Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama vs Hillary: Mixed Messages and Torn Hearts

The message coming out of this year’s Democratic primaries and caucuses is a mixed one. On the one hand, we are being told that it’s not about race and gender. The fact that we have a black man and a woman as our two frontrunners is vindication that America has moved beyond racial and gender stereotypes.

But then women have been flocking overwhelmingly to Hillary, and blacks – both male and female – have voted for Obama in droves. It sometimes seems that only white men are supposed to not care about race or gender.

That’s because they’ve always had the privileges. Who else has been in power for the past few thousand years, from even before we had written language and history?

Meanwhile, women and blacks can be forgiven if having a candidate who looks like them reflects their hopes and dreams. It says that, finally, even we can aspire to the highest office in the land. Finally, we might, just might, be able to smash the glass ceiling.

But what do you do if you are a black woman with mixed loyalties? Here is a really good post by one who is supporting Hillary. Tara Roberts describes her dilemma in this post in The Root.
I am a Hillary Clinton supporter.

There, I said it.

And I'm tired of the dirty looks I get when I out myself. Why is it so surprising that someone like me – a black, educated, progressive chick – would put my support behind Hillary Clinton?

Oh, I know. I'm black, so, of course, I should support Barack Obama for the number one position in the country.

My good friend recently rolled her eyes in exasperation because she'd been patient with me, waiting for me to come to my senses, but suspected that I'd still not yet hopped over into the Obama camp.

Just before Super Tuesday, as I broke bread with another friend, she sucked her teeth and shot me an incredulous look when I admitted to backing Hillary.
Roberts recounts the reactions she has gotten at candlelight dinners at Morehouse College, a traditionally black school, and from friends. She also recalls that before Barack Obama got into the race, her black friends were all supporters of Hillary.
What's funny to me, though, is that before Barack entered the race, many friends and family were excited about Hillary, thrilled, actually; they believed that she was our beacon of hope, that she represented profound change. But now that Barack has entered the building, these same people have turned against Hillary and put her down, even though her positions and beliefs have not changed.

Quite frankly, I'm tired of dealing with friends, family and co-workers who cannot believe that I've fallen for the supposed race lies of the Clinton machine, that I can't see how they are manipulating this race and treating our brother – this bright light, this brilliant man – so poorly.
Roberts also calls to mind the famous and stirring “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech of early feminist and former slave Sojourner Truth. And Roberts reminds us of the many ways that Hillary too has been treated unfairly by both the press and bloggers.

It's interesting that these outraged critics rarely reference the gender lines that have been crossed, the attacks Hillary has endured from opponents and the press for the past 16 years.

She's been attacked for her hair, her clothes, her facial expressions, her mannerisms…John McCain even joked that she'd had sex with Janet Reno to produce Chelsea – what's up with that??? And most of us remained silent at these barbs.

I would even dare say that some of us most likely agreed with the assessments and snickered behind our hands. It's never okay to be racist in our world, but, unfortunately, it's still 'normal' to be sexist. I don't know how that level of unchallenged scrutiny and scathing criticism might develop into survival tactics when called to deal with the press and opponents now. Frankly, it amazes me that Hillary is still standing with her shoulders straight in the face of it all.

Yes, it is amazing that Hillary can go on despite years of sustained and unfair attacks. It forms who she is today.

For many women, who also have sustained the insults, sneers, double entendres, and outright harrassment in the workplace, as well as the unequal salaries, we are inspired that she does persist. Her victories become our victories.

The truth is whether Obama or Clinton wins the nomination, an important glass ceiling will have been shattered. But another equally important truth is that many of us have mixed loyalties and torn hearts right now.


Catzmaw said...

I can feel her pain. As a middle aged, white, educated, middle class professional woman I'm squarely in the Hillary demographic. That I'm an Obama supporter has caused problems.

Three weeks ago one of my friends became so enraged that she was screeching at me across a table that she would never vote for Obama, that if Obama got the nomination she'd vote for McCain, and that I was an idiot for disagreeing with her and the other two friends at the same table. I've also had to face snarky comments about "being in love with a speech" and hear a lot of crap about "inexperience" as opposed to Hillary who is "ready on day one," not that any of my friends can explain what that means. Maybe everyone should let people have their points of view and stop dissing them for disagreeing.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Well put Catzmaw. I agree with you that everybody should respect each other's points of view.

I for one would never yell at you for supporting a different candidate than my choice. And I like Obama too. Should he win the nomination, I would have no problem voting for him.

Hillary has experience, intelligence, and competence. What Obama lacks in experience, he makes up for in judgment. And eloquence is a useful gift to have if you want to lead a country and inspire people, especially in difficult times.

I've always said that both are good candidates who would make me proud as a Democrat.