Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Race, Gender, and Identity Politics Double Standards

OK, folks. Don't take this the wrong way ... I'm just wondering aloud and being brutally honest about the thoughts that cross my ever-questioning mind, but ...

Why is it o.k. for Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and others to blare out loud the obvious fact that Hillary Clinton's admirable run for the Democratic Nomination to be POTUS put "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling," but it is somehow taboo to mention as directly and forthrightly the obvious fact that Barack Obama's successful run for the Democratic Nomination to be POTUS puts an equal, if not more, number of cracks in the racial barrier to the highest elected political office in this country?

I'm not intending to make race or gender any kind of reason for the merits of either Clinton or Obama's campaign; but I'm just noting how it seems to be o.k. in public discourse to recognize assaults on the gender glass ceiling, but to tread gingerly around what is the rather obvious and impressive fact of what Obama's nomination means to breaking the racial glass ceiling.

What Obama's nomination means to where we have come in the struggles for racial equality in this country are no less significant than what Hillary's campaign meant to gender equality. But the fact that we seem more comfortable talking in our public discourse about the significance of Hillary's campaign versus the significance of Obama's campaign regarding the question of gender and racial equality, respectively, also tells me that we've still got a long, long way to go on the front of racial equality.

4 comments:

Eric said...

Since we are being brutally honest, here is a brutally honest thought that has crossed my mind a time or two: If we do start to discuss the racial implications of Obama's nomination, how does his half-white status factor in to that discussion?

Huck said...

Eric - That is an excellent question. Usually, I don't think it's all that productive to go in such directions because it opens up a whole can of worms and elevates an aspect of our political culture that I think doesn't merit the intensity of attention it gets; but it's there. And so, not being ostriches with our heads in the sand, I think it's natural to wonder about things and to bring them up. And I think, if we are going to make race a topic of discussion, even in a casual way, we should be discussing what you raise, too. Because, if race matters at all (and I do think race matters at some level), the impact of Obama's mixed race status has to be considered. Thanks for bringing this up.

Cynthia said...

this was discussed ad nauseum in the media and academic circles after gloria steinem's op ed in the new york times when she endorsed clinton. there was a great interview that turned into a pretty heated discussion between steinem and melissa harris-lacewell on democracy now. here's the link to the transcript, but you should watch the video if you have a chance:

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/14/race_and_gender_in_presidential_politics

Cynthia said...

and since we're linking to democracy now, this is from today's show (totally unrelated to the topic at hand, but i had to share):

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/8/27/labor_groups_challenge_retail_giant_wal