Monday, February 4, 2008

Ethnicity, Gender, Identity, and Politics

Yesterday my local NPR station managed to tear itself away from its post-Super Bowl coverage long enough to once again beat the drum about the dilemma that has befallen people of color and women in having to decide between Clinton and Obama.

It would seem that the majority of Democrats have already agreed on one thing - they do not want another Southern white male to be president. The media pundits also tell us that people are no longer interested in the issues. I am not sure that is true, per se. I think that most of us really can not see al that much difference between the two. Also, what they say now will not be long remembered by the time one of them is in office. So what this boils down to then is that we the people are going to vote on the basis of the 'character and image' of the candidate.

The character of a person is a hard thing to measure if you do not actually know them and their public behavior has not been too egregious. Now I am cynical so I feel that as politicians they both have to be corrupt in some way, so I call it a draw. That leaves us with image. This would seem to lead us back to the fact one is a black man and the other a white woman and that we have to identify with one or the other.

Obama and I have at least one thing in common, we are both mixed race. He is decidedly African-American. His father after all was from Africa. I, myself, am black. [I have no connection to Africa except at the level of my DNA. Due to the laxness of record keeping for slaves, I can only trace my family back to 1809. But, in the oral and written records that we do have there is no lore, legend, or account about our time in Africa. - But that is another story.] There has been much made of post-race America in the last few months. I doubt that we are there yet. If we were, there would not be so much fuss about the color of his skin and a lot more about the content of his character.

My gender aside, I can also identify with Clinton. I grew up in a family with many strong women. Most of my career I have worked with women as my peers and my bosses. Other countries have also shown us that women can be world leaders. The idea of a woman in authority is not a problem for me. But, is America ready for it?

1 comment:

John B. said...

First of all, thank you for linking to something on my humble blog.
One quick observation about "post-race": You are right--Obama's candidacy does not instantly make everything all better regarding racial divides in this country, and I do not for an instant think Obama thinks otherwise. What I see Obama as doing is in effect saying, Let's speak of issues of racial/social/gender inequities with the a priori assumption that everyone is already equal to everyone else and to behave in that way from the get-go in our politics. To act genuinely in this way will, over time--not instantaneously, make it thus.

Whether this will work, even if given a chance, is up for debate, of course. But I'd just conclude by saying that, sure, it's idealistic--but give me idealism over cynicism and "purity tests" any day.