ouch! that stings.

There’s been a lot of talk on several blogs about the racist attacks on Obama and the sexist attacks on Clinton and the racist and sexist remarks they make towards each other. There’s also be considerable talk about how black women will vote, as if there is an inherent conflict (esp. now that Edwards is out of the race) between “siding” with one’s race or with one’s gender. I’ve thought and talked about this a lot with friends, mostly similarly situated black women with a good amount of education. The general consensus amongst us is that we are voting for Obama.

This is obviously not a random sample – my friends are probably more like me than other people, we are friends partly because we share similar political orientations, etc. And of course, not all of my friends are voting for Obama – a very good friend works on Clinton’s campaign.

The basic idea for many of us is that racism stings more than sexism in our lives. I feel much more incensed over racist remarks made about Obama than I do about sexist remarks made about Clinton. Why? I’m not quite sure, but I can venture to put out a few hypotheses. First, black men (and black people) are a constant in my life. I am married to a black man. We approach our lives like it’s us against the world. We are each other’s best friends, so I can understand his struggles and he can understand mine. That’s purely personal.

Second, When I look around, especially in the predominantly white environments in which I find myself, it’s my blackness that makes me feel outnumbered. In my cohort, there are 10 of us – 8 women and 2 men. In the class before us, there were no men. This quarter, 3 of my four classes are taught by women. There are no black professors in the department (primary appointment). There are only 4 black people amongst the graduate students, which number over 60 still working towards their degree. And all of them are women. So when I think of what parts of my identity are marginalized within my social world, it’s my race that stands out, my race that feels most limiting. So if I’m rallying for someone to make it, someone to transcend, then I’m rallying for the person who shares the attribute that I think most limits me in my dreams and aspirations.

Third, to be totally honest, I think I’ve internalized much of the sexist rhetoric that exists. Obama made a comment about Clinton’s “claws” coming out. I totally understood that to be a cat-fight reference, and I immediately thought, “Well, women are catty” before I caught myself. Her “breakdown” made me feel more sympathetic towards her as I thought she was showing more of her feminine side; had Obama had that kind of show of emotion over being tired, I probably would have been like, “Man-up!” I’m not saying that this internalization is good; really it sucks. But I do not in any way internalize racist sentiments. There is NOTHING I think a Black person cannot do as well as a White person, while I do question a woman’s ability to handle certain traditionally male roles.

* Of course the people as individuals have a lot to do with it as well. I generally don’t like Clinton; I never really have. After saying all that I have, I ask myself if I don’t like her because she eschews typical male behavior. And I don’t think that’s it. There are lots of “weak” women that I can’t stand, and some very masculine women that I adore. But my vote is much more about who Obama is rather than who Clinton isn’t. I LOVE him. I love to hear him speak, I love to watch him debate. I loved his books, I admire his life. But if Clinton wins the primary, I’ll be behind her by showing up to the polls to get her elected. *

4 thoughts on “ouch! that stings.

  1. I Have To Be Honest And Say That I Enjoyed Your Post “ouch!that stings” I Came Across Your Site When I Was Doing A Google Search On “handle women in love” And I Felt That I Should Drop A Note To Let You Know What A Great Site You Have. I Can Not Agree With You 100% Regarding Some Thoughts, But You Got A Good Point Of View Over This Issue.


  2. I enjoy reading your blog, and you seem pretty open, so I was wondering if you would answer a couple of questions for me with regards to your post above. I’m a white Soc post-doc with two kids (I’ve posted before), and honestly, I don’t have any black friends in my life right now (I’m surrounded by an environment even whiter than the one you describe above – Wisconsin). So, I’ve been wanting to ask some black people about this, but don’t have anyone around to ask. I am wondering about your attachment to Obama because he’s black. I can understand your support for him based on issues, charisma, etc. (I’m a big fan, and I can’t help but tear up when I hear him speak), but he’s actually mixed, was raised by a white mother, and hardly knew his black father. His black background comes directly from Kenya, so he doesn’t really share the same descended-from-slavery background that I assume you have. His wife is African-American and he is heavily involved in the African-American community and church, but is that what appeals to you about him? Do you like him because of the color of the skin, and if he were walking down the street people would perceive him in the same way as they do you and your husband? I think it’s great that Americans from such diverse backgrounds support him, but I think of him as being very international – after all, he has a white-Indonesian sister – rather than African-American. His mixed-race identity rarely comes up. So why do you identify with him as a Black person? Thanks for your comments; I’m really trying to understand other perspectives (which is why I love Sociology).


  3. Hi demographist –

    This is a hard question. I think skin color has a lot to do with it, but not the color per se, but the experience behind the color. Black children raised in white adoptive families are still black because the world sees them and treats them as black. I truly believe that race is a social construct; it exists because we give it meaning. Because of biology, we really don’t know by looking at someone their parents’ race. But a person with brown skin and negroid facial characteristics is seen as black. To me, blackness is an experience – the experience of being outnumbered, the experience of being followed in stores, the experience of racist treatment in doctor’s offices. So I guess it’s better to say that I identify with Obama not simply due to his skin color, but because I know that we have shared experiences due to our skin color. He could be totally ignorant of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the whole deal, but he knows what it feels like to be a black person in the here and now. Most of us (meaning black people) are ignorant of our history, our roots, etc but that doesn’t make us less black.

    But of course, that is just one part of it, like you said. I was not supporting, say, Al Sharpton, when he ran because I don’t agree with him on many issues, and I don’t like how polarizing he is. See, the beauty of Obama is that I can relate to him based on skin color, but other non-black people also relate to him based on his international appeal. He’s able to transcend without trying to be “color-blind” like acting as though identity doesn’t matter. Being black is icing on the cake. I would also be lying if I didn’t admit that the possibility of him winning deepens my attraction. This is the first time that someone like me – i.e. who understands the experience of being black – or hell, non-white – could actually become the president of the united states? When that experience is so salient in your life, it makes it hard to not be attached.

    I’m just rambling now – I hope that answers your question. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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