Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We Are More Than We Are. We Are One.

Light posting, as I'm hammered at work and with the garden and have a Dark Moon ritual tonight.

But I was discussing the racism/sexism/generational thing this weekend with the brilliant and beautiful Athenae from First Draft and I've been e-mailing back and forth this morning with my dear friend E., who's noted that apparently today is: Whine About Racism Demonstrated by Democrats Who Refused to Vote for Obama Day. As E. wrote: "But where's the goddamn mea culpa from all the media, LIBERAL and conservative, about how their overt sexism torpedoed Clinton's campaign? Oh wait - I forgot. The one truly revealing thing we learned in this primary season is that, while overt racism is no longer OK in the US (a good thing), overt sexism is still A-OK, no matter what your political persuasion. How silly of me to expect recognition of that!" It's been interesting to me to watch how many young, white, male bloggers have dumped on Clinton for superficial stuff, even criticizing her when she's done things we've complained for years that the Democrats were unwilling to do, such as scalping the media for bullshit attacks on her daughter or insisting that we should let everyone vote and count every vote (not to mention watching the men complaining that the announcers on her ads sounded "too much like announcers" or that her failure to seriously contest DC (which has few delegates and which she was never going to win) indicated serious problems with her campaign, but voicing no such concerns when Obama wrote off states such as West Virginia). As I said to Athenae, at some point, one begins to perceive an underlying organizing principle behind the behavior. Surprise! A lot of liberal men (who likely consider themselves feminists) are sexists. And I think that's, in part, what's got E., and me, and a lot of other women pissed off. (And a lot of liberal women who don't consider themselves racist are, surprise!, racists. I'm looking at you, Geraldine.)

You can't live in this society and not be tainted by both racism and sexism. That goes for women and African Americans as well as privileged white men who imagine themselves free of any such notions. You can try, you can be self-aware, you can learn, but you can't live in this culture and not carry the taint. And you can't live in this society and not carry those taints because racism and sexism are both malignant symptoms of the same disease: Patriarchy. In the Patriarchy, Power Over is everything. In order to exercise Power Over, one must consistently create new "others" over whom the privileged members of the Patriarchy can exercise power. African Americans and women have been prime targets, but so have gays, lesbians, immigrants, young people, old people, etc. And the Patriarchy prospers when, for example, women and African Americans fight with each other over the tiny piece of the pie that they perceive is available to maybe one, but not more than one, underprivileged group. Arguments about which group has suffered more at the hands of the Patriarchy strike me as pointless. The goal seems to be to rank groups by who has suffered more so that the most harmed group can get first crack at all of the (again, perceived) few crumbs of power that the patriarchs are willing to toss towards the "others." Ranking, in and of itself, is almost always a tool of the Patriarchy.

What's needed, IMHO, is to stop letting Patriarchy define the terms, the concepts, the frame of the debate. Early on, Clinton and Obama could (and, I think, should) have quit playing the winner-takes-all game that Patriarchy wants us to play and figured out ways to co-president or co-govern that would have been good for all of us. They still could. Whichever candidate you support, one thing is clear: almost half of the Democrats supported the other candidate. And yet, in what could and should have been an historic and happy time for both women and African Americans, the Patriarchy has prevailed and, regardless of whether the nominee is Obama or Clinton, one large contingent of Democrats will walk away angry and hurt.

Obama supporters tell me that one thing that they really like about him is his emphasis on change and on a new kind of politics. Those are vague terms to me and I'm not sure what he means by them. He'll have a chance, over the next few months, to put some meat on those bones, to show America what those words really mean. I'd like to think that he'll find serious ways (and I don't mean just a nice speech or a few appointments) to reach out to women. I'd like to think that, in whatever role she plays, Clinton will find ways to repair her heretofore stellar relations with African Americans.

Because we both lose as long as the Patriarchy has us angry at each other.

Update: Ian Welsh has more.


Clare said...

Beautifully written, and full of truth.

pie said...

It's going to be much easier to "repair" relations with AA's. She still has the support of many - those who have stated they'd vote for her if she were the nominee and public endorsements by politicians and other public figures. She has a long history of supporting and working with that community.

It's Obama who has yet to demonstrate his unifying abilities. I'll be waiting to see what he's going to do. This comment by someone in his campaign certainly doesn't make me optimistic, however:

. . . Obama is not, one of his senior advisers assured me Tuesday night, going to spend a lot of time in the next few months wooing Clinton supporters whose feelings may be hurting.


Anonymous said...

Just this morning a quite wonderful-in-most-ways Obamaniac sent me the Michael Tomasky essay in the Guardian... which-- first off-- called Hil's speech last night "emasculating." The Obamaniac had no idea, I am sure, that this would make me mad. Funny thing: he hasn't answered my email...