Saturday, March 15, 2008

Racism and sexism in the 2008 presidential campaign

You must read this very insightful and well-written post on Zuky, a blog I will definitely be bookmarking (Hat tip to Racialicious). Some things you should know:

- Kai, who wrote the post, is neither a Clinton or Obama supporter, but believes he will vote for Cynthia McKinney.

- Heart, and all of my new friends from Women's Space, I have learned the error of making blanket assumptions about white women not supporting black female presidential candidates. I am too young to remember the Chisholm campaign and I encourage anyone with facts that disprove Zuky's statement to comment here, or better, on her post.
...All forms of oppression do share certain characteristics, but each one operates along a different axis of life. Sexism often operates in the most intimate settings, as sexist men often live with, marry, and rely upon women; but racism tends to flourish on a more coldly institutional level, as racist white folks seek to structure their lives precisely so that there is no intimate contact with other races. Neither of these situations is more or less desirable than the other; they function across different dimensions and cannot be lined up for analytically-honest comparison or correspondence; as is true of all forms of oppression. Yet the Clinton campaign has generated a depressingly vocal line-up of white feminists who draw wrong comparisons and conclude that sexism is a more virulent force than racism in today's society. Some white feminists insultingly assert that women of color are betraying their gender by voting according to race, denying the possibility that there are other factors in this election. If the argument is that feminists should always vote for feminists, then I'm curious how many white women cried "betrayal!" in 1972 if women did not vote for Shirley Chisholm's presidential run (which garnered 152 electoral delegates, while the Mondale-Ferraro ticket in 1984 won a sorry 13 electoral college votes). Indeed, I wonder how many white women supported the truly historic presidential "dream ticket" of Victoria Woodhull and Frederick Douglass, who joined forces to run for the White House in 1872 and whose radical platform included women's rights and abolition of slavery and racism. The most prominent white feminists of that era distanced themselves from the Woodhull-Douglass ticket, not only because they decided that anti-racism was a secondary issue but because Victoria Woodhull controversially advocated women's sexual freedom.

The bottom line is that race is indeed at play in this election as it is in all facets of US society, but this fact is neither here nor there. Let's get real: being either a woman or a man of color is a historically-proven obstacle to the presidency; but these factors aren't insurmountable in this day and age. I don't believe that either race or gender is the single determining attribute in this campaign. I believe that those who reduce the Obama campaign to the notion that "Black man prez is cool right now" are masking racist sentiments which remain largely unexamined. Such people are sinking in the tides of history; the times have passed them by. A new tide is washing across this
country, carrying a strange glimmering hope for progressive, redemptive, constructive change. I'm inclined to ride it and see where it goes. Read more...

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