Monday, January 14, 2008

A Luxury Some Of Us Don't Have

Here are some choice quotes from Sen. Hillary Clinton during yesterday's episode of Meet the Press:
So I think it's important to set the record straight. Clearly, we know from media reports that the Obama campaign is deliberately distorting this. And, you know, I think we should just take a step out here for a minute. This is the most exciting election we've had in such a long time because you have an African American, an extraordinary man, a person of tremendous talents and abilities, running to become our president. You have a woman running to break the highest and hardest glass ceiling. I don't think either of us want to inject race or gender in this campaign. We are running as individuals, we are making our cases to the American people, and it's imperative that we get the record and the facts straight because people are entitled to have that information. But I have no intention of either, you know, doing something that would move this race in a wrong way, or, frankly, sit standing by when I think tactics are being employed that are not in the best interests of our country.


You know, this is, you know, an unfortunate story line that the Obama campaign has pushed very successfully. They've been putting out talking points, they've been making this, they've been telling people in a very selective way what the facts are. And I'm glad to have the opportunity to set the facts straight.


SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I don't think that either of us should use gender. I don't think this campaign is about gender, and I sure hope it's not about race. It needs to be about the individuals. Each of us is running for the highest position, the most difficult job in the world. And, you know, I am, I think, very clearly someone who's gone through a tremendous amount of criticism, you know. That's fine. I'm more than willing to shoulder that. I think voters and viewers can draw their own conclusions when they watch whatever it is that we are doing.

And I believe that, you know, for me, this is about who is ready on day one. And much of what I've gone through in my entire life is, I believe, preparation for being able to go into that Oval Office. Clearly, I bring the experiences of women. As a daughter, as a mother, as a wife, as a sister. That is who I am. Those experiences are part of me. And it is part of our American journey that we have moved through so much of what used to hold people back because of gender, because of race. Are we there yet? Is the journey over? I don't think so, and I don't think any fair person would say that.

linkage (emphasis mine)
Did you get the point she was trying very hard to convey? It's the Obama campaign's fault that race has been made an issue, not Clintonian surrogates or the words out of her own mouth. Gender and race shouldn't have any part of the election's narrative, except when it's used in the next breath. Or something.

Cynical politics gives me indigestion; and there's loads of it right now being fired between the Obama and Clinton campaigns. It's to be expected, really, but here's something that surprises me: neither of them seemed to have planned for the fallout beforehand.

Some of us do not have the luxury of turning off our racism radar. We are reminded of it constantly. Caricatures of minority figures are so ingrained in the fabric of the U.S. that it creates an ongoing cycle of perpetuation which casts the roles of dissenters as uppity or overly sensitive. There's also fear. 'the field negro' wrote something the other day that stuck with me
Bill and Hilary Clinton can use code words with the best of them, and they know what buttons to push to bring out the racial bogeyman lurking behind every corner in A-merry-ca. And in case you were wondering, there is no gender bogeyman. Yes women have been discriminated against in this country, and they have suffered mightily at the hands of the all powerful white male. But don't for a minute think there is a fear of women out there. There isn't. But ask me if there is a fear of black men and you know what I will tell you.

Us brown guys get a similar shakedown by society. The same visible tension as we walk by, perhaps a clutching of a purse or suitcase, an assumption that we have a drug problem if we end up in the hospital for chest pains. Here in the southwest, we get the added delight of questions about our citizenship and surprise when we speak such good English (and unaccented! gasp).

Not to discount the offensiveness of sexism, by the way - my inner machismo could always use a check; but I think it's important to differentiate the foundation of the discrimination that results in both forms of bigotry - especially with what is unfolding to be a predictable plot line:
  1. Dog whistles are sent out regarding race
  2. Bristling starts to occur in response
  3. Scoffing and "I would never" moments follow
  4. Token defenders are summoned to give cover
  5. Caricature of angry minority is achieved for the target
This is the extended track, by the way. It's reserved for people that are supposedly enlightened and "get it". The short track is for the ignorant and truly bigoted - only item #5 is necessary.

I've been thinking a lot about what's been unfolding lately in the primary campaign. There were days when I had a full post ready to fly, only to be discarded because I'm still a bit gun shy about talking online about bigotry by supposed allies (especially when some of the players are the same) - but really, enough is enough.

The saddest piece to me? It's probably going to be successful. Barack Obama will get tagged as having a "black agenda", whatever the hell that means and/or be labeled as angry and uppity. It's the trap that's been laid for him if he beats back directly and forcefully at the Clintons. It's as if both camps know it, making me want to pull a Scarface.

[Tired Disclaimer: I have not chosen a candidate to support for the Feb. 5th primary, but you can bet a bowl of guacamole that it won't be Hillary]

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