Thursday, March 13, 2008

Being schooled in Race, 2008

marjorie says...

Geraldine Ferraro's comments about Barack Obama show a disturbing lack of clarity on her part about the reality of being black in America (not that I know much about it). In reaction to her, I had the interesting experience last night of a black male friend of mine who generally steadfastly maintains an apolitical stance telling me that this country never let's him forget who he his. He's a person who refuses to engage in any nerdy policy debates, and who loves nothing more than pushing me out of my serious self with a decidedly politically incorrect joke. Not to mention, he's from a military family and thinks the American flag is a beacon of freedom. I tell you these things just to get across that he's not really the type of person who's been "schooled" politically in leftist ideas. But his remarks on race and Geraldine Ferraro last night to me could have been right out of our anti-racist playbook.

I was schooled in Race on the spot, from someone who never went to any of the workshops I've been to. It was a good reminder of, well, *reality*. In a nutshell, Power and Privilege are white prerogatives in this country, and no one needs to tell him that, because he's a black man and it is simply completely obvious. So why is Ferraro trying to tell us that those two things belong to a man because he is black? Obama is right: it is absurd to suggest it given the history of this country.

I don't care how Ferraro tries to spin her comments, or even if they were indeed taken out of context. As Karlos likes to say, nothing is by chance in this campaign, and both sides jump on these opportunities. So why give such opportunities in the first place? Ferraro and Gloria Steinem need to do some soul searching. I don't really care for the "post-racial" terminology, and certainly would not be on board if the "post-gender" term also had emerged in this campaign. We clearly do not live in a world that we can typify as either. But the last thing we need to do is pit race and gender against each other, and it's horrifying that it is being done by these two bastions of the 60's feminist movement.

I also want to comment on the analysis I've seen here and there about the Mississippi results. I've heard it said that Obama only won because he got 90% of the black vote, and that this kind of support from the black community is pushing some whites to vote for Clinton. Let's be very clear: Obama got 30% of the white vote in Mississippi because the white community in Mississippi is overwhelmingly RACIST. And perhaps, just perhaps, he got 90% of the black vote because this campaign has truly galvanized some black folks for the first time in a long while, like my friend. That's a good thing.

That the analysis takes a different direction shows just how poor the national dialog about Race is in this campaign. Mississippi is arguably the most racist and reactionary state in this nation. Just like Democrats usually have to rule out certain Republican strongholds, the vast majority of us have to rule out certain enclaves of reactionaries when a candidate like Obama comes along. And it isn't a loss.

At this point, we can clearly see that Obama enjoys the support of a massive number of white voters. In other words, a decisive number of white voters in the Democratic primaries are saying they are good to go with black leadership. In terms of Race, I would say that is the salient point, and most certainly the one that is the most remarkable. That he is black does not matter. All of us, but in particular us white folks, should recognize what this represents and push back at divisive comments and actions, like those of Geraldine Ferraro, regardless of who we voted for in the primary.