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Sunday 10 February 2008

Racism vs Sexism: This is not a Contest!!

I've talked before about why I like Obama. It was mostly emotional. He talks about the future. He links it with the civil rights struggles of the past. He invokes destiny and progress in nifty ways. A big component of this is that he stays positive. His charisma is a whole big ball of being positive.

When he gave a speech on MLK day talking about the need for queer equality, that was a strong statement and it was specifically against the queerphobia found in some black churches. But it was positive all the way. He's a uniter. Emotionally, he tells folks they're wrong without ever telling them that they're wrong. It's like he's got a great big tent set up and keeps inviting people in. And he's not telling folks that they're wrong as much as he's asking them to scoot over a bit to make some room for the new folks coming into the tent.

I wish everybody on the Democratic side would stay positive. Not just the candidates, but everybody. When pundits or whoever try to frame this as white women against black men, that especially gets my hackles up. Sexism and racism are related. It's not meaningful to argue about which is worse. Historically, advances for People of Color have been linked with advances for women. The same folks who worked to end slavery worked on suffrage. Many of the same folks who worked in the civil rights movement worked in the women's rights movement.

Ok, not everybody who is anti-racist is anti-sexist. And not every feminist anti-racist. That second case is getting a lot of attention right now. White, second wave feminists tended to ignore black women's issues and write about white women as if all women were white. Some of these folks are writing op-eds now that have this same problem and it's incredibly annoying. Gloria Steinem wrote a piece that, yikes, I wish she hadn't written it. Unfortunately, though, when folks react to this kind of op-ed, well, their reactions can be problematic too. Instead of arguing with the specific author or even the school of thought of the author or even second wave feminism in general, they paint with a broader brush. I'm not sure it's entirely fair to blame all of second wave feminism. There were influential and important black women in the movement. And, with a broader brush, I really don't think it's fair to blame all feminism. Third wave feminists are specifically anti-racist and feature more contributions of POC writers and also tend not to see things solely in terms of white vs black. (Shockingly, there are additional races in America.) I know third wave feminism has it's own problems which will probably seem glaring in a generation, but right now, there's a conscious effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, especially in regards to racism and homophobia, etc. Going yet another step further, it's really, really unfair to blame white women in general as a group.

There are pundits on TV that start talking about white women as if they're a homegenius group of suburban, middle class soccer moms, all implicitly or explicitly racist. Many of these pundits are white men! Yo! Get off the high ground, Mr. Chauvinist Pig! Right, contrary to what many seem to think, white women vary in age from 18 to over 100. They vary in income from grinding poverty to extreme wealth. They live in rural areas, in the city, in the suburbs. Not all of them are, will be, or want to be moms, soccer or not. Not all are straight. Not all are cisgender. So white, male pundits, complaining about racism, treat white women as a big group of identical, interchangeable, (not quite) people. Ironic!

The brilliant part about this is that it lets white men off the hook. Who profits when the disadvantaged fight each other instead of the advantaged?

So, can we all stop arguing about whether racism is "worse" than sexism or vice versa? They're different beasts! But they serve the same purpose of maintaining inequality and keeping the rulers up top. Instead, let's talk about who is going to help the most.

Position-wise, Obama and Clinton are pretty much identical on feminist issues. I don't want to cal them "women's issues," because it's kind of foolish to assume that these issues only effect women. If abortion is illegal, that increases unwanted fatherhood, not just unwanted motherhood. Every man that's tied economically to a women gets hurt by income inequality. Heterosexual men don't bear many of the direct costs of sexism, but they bear costs. Feminist issues are good for everybody, not just for women. And Obama and Clinton are both great on feminist issues. A single-issue voter can go for either of them and end up doing well policy-wise. Of course, somebody who actually IS a woman, well, if I were a single-issue voter, that would push it over the edge for me.

But, position-wise, Obama and Clinton are not equal on race issues. An anti-racist, single-issue voter would pick Obama.

There are a lot of reasons to back Clinton. There are a lot of reasons to back Obama. There are other policy differences,although not overly many. How about we keep it positive, eh? And can we lay off white women? (If we start in on sexist black men . . . .oy, let's not do that.)

Public Service Announcement

For all of you who switched your registration to vote on Super Tuesday, don't forget to switch back to the Green Party. We need you to stay on the ballot, not just in national races, where maybe voting Green isn't s useful, but in local races. We've got folks in state legislatures. We almost got mayor of San Francisco. Stay Green!


Daniel Wolf said...

Les --

As long as the US doesn't have proportional voting and coalition governments, votes for third parties are going to be wasted, leading more often to the worst candidate winning rather than the less bad. With first-past-the-post elections in the US, the essential dynamic is inevitably that of two parties with internal coalitions and it is important for green-oriented voters to assert their value to their coalition, which, at the moment, is located in the Democratic party. (This isn't necessarily -- in the past, there were liberal republicans like Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, who was more green than anyone in the Oregon Democratic party, if only out of local pride in not "Californicating" Oregon.).

My wife is a member of the German Green party and was elected to the local borough council, and my own sympathies here in Germany are to the Greens as well, but their status as a party depends upon proportional voting and, when elected, trying to influence their larger coalition partners. The results have been mixed -- former Green foreign minister Joshka Fischer supported unprecedented post-WWII German military action in Kosovo and in Afghanistan, but rejected Iraq -- but the fact that they have kept the enviroment, human rights, and political reform on the table has forced all of the parties to become more green in the tight competition for a very small number of swing voters; such a swing is unforseeable in the US with the present Republican party opposed to all parts of a green program, so the more essential issue is to build a better Democratic party in the short term.

While it may be possible that in some localities a Green Party will have influence, in national politics, if one is concerned about urgent short term issues as well as long term reform, there is no practical alternative to working with the large parties.

whatsername said...

Yes! Very nice.

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