Tim Wise on Some White Female Clinton Supporters: Whiteness Showing?

The ever savvy Tim Wise has a sharp new piece called “Your Whiteness is Showing: An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who are Threatening to Withhold Support From Barack Obama in November,” in which he raises the key counter arguments to some of Senator Hillary Clinton’s supporters who say they plan to vote for John McCain or sit out the November election because of the way Cinton was treated by the sexist white commentators in the mass media, and by some of Senator Obama’s scattered supporters. Tim makes clear the distinctively white-framed thinking involved in much of this reaction:

You claim that your opposition to Obama is an act of gender solidarity, in that women (and their male allies) need to stand up for women in the face of the sexist mistreatment of Clinton by the press. On this latter point–the one about the importance of standing up to the media for its often venal misogyny–you couldn’t be more correct. As the father of two young girls who will have to contend with the poison of patriarchy all their lives, or at least until such time as that system of oppression is eradicated, I will be the first to join the boycott of, or demonstration on, whatever media outlet you choose to make that point. But on the first part of the above equation–the part where you insist voting against Obama is about gender solidarity–you are, for lack of a better way to put it, completely full of crap….Voting against Senator Obama is not about gender solidarity. It is an act of white racial bonding. 

He then adds: 

If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women–you know, the ones who aren’t white like you and most of your friends–but rather, like white men! 

And then nails the lid shut on his argument by pointing out a plausible way to protest that no Clinton supporters have suggested: 

You could always have said you were going to go out and vote for Cynthia McKinney. After all, she is a woman, running with the Green Party, and she’s progressive, and she’s a feminist. But that isn’t your threat is it? No. You’re not threatening to vote for the woman, or even the feminist woman. Rather, you are threatening to vote for the white man, and to reject not only the black man who you feel stole Clinton’s birthright, but even the black woman in the race. And I wonder why? . . . See, I told you your whiteness was showing. 

The comment is right on target. McKinney would make a great president. (And why do we not know more about her, and her platform? Notice the racism and sexism in the media, in ignoring her candidacy. If she were white and male, like Ralph Nader, she would indeed get attention.) Then Wise wisely concludes with this key action point: 

. . . you are now left with two, and only two choices, so consider them carefully: the first is to stand now in solidarity with your black brothers and sisters and welcome the new day, and help to push it in a truly progressive and feminist and antiracist direction, while the second is to team up with white men to try and block the new day from dawning. 

Sexism is systemic in this society and much in need of as direct attack as systemic racism does. But voting against Obama does not advance the anti-sexism agenda. Indeed, it does just the opposite. John McCain is infamous for his patriarchal views, his sexism, such as in his treatment of his first wife, and his view of women’s rights and women’s choices, such as his hard-right commitment to put more patriarchal theorists and activists on the Supreme Court such as Roberts and Alito. Electing the clearly patriarchal and right-wing McCain will likely mean justices who will cut back the rights of women, in numerous ways–as well as the rights of Americans of color, and thus ultimately, all Americans.

Joy & Something Else for Many African Americans

The New York Times yesterday ran a piece that addressed the mix of emotions for many African Americans that the Sen. Barack Obama’s nomination for president evokes.  Of course, many African Americans, and African immigrants to the U.S., are filled with joy.  As Marcus Mabry writes in the lede to the story:

Kwabena Sam-Brew, a 38-year-old immigrant from Ghana, doubted that Nana, his 5-year-old American-born daughter, would remember the rally that effectively crowned Senator Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee Tuesday night.  But Mr. Sam-Brew said he would describe it to her: “I will tell her, ‘Tonight is the night that all Americans became one.’ ”  Mr. Sam-Brew, a bus driver living in Cottage Grove, Minn., said Mr. Obama’s achievement would change the nation’s image around the world, and change the mind-set of Americans, too.  “We as black people now have hope that we have never, ever had,” Mr. Sam-Brew said. “I have new goals for my little girl. She can’t give me any excuses because she’s black.”

And, many people who identify as biracial (or the parents of biracial children) feel a special sense of joy and pride as Obama’s achievement as this woman describes:

Alison Kane, a white 34-year-old transportation analyst from Edina, Minn., said Mr. Obama’s success as a biracial politician would have a similar effect on her 21-month-old biracial daughter, Hawa. “When she’s out in, God knows where, some small town in rural America, they’ll think, ‘Oh, I know someone like you. Our president is like you,’ ” Ms. Kane said. “That just opens minds for people, to have someone to relate to. And that makes me feel better, as a mom.”

Yet, that joy is mixed with other emotions that acknowledge the reality of systemic racism in the U.S.   For instance, the article quotes Michella Minter, a black 21-year-old student in Huntington, W.Va.,

“People hate black people. I’m not trying to be racist or over the top but it is seriously apparent that black people aren’t valued in this country. In the last 12 months, six kids were being tried for attempted murder for a school fight, an unarmed man got 51 bullets in his body by a New York police officer, died, and no one was charged, and endless other racist unknown acts have occurred this year.”

For many African Americans, the reality of persistent racism in the U.S. means that every achievement, every soaring accomplishment, is tinged with the knowledge of how fragile that victory is, how easily reversed, how tentative the progress.   And, make no mistake, Obama’s victory is inspiring and remarkable, but it does not mark “the end of racism.”      For that, we have miles and miles to go.