One of the reasons I love Booman Tribune is because of the wonderful people here who are free to challenge and wrestle with issues, and to try their best to walk in a person’s shoes for a perspective not their own.
Of the many, many wonderful folks who post here, Supersoling’s voice is one I greatly respect. And he asked me a question that elicited such a deeply-felt (or for the more cynically inclined, totally wordy) response that I wanted more space to expand upon how I felt.
I feel like this diary is serving as a kind of political confessional. It is by far, not my best writing. I’m not advocating answers, just giving my response. I’m sort of surprised at the depth of feeling. It was only one man’s honest question, after all, not a slam or a provocation. But it was a good question, and one that allowed me to name my frustrations–I hope, for the last time about this subject of this primary–all of the attitudes that surfaced; my belief that it was made to be divisive purposefully; and how I’m trying to make my way through the muck of all that.
The question, in part was this (Super’s full post is here):
…from my perspective it’s difficult to communicate what I think about this and other racially charged aspects of this election fully so far simply because I’m not black and there is, at least it feels to me like there is and I could be wrong, an unspoken restriction on how far one can take the conversation when you’re not black. It feels like there’s an automatic disqualification of opinions coming from anyone not living and walking in those shoes. That could be just my own trepidation.
But it could also be in part, and again, this is my perception, that there’s a pretty thin hair trigger at play here from the Obama side, and especially from many of his supporters who are black. It’s easy to see how someone who doesn’t support him or even merely questions his qualifications could feel browbeaten into silence because of the real instances where charges of racism are being leveled indiscriminantly. I’ve seen white bloggers all over the place qualifying there remarks upfront as a way to preempt being called racist in the same way I’ve seen many bloggers who are nuetral between Obama and Clinton and now Obama and McCain qualifying criticism of Obama by stating their opinions aren’t evidence of any support for Clinton. That charge has been made against me several times now here on this blog. Even after stating unequivocally that I’m supporting Cynthia McKinney. Three days ago I was judged here to be an Obama hater, and thus untrustworthy because I didn’t fully love him enough. And that from a white person. It’s like it’s become the default response for many of Obama’s supporters. And when it happens enough it can lay waste a person’s reputation. Worse than that though, it creates an unbridgeable divide.
And this is my response.
You’re probably right in that it feels like a minefield for people who genuinely don’t see eye-to-eye with Barack Obama politically–nothing more, nothing less. It’s probably easier for me to respond to you because I feel like I know you. And supporting Cynthia McKinney probably helps in my estimation because I frankly believe it takes more balls to support her. Now the Honorable Cynthia McKinney–now THAT’S a woman, though she is not perfect (I know how she treated her staff, and that wasn’t pretty), I nevertheless feel has been screwed by the party.
Hillary Clinton, OTOH, has not. Not buy a country mile. Or 10 of ’em. And I find it very telling that most of the die-hards say they will support McCain, rather than McKinney.
In my experience, when it comes to dealing with whispered racism, it’s very much like pornography–I know when I see it. Sounding “taller on the telephone” because, for the person you’ve just met in person, you did not “sound Black.” People expressing surprise in your talents and abilities. And on and on.
What is universal is that it is quite independent of ideology: conservative, moderate or liberal/progressive, it matters not.
[Minor aside: if you saw Syriana, you’ll remember that scene when the Jeffrey Wright character stood up in the meeting, and you could hear a pin drop, right? Mr. AP and I laughed our asses off at that scene, with a predominantly white audience that was quiet. I’m sure many thought it inappropriate. But we laughed because we’ve been there in one form or another when you’re underestimated and frankly, unwelcome.]
It also doesn’t matter if your last name is “Clinton.” Sure, the Clintons like Blacks…as far as we know–i.e. Vernon Jordan–but let’s not forget the ways they’ve pull race out of their ass when they needed it covered. See also: Sistah Souljah, Ricky Ray Rector, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Lani Guinier, welfare reform and draconian drug laws.
Their attitude is quite like Joe Biden’s fresh and clean moment. I described it this way in January:
I’m going to try to be careful here, because I don’t want to generalize, but here’s my take. There is a wariness among SOME (not all) African-Americans when dealing with SOME (not all) white liberals and progressives. There is a very real sense that SOME (not all) are very willing to act when it’s clear the object of that action is subordinate–acting on behalf of children or teens for example. And that person is sincere about what they are doing. But that attitude changes when an African-American is not subordinate to them (by age, economically, by mgmt rung, etc.). That’s when those patronizing “slips of the tongue” come to the fore.
Kinda like Joe Biden and the “fresh and clean” thing. I know Biden’s record. I know he’s not a knuckle-dragger. But when faced with the prospect of dealing with an African-American on the same level–a senator running for president–it was if he couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. Thus his “gaffe.”
[For the record, I’m not looking for stilted Kumbayah conversations; I only wish we can all be brilliant and screw up and have that elicit a normal response, not one based on relative levels of melanin.]
So when I hear But he’s unqualified!, I really have to wonder. Is it because his experience is somewhat different from the standard Washington prerequisites that we’ve become accustomed to over the last quarter century or is it something else? Because honestly, the Constitution is quite clear on the requirements. And when it comes to experience, he really does have more than she does.
Yes, she’s smart, but she also married smart and had a US Senate seat handed to her.
So sure–they didn’t mind him so much when they didn’t perceive him to be a threat. Hell, he may have even been seen as good veep material. They probably admired his gumption to even mount a campaign that would surely lose.
And when he started winning? Oh, look–it must be sexism that’s holding me back! And while I’m making excuses…let me pander to hardworking white people. Look, I’m sorry, Black folks…nada personal. But this is my destiny. And ya know…you’re such a forgiving lot. I’ll make it up to you by patting a CBC member on the head. Oh, alright–I’ll show up to church in October and leave a big donation in the plate. There. Friends? Thanks.
And since that didn’t work and she came up short, it seems that even being a United States Senator is now somehow beneath her. She, and only she, must be made SC Justice or Majority Leader or some such as recompense. As if there’s no one else that is talented and able to make positive contributions in the party. It completely chafes my ass.
For me, it’s this simple: I did not, under any circumstances, want a Clinton Restoration. I didn’t want it in 2004; didn’t want it this year. A Clinton Restoration meant the return of Terry McAwful and the “coordinated campaign” at the DNC that did not give a half a damn to anyone on the ticket except for the presidential. It meant the return of triangulation. It meant the return of the DLC. Opening the floodgates to tired hacks like Dick Morris and Mark Penn.
Frankly, I do not understand this stupid tripe that she somehow is this Feminist Avenging Shero and that her candidacy was about avenging the injured feelings and bruised egos of the Gloria Steinem/Geraldine Ferraro set. And Barack Obama was the perfect foil for it. It is literally ludicrous on its face.
They want to beat up on men? Start with the insipid Mark Penn. And include a few licks for her husband.
First, Penn: who in their right mind would hire that stupid hack, anyway? Why are they so enthralled by him? She had someone who wrote a good bit of the DNC rules on her campaign (The whiny Harold Ickes, who always seems to get screwed by the Clintons, only to run back and ask, “May I have another?”) but didn’t use his knowledge? She didn’t know or care about caucuses? About Texas? WTH?????
And B. Clinton. “Mis-speaking”? Bullshit. As president, your every word, comma and sigh has meaning. I’m supposed to believe that Bill suddenly forgot that fact on the campaign trail? Why don’t they beat up on him?
OK, leave the husband out of it–beat up Mark Penn. But oh no, it’s much easier to take it out on Obama. Why?
I mean, you have her blogosphere supporters trying to spin “shuck and jive” (the turd bouquet from Andrew Cuomo) as a “neutral” term used for all types of politicians. Do a Lexis Nexis search and see if that’s factual. Not!
B. Clinton and Jesse Jackson–like you think he and the rest of her supporters somehow didn’t know that “Jesse Jackson” is a boogeyman for A LOT whites, and that Barack’s achievement could be minimized, because you know–we’re just Black folks…who cares?
Look, both Bill and Hillary knew they could get away with it–or thought he could get away with it. And why? Because they’ve done so before. Well, where are they going to go? With the repubs? They’re not going anywhere. Same as liberals/progressives.
I have seen this triangulation with my own eyes, Super. And I don’t begin to give a damn that it just bit them on the ass. In fact, I’m rather tickled by it.
There has been a lot said about sexism by H. Clinton’s white women supporters. And when they couldn’t find any evidence of it by his campaign, they made it up: he said “periodically” (are you kidding me?); he gave her the finger, he played “99 Problems” (but a b—- ain’t one) at a campaign rally (which must be the ultimate in dog whistles since no one can actually provide evidence of this) etc. But they not only IGNORED her race baiting (to be kind) statements, they ignored her when she was just straight asshole-ish, i.e. “do you need pillows?” and lying about his pro-choice stance (showing that they care more about Hillary than choice which is unacceptable)
Don’t even get me started with Steinem (yeah, let me know when she or her mother ever had to count the number of bubbles on a bar of soap like my MIL had to when attempting to vote) and the vile Ferraro who conveniently tried to take down Obama using the same language she used against Rev. Jesse Jackson 20 years ago.
I’m sure it was a coincidence.
Or come up with the fiction that somehow, someone who is worth $109M, was handed a Senate seat and a political machine is somehow oppressed and somehow (even richer) had the nomination stolen from her. What the fuck ever. “Stolen” implies ownership. I’m sorry that it was an actual competition. And she lost.
As the Clintons have said themselves in other contests…”Nothing personal. It’s just politics.”
Which gets back to the suspicion that I have of the “bow down to get my vote crowd”: Obama learned the rules. Followed the rules. And somehow, that’s not good enough? Eyed with suspicion?
Now where have I seen that before?
Clearly, I feel very foolish because for all these years, I thought the women’s movement spoke for me. Ha! I am duly chastened and will clearly have to be more mindful and discerning. I just hate looking foolish.
And here’s another thing: I am tired of being criticized for being passionate about a presidential candidate, esp. one Not. Named. Clinton. What, is there a law? WTH is so wrong with inspiration?? Can I just be flippin’ inspired–for once??? This is the first time that someone I was passionate about won a nomination.
Is he perfect? Unless his name is Mr. AP, then he doesn’t even come close.
But my evaluation is that he is more progressive than our other candidates and more effective (maybe with the exception of John Kerry, who is flippin’ outstanding on the stump–for Barack Obama. It’s almost painful to watch because the man on the trail now is one that may have won then). And given that he started his entire operation from scratch 16 months ago, and has led it well, I am more than confident in his leadership skills.
There will be positions that I won’t agree with him on, but pragmatically, he can’t be “perfect” and be taken “seriously,” especially after a steady 30-year diet of right-wing speech, worldview and values.
But it is a start. We have to start somewhere–and I choose to start with electing President Barack Obama.
I’ve worked with people for common purpose even if I didn’t support, agree with or vote for the candidate. Some of her die-hards plainly believe that they are too good for that.
There’s a lot of upside to an Obama Administration, including the SC, federal courts–heck, he can strike the Mexico City policy (a.k.a. the “global gag rule”) the next day by Exec. Order. That’s just the beginning! I don’t know why that’s not exciting and hopeful, for women here and also around the world. I really want people to examine their attitudes and what we all have to gain–or lose more of–in the aftermath of this election. In spite of it all, I want to work in common cause and with common purpose.
But know this: We will win this thing with or without them.
Update [2008-6-15 9:56:23 by AP]: I forgot to define the Mexico City language/policy: Also known as the global gag rule, it denies federal funding to NGOs that provide or even discuss abortion. The link is provided above.
The global gag rule can be rescinded by Executive Order as soon as Obama walks through the door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Update [2008-6-15 9:56:23 by AP]: I’m not sure why I don’t see the link, but click here [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico_City_Policy] to learn more about it.
Update [2008-6-15 10:22:45 by AP]: I just fixed the link. Bad coding on my part. Sorry about that. Clearly, I am out of practice!