Dear Hillary Clinton

by Cara on May 24, 2008

in 2008 election, assholes, Democrats, feminism, politics, race and racism

Please, for the love of feminism*, stop.

No, I’m not talking about Senator Clinton’s Democratic primary run. I’m talking about shit like this:

Q. Do you think this has been a particularly racist campaign?

A. I do not. I think this has been a positive, civil campaign. I think that both gender and race have been obviously a part of it because of who we are and every poll I’ve seen show more people would be reluctant to vote for a woman [than] to vote for an African American, which rarely gets reported on either. The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable or at least more accepted. And I think there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism when and if it ever raises its ugly head. But it does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by comments and reactions of people who are nothing but misogynists.

Q. Isn’t that how it’s always been though.

A. Oppression of women and discrimination against women is universal. You can go to places in the world where there are no racial distinctions except everyone is joined together in their oppression of women. The treatment of women is the single biggest problem we have politically and socially in the world. If you look at the extremism and the fundamentalism, it is all about controlling women, at it’s base. The idea that we would have a presidential campaign in which so much of what has occurred that has been very sexist would be just shrugged off I think is a very unfortunate commentary about the lack of seriousness that should be applied to any kind of discrimination or prejudice. I have spent my entire life trying to stand up for civil rights and women’s rights and human rights and I abhor wherever it is discrimination is present.

And much, much worse than your standard, boring old Oppression Olympics, shit like this:

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it,” Mrs. Clinton said, dismissing the idea of dropping out.

Because as much as I’d love to believe the apology she gave, that she really truly did just mean that primary contests frequently go on until June, and not that Obama might get shot, her lack of apology to Obama and choice instead to apologize exclusively to the Kennedys really does make me wonder.

Particularly when it comes on the back of even more shit like this:

Desperate to get attention for her cause to seat Florida and Michigan delegates, Hillary Clinton compared the plight of Zimbabweans in their recent fraudulent election to the uncounted votes of Michigan and Florida voters saying it is wrong when “people go through the motions of an election only to have them discarded and disregarded.”

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe,” Clinton explained. “Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

“So we can never take for granted our precious right to vote. It is the single most important, privilege and right any of us have, because in that ballot box we are all equal. You’re equal to a billionaire. You’re equal to the president, every single one of us.”

For the record, I strongly supported Clinton’s staying on the ballot, strongly opposed Obama’s taking his name off, and was all around desperate for them to cut out this bullshit back when Clinton didn’t think she’d need those states and therefore didn’t bother campaigning in them or showing vocal support for their votes to count. I also very, very strongly supported a redo of the vote (because at the time of the vote, no one, including all of those voters who didn’t bother showing up and otherwise would have, thought that it would count). But that doesn’t make this situation even remotely comparable to Zimbabwe, where people are dying, and it’s inexcusable to argue that Obama is trying to steal an election.

Hillary, you’re my Senator. Let’s face it, you were never my top pick for the nod. But I respected you. And it would be utterly patronizing to you to pretend that this is all an accident, and you haven’t got the slightest clue about the true implications of your words. You’re an astonishingly smart woman. I’m not going to pretend otherwise and outright insult you so that I can keep on believing it’s all good.

I’ve voted for you more than once. I like you. I was proud and happy to have you representing me. If I somehow thought that you would be the Democratic nominee, I’d be extremely eager to support you and be entirely prepared to campaign for you. If that somehow does still happen, I’ll be really fucking pissed, but I’d undoubtedly come around and still do my best to trek off to swing states to campaign on your behalf.

For your sake and ours, please stop trying to throw that all away, because you’re better than it. Or at least, I’ve always thought so. If you really do think that you can somehow still be the nominee, you should believe that you can do it without becoming extremely ugly.

*EDIT: If you take umbrage with this phrase, please see here first. (And then feel free to take all the umbrage you want if still so inclined.)

Bookmark and Share

{ 43 comments }

1 queerunity May 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

hillary does not speak for feminism, she hasnt done shit for womens rights
http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

2 Dolores Shade May 24, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Thought I should drop in to let you know that, over at Shakesville, I linked to this post and sang your praises. I hope that’s okay.

3 Cara May 24, 2008 at 5:39 pm

No problem at all, Dolores. In fact, thanks for cluing me in, so that I could clarify my comments to Melissa.

4 sara May 24, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Hillary will say or do anything to win, she has absolutely no principles. If she saw a public poll that said 70% of the american public wanted an all out ban on abortion, she would switch her stance the very next day and be the anti-choice champion.

As for the RFK comment, it wasnt a faux pas, it was a freudian slip. She sincerely hopes that something horrible (up to and including assassination) will happen to him so she can slither her way into the nomination. This wasnt the first time she said it, it was the third.

5 Kristen May 24, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Thanks, Cara.

I’m too angry about this comment, the apology, and the dismissiveness of her supporters to say anything coherent.

6 disnazzio May 24, 2008 at 7:52 pm

I’m with Kristen. Just: thanks, Cara.

7 SunlessNick May 24, 2008 at 8:29 pm

I do think Clinton’s comments play into the societal meme counting uppity oppressed as deserving to die (or otherwise be disappeared) for the good of the poor put-upon oppressor – and I think more so because she apologised to the white family and not the black man, than if she’d apologised to no one at all.

8 Melissa McEwan May 25, 2008 at 1:27 am

Thanks muchly for the clarification, Cara. Sorry for my pedantry; I’m just incredibly sensitive to the one-woman-undermines-feminism canard. ;-)

9 Latoya Peterson May 25, 2008 at 9:31 am

Cara –

Just a note to let you know that you rock. I have been waiting and waiting for feminists to discuss what has been going on in the HRC camp and I have been bitterly disappointed with the coverage. Bitterly.

Thank you for just being you.

Meanwhile, this hip-hop feminist is about to go off on her own blog…

10 cynematic May 25, 2008 at 3:16 pm

THANK YOU for your sane, feminist words. It should be a badge of shame for a so-called feminist candidate like Clinton to vie so vigorously for the gold medal at the Oppression Olympics the way she has for most of her campaign.

11 Paul May 25, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Congratulations for your sane head in a sea of overreaction

I’d congratulate you for your atheism too but i was soberly reminded today on another blog how much it would cost you outside the liberal coasts – no atheist can be elected president etc

12 adriana May 25, 2008 at 9:23 pm

I blogged about this too. She doesn’t know when to stop, and I don’t know what she’s trying to accomplish at this point. Staying in the race isn’t the issue. It has to do more with her choice of words and lack of sensitivity.

13 Male med student May 25, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Hello, I’m new here and male but I thought I would chime in on this thread anyways.

There’s a lot of news stories about Clinton supporters who will vote for John McCain over Obama in the general. I’d guess at least 75% of these voters are women.

I really dont understand this. Obama and Clinton are virtually identical on the major issues, and McCain couldnt be further from Clinton.

So I find it shocking that there is such a sizable group of female Clinton supporters who are going to vote for a guy who will end Roe vs Wade. Are all these women truly pro-life? I sincerely doubt it because if they were they never would have supported Clinton in the first place.

Do they truly believe that McCain has a better plan for the economy? I seriously doubt it, because if thats so they probably never would have supported Clinton.

Do they like McCain’s healthcare plan better? Obama and Clinton are virtually identical on this issue, and McCain’s plan is basically status quo.

Do they believe that McCain has a better foreign policy? This is the only issue where I could see Clinton backers having a legitimate case to abandon Obama in favor of McCain. Clinton is much more hawkish on foreign policy than Obama is.

If this voting block truly favors McCain over Obama, I can think of 4 reasons, and only one of them is policy-based.

1) Foreign policy trumps all domestic policies and McCain “wins” on that front by being more hawkish and refusing to talk to rogue leaders or “negotiate with terrorists.” I dont agree with this foreign policy approach, but I can at least respect it as a legit difference between Obama and McCain that leans more into Clinton’s policies.

2) Jeremiah Wright was so devastating that they are willing to give up all their domestic policy issues because of this preacher. Obama’s twenty year association is a deal breaker, regardless of the fact that 99% of his policies are identical to Clinton.

3) They are so absorbed into Hillary Clinton as a “cult of personality” that issues are obscured–they are not voting for Clinton because of what she believes in, but because of who she is as a pioneering female candidate.

4) Obama is a sexist who insulted Clinton, and that trumps all domestic policies and ideas that they share in common. My problem with this is that even if Obama was guilty of sexism with the “sweetie” comments, how could you support McCain in juxtaposition? Dont they remember the “how do we beat the bitch” moment?

I’d guess that the VAST majority of Clinton female supporters are pro-choice. I just cant imagine that they would go out and vote for McCain and when abortion choice is gone, basically admitting that “yeah I was so pissed at Obama for beating my candidate that I was willing to give up abortion rights.”

Perhaps some of female Hillary supporters can enlighten me on this.

I get the impression that most of the voters in the block I’m referring to tend to be older females. This makes the choice to support McCain all the more shocking. Surely these women remember what life was like in the pre Roe vs Wade era (whereas younger feminists have been mostly insulated from the memories of coat hanger, back alley abortions that killed thousands of women) and I have a hard time believing they are willing to throw all of that away because Obama made some regrettably sexist comments or because they perceive Clinton was not treated fairly by the media.

Looking forward to your comments….

14 Out May 26, 2008 at 2:47 am

I couldn’t disagree with you more.

Let’s look at this quote from Hillary,”The treatment of women is the single biggest problem we have politically and socially in the world.”

I agree with her statement completely. Sexism is the most important problem we as a species must deal with today. (Including terrorism, global warming, oil scarcity and racism.)

So I am confused. Do you disagree with her statement?

I personally disagree almost completely with the entire Democratic party platform and yet I voted for Hillary. Why? Because, “The treatment of women is the single biggest problem we have politically and socially in the world.”

So if I understand correctly what you are saying is that a heterosexual, christian, sexualist, breeder, ivy-league-educated, half-white MAN is going to be able to understand women’s needs and rights better than a woman? And that somehow electing said MAN will be a CHANGE despite the fact that he will be the 44th MAN to occupy the office of President?

You are wrong.

Where and when did this popular meme surface from that politics was supposed to be civilized and that we were all supposed to be united not divided?

This is the time for revolution. Overthrow the androcentric, patriarchal, judeo-christian paradigm and start by electing a deeply flawed, outspoken, hard-headed, insensitive, unapologetic, WOMAN

15 emily May 26, 2008 at 5:21 am

This outrage at Clinton’s characterization of sexism as (a) less visible than; (b) more tolerated than; and (c) more of a global problem than racism is exceedingly frustrating to me and, I think, unfounded. She is not saying racism is not a problem. She is saying that it is a problem that people don’t respond with equal outrage to sexism. That is a truth, and it is one that isn’t being discussed in a meaningful way in the popular fora it should be. Why are you more outraged at Clinton’s articulation of this than by Obama’s failure to identify and express outrage at overt sexism?
There are no jurisdictions in the world where a group of people are the legal property of another based on their race, but this is the reality for millions of people due to their being women. There are no jurisdictions in the world where murder is legalised based on one’s race, but there are several where a man can legally murder a woman under various circumstances. There are no jurisdictions where legislation excludes people from educational or professional endeavours based on their race, but a myriad where this is the case for women. Then there are bars to testifying in court; rape victims being prosecuted for premarital sex; forced marriages; human trafficking; and the general silence in popular media on all of it.
This is not to say that racial politics are rosy, but sexism and the chattel-status of women cuts across races and cultures. The fact that sexism affects half of the entire human species, cross-cutting every race, ethnicity, and religion adds complexity to tackling it. Exploring the ways in which racism and sexism intersect is thus critical for meaningfully dismantling either. But it is very complicated. Note for example how allegations of racism are often raised as a shield to protect a culture’s sexism, as is seen in dialogues over everything from hip-hop lyrics to international human rights norms.
Ultimately, for any person to take issue with this statement:
“The treatment of women is the single biggest problem we have politically and socially in the world. If you look at the extremism and the fundamentalism, it is all about controlling women, at it’s base. The idea that we would have a presidential campaign in which so much of what has occurred that has been very sexist would be just shrugged off I think is a very unfortunate commentary about the lack of seriousness that should be applied to any kind of discrimination or prejudice” suggests a very narrow understanding of the world as it is today.

16 Avedon May 26, 2008 at 6:49 am

I’m no Clinton supporter, but I have to say I’m fascinated by all the gyrations people are willing to go through to make everything she says evil.

Someone asked me over at my place if I didn’t find the Zimbabwe quote outrageous. Well, I don’t. It’s a standard rhetorical structure where you try to remind people where you end up if you allow certain trends to take root. I learned it from the German Jews who helped raise me and who would jump on any little example of racism or censorship as something that had to be stamped out immediately because, “That’s what the Nazis did.” They meant that that was how it started, with the little “reasonable”-sounding things, and you can’t give it room to grow. They were right.

I think people who are overreacting to the Zimbabwe statement harbor the illusion that people getting killed over voting is something very remote from America, far away in other lands or at least gone into the dead past. It’s not true. It happened in America in my lifetime, and it can happen again very easily. In fact, we have something new going on over the last few years that hadn’t happened in America in its entire history – the Supreme Court actually interfering in an election to prevent votes from being counted, and declaring in their decision that people don’t have a right to vote.

In fact, the entire Constitution is being nullified before our eyes…but I guess hating Hillary (for having the temerity to run against Obama!) is more important than recognizing the real threats that are before us.

Hillary picked the two elections she remembered best for having lasted into June – that’s all there is to it. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why she picked those two – the first one she was old enough to vote in where that fact is well-remembered by her since the assassination imprinted it in her mind forever, and her own husband’s campaign.

It’s not a mystery, and it’s not about Obama – it’s about the fact that it is, indeed, unprecedented that the media is screaming for a candidate to get out of the race. The two races that are most memorable for her lasted into June. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that hating Hillary is more fun than letting things take their course.

17 Cara May 26, 2008 at 10:06 am

Male Med Student, I don’t speak for all women, nor do I necessarily understand the mindset of those Hillary supporters who say they will vote for McCain over Obama (I don’t at all). But from what I’ve heard from the women with this point of view (or those who just say they won’t vote at all), I’d say that generally #4 is the answer. But you’d have to ask the women with this view.

I agree with her statement completely. Sexism is the most important problem we as a species must deal with today. (Including terrorism, global warming, oil scarcity and racism.)

So I am confused. Do you disagree with her statement?

I personally disagree almost completely with the entire Democratic party platform and yet I voted for Hillary. Why? Because, “The treatment of women is the single biggest problem we have politically and socially in the world.”

So if I understand correctly what you are saying is that a heterosexual, christian, sexualist, breeder, ivy-league-educated, half-white MAN is going to be able to understand women’s needs and rights better than a woman? And that somehow electing said MAN will be a CHANGE despite the fact that he will be the 44th MAN to occupy the office of President?

Well Out, yeah, I kind of do disagree. If I had to pick the BIGGEST problem in the entire world, as a very staunch feminist, I’d actually have to go with poverty myself. But I also don’t sit around all day playing these kinds of games, ranking each issue. That was my problem with her statement, not that she thinks sexism is a massive problem in the world (with which I couldn’t agree more), but at her explicit insistence that sexism is a bigger problem than racism. I do not believe that, nor do I think it’s even remotely productive to even have such a discussion.

And no, I don’t believe that based on more-or-less unchangeable characterstics that have little to do with a person’s policy, a “heterosexual, christian, sexualist, breeder, ivy-league-educated, half-white MAN is going to be able to understand women’s needs” significantly less than a heterosexual, christian, sexualist, breeder, ivy-league-educated, entirely white WOMAN. One’s gender does not necessarily make them a better candidate. I’d trust, I don’t know, Howard Dean with women’s issues a million years before I’d trust Elizabeth Dole with them. I don’t think that Hillary Clinton is even remotely comparable to Elizabet Dole; my point is that gender alone is an utterly ridiculous and foolish point on which to rest your argument.

This is the time for revolution. Overthrow the androcentric, patriarchal, judeo-christian paradigm and start by electing a deeply flawed, outspoken, hard-headed, insensitive, unapologetic, WOMAN

Okay, I just can’t help myself: You say you want a revolution? . . . Well you know, we’d all love to see the plan. (Because from this, it sounds very much like you don’t have one, other than “elect someone who I think mostly sucks because she has a VAGINA.”)

Why are you more outraged at Clinton’s articulation of this than by Obama’s failure to identify and express outrage at overt sexism?

Uh, I’m not, and I’ll thank you kindly for not assuming what I am and am not upset about without doing your research first.

The fact that sexism affects half of the entire human species, cross-cutting every race, ethnicity, and religion adds complexity to tackling it.

Really? Because I’d say the fact that there are so many different races and ethnicities fighting with each other all over the world could make it more complicated. For fuck’s sake, I’m NOT playing your Oppression Olympics game, as I think it’s stupid and nothing more than alienating to many people. My point is that all of this is very subjective, and that’s why trying to argue “my oppression is worse than you oppression!!!” is so fucking offensive.

I’m no Clinton supporter, but I have to say I’m fascinated by all the gyrations people are willing to go through to make everything she says evil.

Yeah, I know. What I like to do is sit around all day and find ways to paint as evil people for whom I helped elect into office, whose policies I often support, and who I said about 10 million times in this post I would support in a general election.

Seriously, there’s no shortage of people who hate Hillary Clinton’s guts for no sound reason other than the fact that she’s Hillary Clinton. If you’re going to try to paint me with the same brush as people who hate Hillary Clinton or who don’t have any legitimate grievance against her, you can fuck off. No time for it.

By the way folks, I don’t enjoy waking up to attacks from those who apparently don’t think they need to use basic reading comprehension before telling me why I’m wrong. There are few things that piss me off more than people trying to argue against me while glaringly suggesting that they didn’t even bother reading the full post, or simply felt the need to ignore it while composing their comment.

18 brenna May 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

breeder

It is very clear that no one should ever listen to you.

Please learn to respect the choices of others and then talk.

heterosexual

It’s clear you don’t even respect the non-choices of others.

To Cara, thanks for the post, and the others I’ve read. I found you randomly through Stumbleupon and, while I don’t view myself to be a feminist, I’ve started to read some blogs of that persuasion rather than ignore it. I suffered through a particularly militant branch at my undergrad institution and got tired of hearing that science and math are inherently wrong because they were “invented” by men. Anyways, your blog is sane and I appreciate that.

19 Scott M May 27, 2008 at 8:56 am

Cara:
I must say, after reading your posts and your responses to subsequent comments, you have garnished tremendous amounts of respect from me. Literally overnight, The Curvature has become one of my favorite websites. Your very apparent combination of balanced reason and wit has added to that considerably. As an equalist, a pacifist, and a compassionate human being I fully support genuine, non-militant, rational feminism. This website and you in particular exemplify these ideals better than anything else I have ever come across. Mostly, I just want to thank you for being vocal about it. I think one major obstacle for feminism is that the militants and extremists are often more vocal about their ends of the cause than the moderates. I thank you for actively counteracting these negative influences, who more-often-than-not strengthen or harden the opposition to progress rather than softening it.

And, for ‘Out’:
I am a heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, 18-year-old, (soon to be) tier 1 school educated, sexually active, ‘breeder’, fully-white MAN who happens to occasionally enjoy dominance-play with his girlfriend, and I believe that none of those factors have anything to do with my beliefs. I find the idea that you would vote for or against someone based almost solely on their sex troublesome. Voters who judge based on crude, superficial constructs–rather than other factors like policy and diplomatic savvy to carry out said policy–scare the crap out of me; however, I suppose I should thank voters like you for making my vote seem more important, since I can feel like my vote will inevitably counteract somebody’s ill-informed decision. Essentially, people like ‘Out’ embody most of what I feel needs to be counteracted anyway, so I could fulfill all of that counteractive glee in one swoop. Thank you for that.

20 Ashley May 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm

As someone actually in the field doing grassroots feminist organizing, I really feel that Hillary and her supporters have set my work back in concrete and measurable ways, specifically by offering evidence to support an already valid concern held by many women of color that an awful lot of white feminists are racist and untrustworthy. Quite simply, this makes feminist organizing harder.

What really gets me, especially as this campaign drags on, are the constant claims by Clinton and her supporters that misogyny has been ignored by the press while racism has been called out. This is total bullshit. Misogyny has been out of control and ignored–that’s true. But the Jeremiah Wright controversy was COMPLETELY about racism, both in the media’s utterly unchallenged treatment of white cultural and religious forms as both “normal” and superior, and in its treatment of his statements as “crazy,” particularly his conspiracy theory about HIV being spread by the US government. Yes, there is no evidence of this, and I don’t see a reason to believe it. However, it is a theory held by a pretty big chunk of African-Americans, because the medical establishment has repeatedly conducted unethical experiments, forced sterilization, and other abusive practices on the black community. As someone who has done work in the HIV/AIDS advocacy field, I can tell you that these abuses absolutely continue to this day. The fact that the white community decides not to know about all this just means we’re privileged and racist. It doesn’t mean Wright is crazy. Clinton’s exploitation of this situation=racism.

I’ve also seen pundits absolutely refuse to call white voters who said they thought that race “was an important issue” and then voted for Clinton what they are, which is “racist.” Commentators tiptoe around the issue, never wanting to call out fellow white people for racism, always questioning whether a “racial issue,” or some other euphemism, is to blame. I have not once seen a single commentator call these people racist, and that speaks to white people’s unwillingness to call each other racist–which is nothing but the tendency of privileged people to give those within their group the benefit of the doubt, even as those in an oppressed class are pointing to grievances. That tendency is itself a form of oppression.

And let’s not forget the total disregard for the structural and institutional inequalities that so characterize American racism implicit in Clinton’s statement. Her ability to build a political career out of a family dynasty has everything to do with her race. The fact that misogyny, when directed at a wealthy white woman like Clinton, takes the form of ridicule and commentary on hairstyles/cleavage/pantsuits may mean that commentators are more likely to say outright sexist stuff, but the racism is still equally pervasive, sometimes in devastatingly subtle ways. How else does a kid who grew up on food stamps get labeled “elitist” by his uber-wealthy white opponents, with barely a peep from the media? And why has the Obama campaign (rightly, I think) felt that they can’t direct too much attention to his former poverty? Because they know what white people think of poor black people. Racism, straight up.

I’m just so sick of the artificial separation of racism and sexism (as if they operate independently of each other), and of the attempts to prove that one is somehow worse than the other. What a waste of time. And what a great way to divide people who should be working together for social justice.

21 Cara May 27, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Ashley, I just wanted to say that you’re awesome.

22 Ashley May 27, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Awww, shucks :)

Coming from one of the awesomest bloggers this side of awesome, that is very flattering.

23 Vanessa May 27, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Yeah, what Ashley said. That was awesome.

24 Kristen May 27, 2008 at 4:53 pm

If I can move to a macro point for a moment…I’m starting to wonder about how resolvable this is. Its beginning to feel (to me) like the Amanda/BFP debacle, where everyone has a grievance of some sort, but the real issue is that people don’t feel heard.

What I’m wondering is this: Can we have a discussion about the sexism HRC has faced and what she has accomplished without discussing the racist speech she has engaged in? And conversely can we talk about the racist speech she’s engaged in without having the discussion clouded by our admiration for her accomplishments as a woman?

If we could, then maybe people on both sides of the issue would feel like others give a damn about their feels/perspective. Of course I may just be wearing my optimism spectacles today…

25 octogalore May 27, 2008 at 9:03 pm

How is this awesome?

“I’ve also seen pundits absolutely refuse to call white voters who said they thought that race “was an important issue” and then voted for Clinton what they are, which is ‘racist.’”

So let me get this straight. Voting for Clinton on the part of white voters is per se racist, despite the fact that they may prefer her platform?

Then, is voting for Obama sexist? Feminists for Obama have rightly been indignant when called sexist for doing this. Similarly, feminists for Clinton is hardly per se racist. I think race is an important issue, but prefer Clinton for the nomination. If anyone wishes to call me racist for my support of HRC, I can assure you that I will have many things to say, but awesome will not be among them.

26 Cara May 27, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Um, no. It indicates racism when someone who is white is asked the question “does race matter to you in your voting choice?” and answers yes and then votes for Hillary Clinton. It would indicate sexism if one was asked the question “does gender matter to you in your voting choice?” and then proceeded to vote for Barack Obama.

So . . . I can only assume that you misunderstood something? Either that, or I’m misunderstanding your reasoning.

27 octogalore May 27, 2008 at 9:17 pm

The latter. It’s possible to think race is an important issue and to choose a white candidate because you feel his/her positions are better. It’s also possible to think gender is an important issue and to choose a male candidate because you feel his positions are better.

So I’ll repeat myself once more, because um no, I did not misunderstand. I am white. If asked the question “does race matter to you in your voting choice?” I would answer yes. As all things being equal, I’d like to see a POC as president and especially a WOC. My subsequent vote for HRC would not in fact be racist, as there are in fact other criteria besides race. And besides gender.

28 Cara May 27, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I agree fully that a person can support Hillary Clinton while saying that race matters in their voting decision and have it based on policy. I also think that it’s disingenuous to suggest that the large numbers of people who are saying race matters to them and then overwhelmingly voting for Hillary Clinton, while also saying that they would support McCain in the general if Obama wins the nod (this is what happened in Kentucky) are all voting for Clinton because they think her policies are great, but would vote for McCain in her absence, even though his policies are very, very different, and there’s no racism going on here. I said “indicates” because there are exceptions to every rule. But I don’t accept the argument that the trend occurring has nothing to do with racism against black men; just like I don’t believe that the trend of those who say that gender is important and then vote for Obama has nothing to do with sexism.

29 octogalore May 27, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Let’s back up. The statement in the “awesome” comment was: “I’ve also seen pundits absolutely refuse to call white voters who said they thought that race “was an important issue” and then voted for Clinton what they are, which is ‘racist.’” Flat out. No “indicate,” no “some,” no “might be.” “ARE.” I disagreed with that. Which was fair and accurate, despite the intricate attempts to state otherwise.

I also feel “indicate” is way too strong. I would be an awful person if I said about my friend Belledame, who is a feminist for Obama, that her choice “indicated” sexism.

“But I don’t accept the argument that the trend occurring has nothing to do with racism…”

Strawargument. Who said that? There’s a big diff in saying something “indicates” racism/sexism and saying that in some cases it may well be racism/sexism. Nobody’s arguing with the latter.

Nor did the “awesome” comment indicate that the “racist” HRC supporters she was talking about were the ones who were going to go McCain if HRC didn’t win. So your discussion of “disingenuous” is an odd non sequitur.

Precision — forget about precision, let’s talk general accuracy — of language is important. The “awesome” comment, in that particular portion, was inaccurate and offensive. Period, end of story.

30 Cara May 28, 2008 at 7:34 am

Octo, I’m not going to disagree with you about Ashely’s actual statements, since it’s there in black and white. I’m only telling you how I interpreted it. You’re right that she didn’t state the stuff about McCain, and how the question was directly related to voting preferences. Perhaps she was referring to a different poll, and I inferred something incorrect. I don’t know, she’ll have to come along and tell us that. But the only polls that I’m aware of are the ones that I referenced and they fit the context well. I believed that she was using shorthand, which we all do. If this is the case, I agree with her. If I made a stupid assumption and she did indeed mean what you seem to be interpreting, which is that all Clinton supporters are racist, particularly ones who have any feeling that racism is an important issue, then I absolutely do not. Because, as you said, the same would hold true for vice versa, and I certainly do not view myself as a misogynist.

The reason that I’m explaining this is because you seem to be expressing as much offense towards validation of the comment as you do towards the comment itself. So all I can tell you is why I expressed agreement with it, and clearly we have different interpretations of the meaning. I can see your interpretation now that you’ve explained it, and I absolutely understand why one would take offense at a comment with that meaning. And you are right about what the comment says. I still don’t think that’s what the comment is actually inferring, and maybe that’s only because I’m familiar with Ashely and therefore had a different lenses through which I was viewing what she said. Regardless of how or why I interpreted it that way, the interpretation I have explained along with the rest of the comment are what I was referring to as “awesome.”

I apologize if my original response to you sounded flippant. Rereading it now, it looks that way to me, and it wasn’t my intention. I was genuinely confused and also tired, but that inadvertently ended up looking like patronization rather than puzzlement without the aid of voice inflection. I’m sorry for that.

31 octogalore May 28, 2008 at 10:11 am

Cara — thank you for the explanation. I hope you can understand that where shorthand means “this means something different from what it says on the page because I know the person wouldn’t be saying that,” reasonable people who do not know the person actually do assume she meant what she said. And that people who agree with her agreed with what she said. And that sarcasm in response to someone being offended to what she said is disappointing.

All that said, I appreciate your taking the time to clarify and no hard feelings here. Unfortunately, this election is having some polarizing results in feminist bloglandia.

32 Ashley May 28, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Octogalore–If you watch the various commentators with giant heads (have you noticed that they all have giant heads? I mean literally, not metaphorically. Giant.),every time there is a primary and it’s time to analyze the exit polls, they show a bunch of swooshy graphics, Chris Matthews bobbles his head/Wolf Blitzer fluffs his beard, and then the resident numbers nerd talks about various questions that were asked of voters. One that comes up is some variation of “race was an important issue for me in this election.” In the context of the exit poll, the meaning of the statement is pretty clear–it means the race of the candidate. And those who say that race “was an important issue” vote for Hillary in crazy high proportions (like 70%). The fact that this is rooted in racism is further supported by the fact that white voters outside of Appalachia and the deep south don’t seem to think race is such “an important issue” for them.

When confronted with these stats, the giant heads invariably respond with some weird dance-around-the-truth way to ask whether this is racism (i.e. ‘is there a racial issue?’). So the various giant headed white people go back and forth for a few minutes about whether white people who said they wouldn’t vote for a black guy because of his race are racist, and never reach a conclusion.

I’m writing this assuming you’re questioning my point in good faith, but if you want me to do more to “prove” to you that this is racism, please see my original comments about people with privilege and their tendency to defend their own. Just as many people will refuse to “see” sexism, many people will refuse to “see” racism. If your interest is in defending white people and downplaying their racism, there’s nothing I can say that will change your mind until you decide you want to take that particular red pill.

I never said that voting for Clinton is per se racist, though I would say ignoring the fact that her campaign has said some truly racist things (like the statements Cara posted above) is. You don’t have to actively hate people of color to do something that plays into a system of white supremacy.

And in the interest of party unity and reconciliation, I should mention that I came down like a hammer on an Obama supporter I know who called Hillary a “b****.” I absolutely do call out the sexism of the media and some Obama supporters. This isn’t about bashing the candidate I don’t like.

33 Cara May 28, 2008 at 5:14 pm

If your interest is in defending white people and downplaying their racism, there’s nothing I can say that will change your mind until you decide you want to take that particular red pill.

Well, in the interest of reconciliation, in the same way that I’ve seen your writing enough to have taken your comments in the best way possible despite the opportunity to perhaps take them differently, I’ve seen Octo’s writing enough to take her comments and good faith and feel confident saying that she’s not a racism-denier.

And sorry that I keep spelling your name wrong. I can’t spell my way out of a paper bag, and names that are commonly spelled more than one way just fuck with my brain . . .

34 Ashley May 28, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Good to know, Cara. It’s definitely much easier to have a dialogue with someone if you have a little background.

35 Male med student May 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

It’s possible to think race is an important issue and to choose a white candidate because you feel his/her positions are better. It’s also possible to think gender is an important issue and to choose a male candidate because you feel his positions are better.

No, no, no. The poll questions are not phrased in the context of “is race an important issue” they are phrased in the context of “is the CANDIDATE’S race important.” This distinction is critical, and it absolutely means that white people voting for Clinton based on that question are stone-cold racists.

America is fundamentally less racist than it was, say, 40 years ago, when Obama simply due to his skin color never would have gotten this far in the process. However, too many white folks are still in denial that racism is still a pervasive issue in America.

This election cycle shows that the deep south and appalachian region suffers from extremely high levels of racism relative to other areas of the country. Not because they voted for Clinton, but because of the reason WHY they voted for Clinton. Obama has been able to win most of the deep south simply because the african-american voters were enough to overcome the racist white voters.

Unfortunately I think America as a whole is still too racist to support a black candidate, and I think McCain takes the general despite the fact that more people disagree with his policies than Obama’s. So while i’m discouraged by that, I like to take a longer view of history and at least be enthusiastic that we are making progress, although it seems very sluggish.

36 octogalore May 30, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Cara – I am grateful to you for giving Ashley some comfort that I am not a racist. Seriously.

But the need to do so troubles me. Whether the statement means “is race an important issue generally” or “is race of the candidate an important issue,” I don’t think the answer demonstrates racism unless the question were: “is race the most important issue or the only important issue.”

For most people who are not in fact racists, policy positions and experience are the most important issues. So it’s entirely reasonable that even for people for whom, say, gender of the candidate is an important issue, 70% of them could prefer Obama WITHOUT being sexist. Similarly, that for people for whom race of the candidate is an important issue, 70% of those could prefer Clinton. I think there are enough policy/experience differentiating factors for those to be the case.

For example, I’d say 70% of feminist bloggers whose blogs I go to are for Obama. I could not authoritatively state that that means they are sexist.

So, telling me that because I feel that a reasonable person could look first at who they think would do a better job, and then weigh race and gender into the equation both as strong positives, and then make a decision that might reflect the first criteria more predominantly, that means I’m a hardcore racist taking some kind of pill… is unpersuasive to me.

Further, while you are certainly correct that one doesn’t have to hate POC to be an apologist for racism, I believe ignoring this kind of behavior toward a woman (a WOC in fact) also raises a presumption.

In any case, while I do appreciate the support and am grateful that my writings have given some reassurance as to where I’m coming from, I am disappointed that it was felt to be necessary based on my comments here.

37 Cara May 30, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Octo, I do think that you’re still being somewhat disingenuous. Most people voting for Clinton are not very liberal explicit anti-racists. Most people voting for Obama are not very liberal feminists. I sure as hell wish that were the case, but it’s not. We’re a rather small portion of the population. Our numbers are also particularly limited in states where the phenomenon is most pronounced. And with significant numbers of people willing to answer in a poll that they would not vote for a black man or a woman, I do think it’s unfair to say that a majority of the people in the situation described are not acting out of prejudice. The demographics simply don’t add up. And I guess that I don’t really get what there is to lose by such an admission. I don’t feel that I have anything to lose by saying that significant numbers of Obama supporters are sexist. In fact, it would be the case whether Clinton was running or not. Voters are people and have prejudices, even Dems. This is really just out of curiosity, but would you give this same kind of benefit of the doubt to Republicans?

38 Ashley May 30, 2008 at 5:15 pm

octogalore– I know this isn’t your intention at all, but I think you are denying racism when you say that the extraordinarily high percentage of Hillary voters in Appalachia saying that race is an important issue for them are not racists. That demographic is simply not a bunch of progressives who think a candidate’s being black is a plus, and pretending they might be is apologizing for and denying their racism.

39 octogalore May 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Cara and Ashley, I would ask that you read my comment precisely please. Did I say a majority were not racists? No, I said one cannnot state with authority that they are. Which was my initial point countering Ashley’s comment.

By: “For most people who are not in fact racist” I did not mean most people are not racists. I meant for people who are not, they still might prioritize policy positions. And we cannot prove they aren’t doing this.

Logic isn’t disingenous. I’ve been consistent throughout, so saying I was or am “still” disingenuous is, in fact, disingenous. I have yet to see any accurate interpretation of anything I’ve said demonstrated to be false.

I have nothing, in fact, at stake in trying to claim Hillary supporters or any other group aren’t racist. If anyone’s aware of my family background you may know I am not a stranger to how widespread racism is. Understanding this and tolerating offensive misstatements don’t, however, go side by side.

40 Cara May 30, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Octo, no we do not have concrete explicit statements by white candidate voting for Hillary Clinton stating that they will not vote for Barack Obama because he is black. But the evidence is extremely compelling to me.

Exit polls of voters in Democratic primaries also show that whites who considered the contender’s race _ Clinton is white, Obama is black _ were three times more likely to say they would only be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee than if Obama were chosen.

[. . .]

The exit polls also reveal a tilt toward Clinton, who would be the first female president, by those who strongly considered the candidate’s gender. While those saying sex was not a factor leaned slightly toward Obama, six in 10 of those saying gender was important have supported Clinton, including more men. Most said the candidate’s gender was not important.

Whites who said race was their top consideration or an important factor preferred Clinton over Obama by 63 percent to 32 percent. Those who said race was not consequential backed Clinton by a narrower 11 percentage points.

Nearly one in three blacks said race was significant in choosing their candidate. Eighty-eight percent of blacks who said race was an important factor voted for Obama, compared to 81 percent of those who said they did not consider race.

At the same time, 41 percent of whites who said race was important said they would only be satisfied if Clinton were the nominee, compared to 14 percent who said they would only be happy with Obama. Another 36 percent said either would be fine.

Whites who said race was not a factor were nearly evenly divided when asked which candidate would satisfy them.

So no, I can’t scientifically prove it. But I feel that I’m also using nothing but logic. And I feel that it’s entirely fair to say that this trend is the result of racism.

41 octogalore May 30, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Cara, let me spell it out.

Some people voting for Clinton over Obama are racist.

Some people voting for Obama over Clinton are sexist.

The comment I objected to said that it can be assumed that someone who says race matters and then votes for Clinton, where it’s unclear whether they’re saying it matters in that they’d like to see a POC be president or that they’d like to see a white person be president, is racist. I will assume I do not have to quote the statement a third time.

My point is that one cannot make that judgment.

I don’t disagree with the statement you’ve now backed off to and proclaimed several times — that one can assume some of the people who are white and for whom race is important and vote for Clinton are indeed racist. I’ve never disagreed with that. I have no “stake” in disagreeing with that. What I’ve disagreed with is that it can be assumed that everyone in this category is.

I will repeat myself to state that for me, I would pick a POC over a white person, everything else being equal or even not quite equal. I always have. I did that quite recently in my company. Same for women. So I’d check the box saying race is a factor for me, just as gender is. And I voted for HRC. So at least one — and I don’t think I’m the only one — of the whites for whom race of candidate is a factor might still vote for a white candidate.

Shifting to a related topic: looking at the data, “Whites who said race was their top consideration or an important factor preferred Clinton over Obama by 63 percent …Eighty-eight percent of blacks who said race was an important factor voted for Obama.”

I think if we are concluding that racism operated for whites, which we appear to all be concluding, then based on this data it did for blacks as well.

42 Cara May 30, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Uh, that would only be the case if you believe that reverse racism is a legitimate concept (I do not), and that voting to uphold discrimination based on race of a candidate is the same as voting to dismantle discrimination based on race of a candidate.

I’m really just terribly confused, because it seems to me that we’re in agreement on the issue of racism/sexism being a significant factor. And so I don’t understand where the argument is.

In any case, I don’t think there’s anything more I can add to this conversation and that I’ve said all I wanted to.

43 octogalore May 30, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Nope. The existence of racial preference and the belief that it’s of equivalent harm when practiced by whites and POC are two different things. I think the former is clear from the data. I also think POC preferring POC is understandable whereas whites preferring whites is not. Those two beliefs don’t conflict.

Clearly, my explanation that we agree on “significant factor” but that I had the right to object to “if x then y,” before that was reframed without Ashley actually admitting her initial error, is not getting through. Oh well. I agree it’s probably not worth further discussion. We can agree to agree on the key point, and because I’m a big girl I’ll live without the acknowledgment I’d hoped for.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: