Friday, March 14, 2008

In which I examine (my) racism

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "You've got racism in my sexism." And I see now that I missed the point and the bigger issue.

When I wrote it, I didn't intend to throw my hat into the pissing contest of what's worse-- racism vs. sexism. But I see now that I did. And to be fair, I still have some mixed feelings. In my opinion, the mainstream media does seem more comfortable being sexist, than racist. For instance, the Washington Post gleefully published (and defended) their Charlotte Allen op-ed piece "Women are stupid" but the idea of publishing a “Blacks are dim” article--- probably not going to get past the editor’s desk…

All that aside--- since my original post, I've been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of racism. While I may see a society that’s more sensitive to race, there’s no way as a white woman that I can gauge this.

A while back, Feministe featured an excellent post called, "Sixteen maneuvers to avoid really dealing with racism" where a variety of racists behaviors are discussed.

For example:

The Utopian Eye-Gouger who says: “I’m colorblind, personally… why can’t we all just ignore race, it’s not like it’s even real… it’s not like I tangibly benefit from being white every day or anything! Can’t we all just get along?”

I see a little bit of myself in this description.

In my Midwest upbringing, I met very few people of color and all my close friends were/are white. When I meet a person of color, I tend to feel uncomfortable because I want to appear progressive and friendly. I desperately want to be perceived as this perfect, color-blind, liberal that “gets it.”

Well I totally don’t get it. It’s safe to say I will never completely understand the complex issues of racism that plague this country. I can read about them, educate myself and strive to be a good, decent human being but I’ll never get what it is to be anything other than a white American.

Racism is an uncomfortable subject for me, I want to be progressive and understanding, but I’ve had such a lack of socialization with people of other races or even other backgrounds!

My senior year of college, I took a religion course in Islam. Several of my classmates were from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. This was my first time sitting side-by-side with Arab men and women. I was hyper aware (and consequently, hyper uncomfortable) about how I sounded when I voiced concerns about treatment of women in these countries.

And while I have a right to those concerns, I’m painfully aware of how obnoxious I sound as a white, American middle-class, Christian woman seemingly “passing judgment” on a country she’s never seen and on Muslim women she’s never really spoken too.

We need to tread lightly on these issues. We need to remember that as much as our gender and skin color affect the treatment we get in this world—it does not define us—it does not make us more or less qualified for a job—in this case, the Presidency.

I stand by my original complaint—in that I do feel that our mainstream media has a long way to go in addressing sexism with the same respect they often give racism (Echidne says it better than I could) but overall I am sick of the rhetoric I’ve allowed myself to fall into.

Then I saw this youtube video the other day...

It was like the light bulb clicked on—NO ONE CAN WIN fighting this way. "Hillary doesn’t know what it’s like to be called a nigger." Fine, Barack doesn’t know what it’s like to be called a cunt.

"Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in the wrong part of town"--- fine but Barack never had to worry about getting pulled over and being an easy target for cops who want to sexually assault vulnerable women.

"Barack knows what it’s like to grow up in a culture that is led by rich white people." Yes and Hillary knows what it’s like growing up under the thumb of patriarchy (one of my fave Hill tidbits is that, as an adolescent girl she wrote to NASA asking how she could be an astronaut and they wrote back saying “we don’t accept women into the program.") -- well it goes on and on.

Seeing that video really pissed me off. Suddenly (when it's from the 'other side'-- go figure) I see, ALL TOO CLEARLY, why this is no-win. It's a sad, sad reality when we're so unprepared for anyone not white, male and Christian to run for President that we climb over each other in effort to prove "who's got the worst 'ism'.

Let's still take this opportunity to have productive discussions about the pervasiveness of racism and sexism in America (and how those two intersect in a real way for women of color)-- but let's shut up already when it comes to pitting Obama and Hillary against each other in the war of the ism's.

Yes SOME women might like voting for Hillary because she's a woman. Yes SOME black people may like voting for Barack because he's black. But does anyone ever ask if McCain get votes from white guys just because they want to elect a white guy??? People have always voted for the candidate who best represented their beliefs-- now is no different .

1 comment:

Tobes said...

Interesting thought... We seem to be (as a country) willing to consider someone non-male and non-white for Presidency. But would we ever consider a non-Christian or an atheist?

What do you think?