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.


  1. adia

    What a super post, and a great piece by Wise. There is no way to argue that it is a feminist act to vote for a man (McCain) who is stridently anti choice and who consistently votes against legislation to secure equal wages for women. Behaviors like these are a BIG part of the racial tensions that arise among feminists, and one of the saddest things to me is that feminists had these debates decades ago! If this–a willingness to vote for someone like McCain–isn’t evidence enough that refusal to acknowledge and unlearn white privilege is detrimental to femininsm, I don’t know what is.

  2. Wes

    Joe wrote:
    (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.)

    Hello Joe. Your analysis re racism and sexism in the media seems a bit off the mark. That is to say that the media will blackout any candidate it doesn’t want the voting public to be aware of. The insinuation made in the above quoted paragraph seems to suggest that white males are permitted mainstream media access and attention. You may have overlooked congressman Ron Paul and some others who are “white and male.” Like Cynthia McKinney, Dr Paul has been marginalized as a kook, ostracized by the pundits and virtually ignored by the media. Even after raising record breaking amounts of non-corporate sponsored cash, winning the majority of on-line polls, and national GOP straw polls, and Republican debates, his own party employed a myriad of dirty tricks designed to put him out of the race for the nomination. These woes always seem to fall upon anyone (Paul, McKinney, Kucinich, Gravel …) who isn’t a well entrenched card carrying member of the corporate establishment.

    Please note that these underhanded party tactics were not used against Obama, Clinton, McCain, Guilliani, Huckabee, Romney et al. In other words, the criminals in charge of the insane asylum (the current American political system) maintain their control of the nation by keeping anyone who isn’t a psychopathic personality, C.F.R. member, and a good ol’ boy willing to bow the knee to Israel as far away from the white house by any means necessary. This keeps the criminals and crooks rooted in power, looting the country, and bringing perpetual war, carnage and bloodshed against innocent people everywhere. Next up, Iran? What is truly astonishing about Americans is that they knowingly support these atrocities done in their name and financed by their taxes. Looking at this ongoing criminal state of affairs from my own personal racial frame-set (as a black man), my opinion is that Reverend Wright drastically understated America’s psychosis! I do not feel any relief, hope, pride nor pleasure re Obama’s nomination. As far as I can discern, he is as compromised (corrupt) as anyone else wielding power in America. One has to be a thief in order to hang out and run with thieves. Why should I, or anyone else, be happy about an African-American puppet potentially winning the office and doing the bidding of its white supremacist masters any more than I would be if the puppet was white? Where is the moral justification in that?? A puppet is just a puppet, no matter what its color is.

  3. TJ

    Tim Wise’s argument against the “feminist McCain vote” is necessary, it deconstructs a rationale that many dug-in Hillary voters might be sympathetic to. But the refute ignores the real forces at work here. I don’t believe for a moment that you can make a feminist case for McCain, but making the case was never about feminism. The feminist case for McCain re-works the premise of an old conclusion. I heard Clintonites talking about voting for McCain a long time ago, way before voting for Clinton became about feminism. This argument, honestly made, draws its logic from the cumulative attraction of Clinton’s Iraq war stance and claims of ‘experience’. But ‘experience’ lost. And that is the threat motivating many, i think. If you buy that Clinton is experienced, then the symbolism of an Obama campaign viewed from those invested in the status quo paradigm is threatened. The myth of ‘paying your dues’ is threatened. And that means a whole lot of people wasted their time.

  4. TJ

    I regret that I did some racial diminishing in the above post.
    The nature of Clinton loyalty has racial undertones and thinking about how reflexively democrats and citizens sort themselves into supporters for candidates, thinking about the strained, and at times, false ways citizens rationalize and justify their support, reflects, at core, my own cognitive dissonance. What Tim says is true.
    On a related note, take a look at this post about Michelle Obama over at racialicious.

  5. Ingemar Smith


    The article is about Hillary votes threatening to sit out. It’s not about media blackouts of any particular candidate. Your entire post seems to be on the wrong blog or about a different article.

    That or you are just deflecting.

  6. Wes

    Hi Ingemar,

    Thanks for reading and responding to my post.

    My comments were not focused on the article’s theme or thrust, but rather on a sentence within the article that I saw as suggestive: “If she were white and male, like Ralph Nader, she would indeed get attention.” The implication here is that white males, as in Ralph Nader and others, get a pass or favorable press coverage and that racism and sexism is overlooked by the press. I simply wanted to point out and expound on how the media ALSO overlooks other forces, people, ideas, movements, etc, that are outside of the establishment’s vested interests. In other words, there are other white males with very strong and popular grass-root support bases whose views, ideas and hopes for America fall well outside of the neo-con, fascist, world domination frame. The lapdog media has absolutely no intention of presenting to the people any ideas or solutions to problems that does not benefit or advocate the expansion of the corporate-military-political machine first and foremost, regardless of anyone’s race and/or gender.

    Does this help explain the direction of my post?

  7. I’m black and had Jesse Jackson still been on the ballot by the time my state voted in the primary, that’s who i would have voted for. JJ was not a lying f’g tool like Obama. And the witch hunt of calling nobama voters racist is really disgraceful. Your massiah calls himself a uniter and all his supporters can do is witch hunt, call names and try bully people into voting Obama. Reality check, some of us are not voting for Obama because he has less experience by far than any of the other candidates that stood on stage in January. And many of us are not voting obama because it was the DNC that handed us this limpwrist Zero for a nominee.

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