There are a lot of matter to contemplate after the historic victory of Barack Obama’s presidential win on Tuesday night. I wrote this comment below in an article on Racialicious entitled, “Good, and Now Back to Work”:
As someone who occupies both sides of this argument, I agree with the basic concept of what Wise says but strongly disapprove of the attitude he uses in saying it. There is no place in the progressive community for condescending and arrogant put-downs, ESPECIALLY from a white cisgendered able-bodied man.
Tim Wise has educated a lot of people, and I admire him and quote him often because of his efforts, but I’m betting he wasn’t in San Francisco or Omaha on Tuesday night, where the consequences of pushing centrism have eliminated decades of progressive efforts and enshrined racism, bigotry and homophobia into the state constitutions.
As a leftist progressive and the daughter or a first-generation dual American-Kittitian citizen, I am beyond elated at what happened on Tuesday. It was the culmination of decades of ambition, careful planning, and grassroots organization intermeshed with a cultural convergence and a shift in awareness among a new generation sick of the crap our progenitors handd down to us and allowed us to inherit. I was crying. I was weeping in joy and disbelief. It meant so much to me to know that I might soon have national health care and not worry about moving from state to state, that people lived up to their promise to vote the way they said they would, that negative campaigning is no longer a successful strategy when we expose it, that I can tell my future children that they can be anyone or anything they want to be, that I can tell my future grandchildren that I was there when the world changed.
However, I woke up the next day much more sober and aware of the immense challenges and expectations Obama faces. He had to be perfect and he had to be a centrist in order to win. He had to be better than not only every black American running before him but better than every other white American running against him. I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I suspect that one of the consequences of a globally connected society is that the trend of watching every step you take will only grow more difficult. Guns and bitterness, anyone?
You can celebrate an historic moment and lose yourself in it for one night, even one week or one month, and still not lose sight of the ethical compromises you have made to ensure any victory rather than no victory at all.
I barely had time to decide what was more important: my health care (and with it, my career opportunities, my parent’s financial stability, and my education) or my desire for integrity in a campaign. When I worked on his campaign for three months and gave up my sanity and most aspects of a non-political life to ensure that Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, Pensylvania kept our state blue, I went through a lot of ugly crap and saw others endure much, much worse in order to see Obama win. My initial motivations for helping him were anti-conservative sentiment, intense disgust with the racist idiocy surrounding me, and the knowledge that he held the promise of securing our Supreme Court from decades of evil legislation and providing America with health care and a (more) progressive environmental stance, to say nothing of a way out of Iraq and an end to deregulation and corporate greed. As I spent more time listening to what he was saying, it became clearer that while we desperately need a dramatic reversal from the last eight years, we are more likely to see a fundamental and permanent shift to the left if we have someone to talk the conservatives down and reign in their ire and indignation.
I don’t want to have to fight the fight of my lifetime every four years just to protect a reversal of Republican policies. I don’t think we can keep any of the changes we make for the better unless we educate the middle Americans and stop calling them stupid in public, even when they are stupid and bigoted and flat-out wrong. Me clinging to my moral ideals won’t help the poor and the disenfranchised nationally. Some leftists seem to forget that local action only goes so far and can be overturned easily. The American people are too afraid to revolt; if they were going to overthrow the political system, they would have done so already. I choose to change our laws and opinions from the inside out, because frankly, I can’t wait thirty years for a dramatic shift. I need change now.
Obama was not my first choice. He wasn’t even my second choice. He is my final choice. I don’t feel like I voted against Bush this time. I voted for Obama.
I am now working on the Obama campaign every single day. I’ve been making phone calls and knocking on people’s doors trying to convince them to vote for Obama since the week of the Democratic National Convention at the end of August. Lots of our volunteers here in PA have become complacent, thinking that victory is a sure thing, which is absolutely not true, and the few of us hardcore workers have been trying to pick up the slack.
I have a commission-based job to plan out after the election, a NaNoWriMo novel to outline, a request from an editor for a short story partial, and re-enrollment at Harvard (my last chance) for next spring to worry about. I finished my voice acting projects earlier in the month, but more work is coming. It is so hard to keep up with the several blogs on which I’m supposed to be working, much less my RSS feeds to which I am normally addicted. There is never enough time as it is without the 2008 Election, and now that we’re down to the wire, everything is surreal, and I’m just trying to capture and catalogue it privately for future reflection as best I can.
I think the racists have intimidated a lot of our earlier canvassers who were people of color - everyone is so brave to put up with some of the crap people hurl at you. Just the other day, my boss’s white mom took a black woman out canvassing with her for the woman’s first canvas. The first house they approached, a woman looked out the window, saw the two of them, and screamed that if they didn’t get off her property in ten seconds, she was going to call the police and Thre Would Be Trouble. No Obama pins, no posters, no visible campaign materials. It was seeing a black woman on her doorstep that made her freak out.
The crap that ignorant (usually white) people will say to you when they think you’re white is really, really scary.
Als, the word socialist is bandied about a lot here. I don’t think it means what conservatives think it means. Libraries are socialist. The Post office is socialist. The Veteran’s Administration, Social Security, Medicare and the Wall Street bailout are socialist programs. Obama? Not so much.
Interesting links for the week:
There’s a discussion going on at Racialicious about Tim Wise’s newest article, “Your Whiteness Is Showing,” a great piece that basically destroys any reasonable argument about why white feminists refuse to vote for Obama.
See, I was so furious at the behavior of many, MANY, so-called ‘progressives’ in the blogosphere. Not just at Hillary supporters around the time of her concession speech, but at Barack supporters during the same time period as well. Most of what galled me does not bear repeating here.
I thought through two drafts of this post. One was a livid diatribe, wherein I told off everybody and pointed out how stupid everyone was being and exactly why they were being so incredibly stupid. Another was a conciliatory gesture of entreaty and unity, in wich I pleaded for the common cause of social justice to remain in people’s minds before their emotions overrode rational thought. The final one basically just said, Screw you guys. I’m going home.”
That’s why I couldn’t post any of it. Luckily enough, my narcolepsy is kicking in, and I’m too tired and halucinatory to really care what anyone thinks right now. Woo-hoo!
That’s the upshot of sleeping disorders: even if you f*** up, there’s plausible deniability.
Anyway, on to the post. It’s a response of mine to the convo over at Racialicious:
I cannot believe that any true progressive would look at the current situation and do anything BUT vote for the Democratic or Green candidate, DESPITE whoever he/she picks or doesn’t pick as a running mate.
There are two parties of anry people out here in the blogosphere: those who support Hillary are willing to vote McCain or not vote to spite Obama, and those who support Barack but will vote McCain or stay home if he puts Hillary on the ticket.
I think the fact that so many people are willing to jeopardize our economy and more lives in Iraq, a failing healthcare system and a government in serious need of a fox-purging of its henhouses shows how incredibly privileged they are. It’s not like the people who will directly benefit ( or SUFFER) depending on thr outcome of this election are more important than their f***ing principles. God we swallow our pride and vote to do the most good now, when we have a decent chance, while we still have a chance. It’s not like the past two years have had a series of devastating Supreme COurt decisions on everything from Freedom of Speech to equal pay after Bush replaced two justices. It’s not as if Stevens is 88 (30 years older than Tim Russert when he died this Friday) and the other progressive three are only a few years younger. We shouldn’t care one whit, because we’re going to “take a stand!” *eyeroll*
For anyone who thinks thee is no way Obama could lose — an argument I hear from people on both extremes — I would point you to the latest gallup polls to show you that Obama’s actually losing among certain voting blocs.
That’s right: after everything, 911, Katrina, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanemo, FEMA, the wiretapping, the CIA leaks, the suppression of environmental warnings, the deregulation of nearly every agency that was doing any good against corporate interests, the callousness and arrogance with which the Bush administration has recklessly pursued the interests of the few rich and powerful…
McCain and Obama are virtually TIED.
Newsflash: Obama and Clinton? Both centrists.
Clinton? Allowed racist codespeak to taint Obama. She’s white, and people are surprised when her privilege and prejudice show?
Obama? Condescended to women during the campaign (although I personally think his posse is more to blame for the internet misogyny than he is). He’s male, and people are surprised that he calls women by demeaning nicknames?
I would vote for either of them over McCain any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Why, you ask? Because my health care bills can’t wait another four or eight years for people to find the perfect candidate to support their principles. Because the conservatives are remarkably good at inciting fear, increasing tensions and driving their sheep to the polls in massive numbers.
Progressives operate on the assumption that everyone should treat others with respect and mind their own business. Conservatives operate on the assumption that people who disagree with them are wrong and should be criminalized, and they never take a day off. It’s remarkably easy to herd a bunch of lemmings into a line and march them off to battle (or off a cliff). Meanwhile, progressives think that they have infinite amounts of time to argue and bicker and create divisons within their ranks because, hey! They’ve got this one in the bag!
Yeah. I remember hearing that one in 2004, too.
In summary, I’m not buying it. Some of us can’t afford to wait for change until it’s convenient for others to vote for it. We need it now, before it’s too late.
Karnythia talked about the way in which Women of Color view acts of chivalry today. The gist of her insightful post, at least in my humble opinion, is that WoC are rarely, if ever, afforded the kind of Princess and Pedestal treatment from white men that many white women find degrading and insulting — things like men holding out chaires for women, insisting to pay the check or walk her home, and yes, calling a woman a “sweetie.” Juxtaposing this, Men of Color are taught to be ever-respectful of all women, that an offer of assistance or protection does not automatically question a woman’s ability to take care of herself but shows repect and solidarity instead.
For the most part, women of color, especially black women in the U.S.A., never benefitted from the ideals of chivalric love continued past medieval times and into the Enlightenment Period. They never experienced the pampering and idealizing of “Republican Motherhood” during the Nineteenth Century that leaves a bad taste in white women’s mouths. They have been taught to be self-reliant, because most of the time, white men have treated WoC as objects, not as people. They have had to rely on men of color to play any chivalrous roles available. Women of color are far more likely to see chivalry as a sign of respect and politeness than as condescension or assertion of control.
It may not be a perfect world, but we all work with what we have, and since the playing field is so different between white women and women of color, it’s no surprise that Karnythia took a lot of flak for pointing these truths out. Some white females cannot seem to accept that ‘OMG! Chivalry isn’t always sexist!’, or at least there are differing opinions as to what constitutes sexism in the PoC community.
Discrimination doesn’t happen in a vacuum. More often than not, there are multiple prejudices at work in any given problematic situation.
Here are my two different responses at her cross-posts:
First, at the LJ Feminist Community:
I know this has already been said, but I wanted to add my two cents:
1. It’s the effect, not the intent, that matters. In this case, Obama realized that what he said, although totally innocent in his mind, could be hurtful or demeaning to women, and he made a effort to correct his behavior.
2. Men are inherently going to be sexist at times, just like white people are racist sometimes and don’t even know it. Stuff happens. It’s what you do in reaction to a problem that defines your position. Obama swiftly called up the reporter and apologized. I have a feeling he’s going to be a lot more cautious about what he says to female strangers in the future.
3. We don’t know his motivations, but we do know that he’s trying to better himself. As I’m not inside Obama’s head, I can’t say whether it’s the realization that he may have bad habits that might hurt others or the fact that everything he does is being recorded at all times that ultimately drives him, but hopefully his behavior will continue to improve.
4. Everyone should hold open the damn door for everyone. Doors are heavy, and they like to hit you in the face.
5. I am perfectly okay with anti-door discrimination.
Then on her blog post (emphasis added):
I call people ‘hon’ all of the time. So it [meaning 'sweetie'] was sexist. He bloody apologized, and he did so before the woman complained to him. THAT’S what’s important here. He didn’t become defensive and insist he did nothing wrong; he said he was sorry immediately and learned from the experience.
There’s a learning curve in the Obama camp, something that the Clinton camp is sorely lacking at this point.
This whole subject has me wondering if my Dad behaves differently towards women at his office (there are few) vs. women in public. Of course, now that he has less hair and has paled slightly since I was a child, he probably looks less threatening. But I think he said a couple of months ago that he still would debate offering to help a white woman alone in a park if some white man was harassing her, because he wouldn’t want to end up shot.
The MoC catch-22 of chivalry with a gun at your back reminds me of that line from “Mrs. Robinson”: Any way you look at this you lose.
So my final words on this? I would have been insulted. I would have probably made a snarky comment for my news report, too. But I also would have accepted a personal apology, which some feminist bloggers seem unable
or unwilling to do.
To the Hillary supporters: Look. I’m not trying to minimize the crap that has happened to her during this camaign. It pisses me the hell off, too. Please don’t confuse a rebuttal of the blind outrage that I see over “Sweetiegate” as a dismissal of concerns over sexism. I was so disgusted at the mainstream media’s treatment of her leading up to Super Tuesday that I foamed at the mouth and cheered as the pundits threw up their hands and looked like idiots, the stupid paid shills. I am, however, turned off by Clinton’s efforts to taint Obama’s candidacy in order to better her own campaign. Her unwillingness to apologize when she does something wrong is HUGELY problematic to me.
Both Senators need to tell their PR people and supporters to calm the hell down and stop saying stupid things in their names. Six months ago, Democrats had this election served to them on a silver platter. How did we manage to turn it down for a brass tack?
Whose fault is that? Can we lay all of the blame at the feet of the candidates and John McCain, or does part of the problem lie with us?