Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Sex and Race Race

I am one of the most "race aware" people I know. Maybe the most. If one of my friends tells a story about being pulled over by the cops, they know I'm going to say, "Now, think if you were black and that happened."  

I'm a white person, but I'm attuned to the "black experience." While I was growing up, ours was one of the only white families in our neighborhood in Richmond, CA. I had to develop a keen awareness of the mood and make-up of the folks around me -- particularly the kids at school -- or I was likely to get beat up every day. I think the odd-kid-out in any school setting faces a similar threat to one degree or another. In California in the 60s, black families taught their kids to stand up for themselves, don't let anyone push you around, fight if you have to. A friend of mine's dad punished her brother for not hitting a kid who had hit him. I think those parents felt that their kids had to be able to defend themselves or they would perish. That I got through my entire childhood without ever being hit is a testament to my ability to assess situations quickly and to talk my way out of just about anything.

My neighbors were black, and to a lesser extent latino, but most of my close friends were white and asian. My high school was at the foot of the hill. Up the hill, everyone was white. Down in the flats, hardly anyone was. A day didn't go by when the difference between life as a white person and life as a minority wasn't clearly demonstrated to me in one way or another. 

I also consider myself a feminist. As the daughter of a single mother and a socialist father whose young girlfriends were all feminists, I had more than ample opportunity to absorb the lessons of "women's lib." We subscribed to Ms. Magazine from the very first issue and I read them all cover to cover. Plus, hey, I am a woman. I worked as a secretary in an office in the 70s and 80s -- if that won't learn ya about sexism, I don't know what will -- and I worked as a writer in software engineering in the 90s. The opportunities to see the disparities in opportunities never ceased.

One other thing about me, that I can't explain, is that I have tended to be on the leading edge of demographic waves. It's uncanny how many times I've taken up a habit, and next thing I know it's in the papers as "America's new habit"... eating fast food, buying new cars, exercising in clubs, marrying younger men, having children late, being addicted to the Internet, getting old and creaky ... I'm a statistical cliche. It's downright embarrassing.

But perhaps I'm breaking away from the pack at last. I hear people talking about the presidential election, and they are talking about race and gender as if that matters. Actually, come to think of it, I haven't heard any people talk about it. I've heard it on the radio and read it online. Maybe no one is saying it to me, because it doesn't matter to me. When it comes to voting for President, I am not going to vote for anyone based on their race or sex. That is just NUTS! 

I heard a woman call in to a radio station and say that she just had to vote for Hillary because she wants to break the glass ceiling, we need a woman president. My job literally dropped and I gasped. I couldn't believe someone would even consider that as a criteria for choosing a presidential candidate. I heard another woman say that she liked Edwards, but how could she vote for a white man? She had the chance to vote for a black man, or a woman, and she just had to do it. I could only shake my head in dismay.

Maybe I'm just lucky that I happen to find Obama to be such a great candidate. Maybe if I prefered Edwards's approach, I'd feel more conflicted? I don't know. I don't feel even the tiniest bit conflicted about not prefering Hillary, who is a girl, like me. She's not who I'd prefer to see in the White House. She's too pro-corporate, she's been too willing to go along with Bush over the years, she seems to have too much of an adversarial approach to problem-solving. 

If Clinton, or Edwards, became the Democratic candidate, I'd happily support either one, but my number one choice is Barak Obama. I hear he's black. SO WHAT????????????


Ritergal said...

Woohoo! I love the pack you lead with this idea of voting for the best candidate regardless of color, gender or whatever. Rad!

Don't you just dream of the day that all voters (this dream defines voters as citizens, so all voters includes the whole adult populace) vote for the candidate who most clearly states the problems and the most viable solution?

I dream of the day that all elected officials listen respectfully to constitutents and serve with the collective best interest at heart. No more under-the-table influence, no voting to settle scores ... I also dream of world peace — within my lifetime, which grows shorter each day.

I have a dream...and your idea will help make it come true. I hope you vote early and often. :o)

Paprikapink said...

Amen, Ritergal!