinem wrote for the New York Times. She starts out the piece trying to give us an image of a bi-racial lawyer & woman being qualified for Senate & then possibly the presidency. She goes on the ask:

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?
Ms. Steinem goes on to write that the key reason others would not find this WOC qualified is because of her gender and most U.S. citizens attitudes toward gender. Don't believe the hype folks. The reason some would not find the woman qualified for much (other then polishing their floors), is because this person in Ms. Steinem's example is a woman and of color. Not because she's one or the other. My point in acknowledging this is that it feels Ms. Steinem is trying to pit race against gender in the "which minority has it worse" competition. And guess what Gloria? There are no winners. And let's be really real here. When someone is a double, triple and so on minority, they get the short end of whatever stick, based on the combination of their minority statuses. One minority status is not exclusive to the other within a person with more than one minority status. Therefore Ms. Steinem's example was not only erroneous but wrought with the perspective of privilege.

Perhaps the title of Gloria's article should have told me from the get go that her piece was going to highlight the plight of the white woman only when it said "Women Are Never Front-Runners ." Because the "women" she was talking about were obviously white women. If the piece was really about all women she would have noted that though Black men won the right to vote half a century before women, Black women had watch their men get to vote and see their white sisters back then have the free time to go & fight for voting rights while many Black women had to go to work and take care of their families. I'm not saying all white women then had it easy or didn't have to work, but as most of us know white feminism has it's roots in the middle class, rather than the working poor.

In a lovely post on Reappropiate Jennifer Fang says what I think a lot of WOC felt after reading Steinem's piece.

"...Steinem’s piece (intentionally or unintentionally) draws a line in the sand between people of colour and women, essentially disregarding the everyday racism faced by Black and Brown people, and claiming the Oppression Olympics gold medal for women. Further, by casting the debate as between Black men and White women (despite her imperfect creation of Achola Obama), Steinem renders the woman of colour invisible, reaffirms the binary Black-White paradigm of race, and demands we take a side in the epic battle between race and gender. Is it no wonder, then, that women of colour have long felt alienated by feminists like Steinem? Where do we fit when we’re being asked to choose between Obama and Clinton as a metaphor for race versus gender? And how are we supposed to react when an incorrect choice labels us as “less radical”?

And I don't think I'm alone in starting to feel like if I vote for Mrs. Clinton I'm against Obama, POC and therefore against my own color. Or if I vote for Mr. Obama I'm against Clinton, women in general and therefore sexist.

Another example for my annoyance are the regular emails I've been getting from family & friends telling me how racist Hilary Clinton is. Here is the particular quote that has upset many.

"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," Clinton said. "It took a president to get it done."
Okay so she doesn't acknowledge Rosa Parks, or Jesse Jackson or other influential activists but she did mention MLK Jr. first. And for the love of you-know-who folks, it did take President Johnson to sign off on civil rights legislation getting passed. It took the work of the activists without a single doubt. But it ultimately took one dude, the president at the time to sign off on our rights. Sadly we have a system that makes things that way. And please don't tell me what the president does & doesn't sign isn't very significant. I know all too well how policies can hurt or help citizens freedoms, for example, say, Don't Ask, Don't Tell anyone? How about DOMA? That was a president who made that happen in the end, wasn't it? Many homophobes influenced Bill Clinton, but ultimately he made a decision about the value of queer people and acted in ink, by signing our rights away. It indeed took a president to do that.

There are many who ask "is America ready for a white female or Black male president?" And I think that is the wrong question. Because for many of us this country has been long overdue for someone other than a white man to lead from the "white" house. The question here really needs to be "are we ready for a president who can't be bought, won't stand to be lied to, won't lie to citizens and will truly be guided by the tenants that make up our constitution?"

Just because we have a woman or man of color in office doesn't mean these folks will think any more progressively than a white man. It is utterly prejudiced to believe that the body someone inhabits is the main factor in guiding their thoughts. For some folks their race, gender, sexuality or physical ability makes them more understanding of their own oppression and the oppression other minorities face. By by no means is that the rule. So let's not just vote for Obama or Clinton because of the body their in. Let's vote for a candidate based on their ability and heart.

Peace!
~F

4 comments:

Dennis said...

Hi! A colleague of mine actually wrote a similar rebuttal to Steinem's article. And, she got Steinem to write back. You should check it out here:

http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/gender-race-and-the-presidential-election-a-response-to-gloria-steinem

FrancesM said...

Thanks for the link!
~F

Jack said...

Hello,

I am trying to contact you, and figured this would be the best way! I loved spending some time reading over your blog -- I only learned of it a couple days ago when I picked up JustOut.

I actually saw you and Mycal at the BRO vigil a few weeks ago, and when I saw you in Just Out, recognized you :)

I'm trying to get in touch with you on behalf of the Oregon Students of Color Coalition. They are putting on a conference from Feb 1-3, and trying to get activists like yourself to come and present workshops that they can learn from.

Might you be interested in presenting a workshop about how to counter oppression? I thought the blog take would be very interesting for the students, especially considering they get more technologically savvy by the day.

I would love to hear back from you, either way!

Thank you so much!

Jack Galliano
Oregon Students of Color Coalition
503.725.8455
jack@orstudents.org

Diane J Standiford said...

I'm voting for Clinton. I am done debating myself over it. I refuse to be labeled anything because of my vote. If Harold Ford Jr were running (the guy the KKK smacked down in Tenn) I'd be more torn. And yes, if she were a he, I'd probably vote for Obama. NOW, if we want somebody that can't be bought---Bloomberg. What a long year this will be.