Thursday, June 05, 2008

White Female Clinton Supporters and People of Color

Ever since I saw the way that white female Clinton supporters behaved after the Democrat's had their Rule Committee meeting, I've been doing a lot of thinking about La Chola's comments before she closed down her old blog. I wish I had it to look at right now but I came away from it with the feeling that she'd reached the conclusion that feminism, as defined by white Western feminists, doesn't just fail to address the needs of women of color. It actually works to oppress us.

Looking at the way Clinton supporters have been bellowing about how they'll vote for McCain if Clinton isn't appointed the Democratic nominee, I just couldn't recall ever seeing anything like it before. These aren't people like me who don't believe that voting is the best way to enact radical change. These are people who support the system we have for electing representatives. It's so much hypocrisy! They supported the system when it seemed as if it would result in their candidate winning the nomination but now that it has used its rules in a way that is not to Clinton's advantage, they are crying foul.

If someone wants to vote for McCain because they think he'd make a great representative for them, then that's understandable. However, how can anyone who has spent the last year talking about how people should vote for Clinton if they care about reproductive justice, LGBT rights, female representation in government, now turn around and say they are voting for McCain? Do they really believe that McCain will represent their interests more than Obama will? Apparently so. What does that mean?

To me, it means that what they are really interested in, what's most important to them, is having someone WHITE as President. Oh sure, they'd prefer to have a white woman than to have a white man but they are completely willing to toss aside all of those issues like reproductive justice and LGBT rights if that's what they need to do to make sure that a white person is representing them.

Hey, I think it's pretty neat that the first person of color has been made the nominee of one of the two main political parties. I'm happy for those Obama supporters who have wanted this so bad. I think that it will go a long way towards teaching children of color to try and reach any goal, regardless of whether someone that looks like them has ever accomplished it before. I can say all of this despite the fact that I'm not an Obama supporter. I don't have the sort of candidate that I think would represent me and my interests but I can still acknowledge the significance of Obama's nomination. Why is it that these white female Clinton supporters can't bring themselves to recognize this momentous event and be happy for the people of color who have never had the chance to vote in the general election for someone who shares the experience of being a person of color?

These white Democrats get to vote for white folks all of the time and when they have some white candidate that they are supporting, I have yet to see even one of them suggest that it would make sense for people of color to vote for a Republican simply because the Democrat doesn't look like us. In those instances, it's all about the issues: "Vote for someone who will be more likely to help the welfare moms and the girls who need abortions! Vote for the party that believes in Affirmative Action!" You hear it over and over again--never mind the fact that these are issues that most often benefit white people and not us. I guess that's just a coincidence though, right? Well, anyway, do they ever say that we should vote for whatever black candidate that the Republican party might put out in front of us for some election? Nope!

We're supposed to think that it's all about the issues. That's the only thing that supposedly matters, but look at what happens now that the shoe is on the other foot. Who are these Clinton supporters choosing? The guy who shares that which is really most important to them--their race. Lord knows I'd like to see even one of these white Western feminist Clinton supporters explain how McCain is going to protect Roe v. Wade and LGBT rights, but it's not going to happen. They won't even try. White privilege means they don't have to explain why they'd ignore the issues and vote white instead.

It's really sad just how deep the rift between white Western feminism and people of color truly reaches.


Anonymous said...

Hello, congratulations on the victory in surviving cancer!!!!!

As for the blog content, I would buy your opinion except if falls short of a few critical facts. Too many Clinton supporters who would vote for McCain over Obama are not white, and comfortably Black Americans--like my mama. She is an older AA woman who does not believe the Yes We Can approach to leadership. Leaders must draw the line and too many questionable endorsers back Oba$ma for many staunch Christians. Also, Hilary and white feminists have seen during this campaign, what we see in every day America. Misogyny and sexism are bigger elephants than racism any day. Ask all the men who make more money doing the same work, or lock down traditionally male dominated positions. So,although white feminists have their niche which may not fully include the interests of AA women, they are more in tune with the injustices to women in general than our AA males who still enjoy privilege simply because they have testosterone.

bint alshamsa said...

Hello Mulloverthis,

Thank you for the congratulations and thank you for visiting my blog!

With regards to your comments about Clinton, Obama, and McCain, I had a few responses. First off, I do accept that there are many Clinton supporters who are people of color. They should not be overlooked as if they are invisible. In my post, I tried to be very specific about the fact that I'm referring to some of Clinton's supporters. After all, we know that a great many of them are now supporting Obama since he is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

While I've never been a supporter of either of Clinton or Obama, when the race got down to the two of them I became quite excited over the implications of this. It wasn't so much because of who the candidates are; black men and white women have run for President before. It had more to do with the fact that there were enough citizens willing to vote for a white woman or a black man.

The reason why the candidates themselves didn't really excite me may be similar to those felt by your mother. They (i.e. Clinton and Obama) don't reflect my values. Some folks don't think that we should need candidates to be "perfect" in order to vote for them. To some people, it is enough for a particular candidate to simply be better than the other folks they are running against. To me, that view is contrary to what the Bible says. Instead of having relative standards, we should have concrete standards with regards to what's right and wrong, ethical and unethical. Plenty of other holy books take the same position, by the way.

When viewed from that position, neither Clinton nor Obama meet the standards that Christians are told to adhere to. In John 18:36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." When I look at that, I can't in good faith see why I should give even one bit of my allegiance to anyone who seeks to rule over this country, which is undoubtedly a part of the world that Jesus said his kingdom was not a part of.

With regards to endorsers, I think what matters is not what person backs a candidate. What matters is whether or not Jesus would endorse them. Can you even picture Jesus coming down from the heavens and saying, "Don't follow my father. Follow Clinton. She is the person who best represents your interests, not God." Wouldn't that be antithetical to all that he taught while on Earth? You can substitute Obama's name for Clinton's in that statement and it would be just as ridiculous. So, I think that if someone believes in being a staunch Christians they have no more reason to support Clinton than they do Obama or McCain, for that matter.

If we look at Matthew chapter 22, we see that Jesus had the perfect opportunity to get involved in a political party argument. There were the Jews who felt that Jews should protest the poll tax instituted by the Romans and there were others who felt that it was their obligation to pay it because it was the law. Jesus didn't take the side of either group. His answer reflected the fact that God's standard is what mattered, not what the law demanded or what might seem unfairly burdensome. When we look at that example, I think it gives us a good idea about how Jesus would approach the political arguments of our day, both within and between the two main parties.

With regards to misogyny, sexism, and racism, I have to disagree with you. While you are certainly entitled to feel that misogyny and sexism are "bigger elephants" than racism, you can't say that's what "we see in every day America". What I see in every day America is that these forms of oppression are not separate from each other. They overlap. When I am mistreated by someone, it could be because I'm a woman or because I'm disabled or because I'm black. Or it could be any combination of those things. For me, the racism that I experience is no less significant than the sexism that I experience. My life is affected by both just as much.

Just as there are men who are more likely to make more money doing certain jobs, there are whites who are more likely to get certain jobs simply because of their name. Just as there are jobs that are traditionally male-dominated, there are jobs that are traditionally white-dominated as well. So, this idea that white women are more in tune with the injustices that I experience just doesn't hold up. I am not just a woman. I am a woman of color and, on top of that, I am a woman of color with disabilities. When I see white women giving just as much attention to the issues that disproportionately affect women of color as they do to those issues that affect them, then there might be some factual basis for claiming that they are more committed to addressing the injustices that I experience. Hillary doesn't do that and neither do her white female supporters.

I prefer to cast my lot with someone a lot more honest and reliable and free of bigotry than she has proven to be.

Anonymous said...

i haven't been paying much attention. who's been saying they'd vote mccain?

i did read an interesting piece by a guy who looked at historically bitter primary run offs. turns out that, in the past, each side has made similar claims: they'd vote for the other side before they'd vote for the party's winner. it seems to me that, if true, then there's been some racist media spin that sees something different that isn't different at all.

Anonymous said...

A letter I wrote today:

I think this discussion is having a clarifying effect for me. In my experience you seem quite right about the intense loyalty of Clinton’s supporters and I think the basis of that loyalty is discussable because what this discussion is suggesting to me is that younger feminists do not see what it is that Hillary Clinton represents to us.

For sixty years I have carried a palpable vision in my body which is to see a woman president and I've carried this vision for sixty years. For me, this is where my loyalty begins. The fact that she is eloquent, informed AND human is important because she as a woman, is healing to many of the injuries and affronts we have acquired over the years. It has been said that Hillary's experiences are our experiences and I deeply, deeply resonate with that.

I have lived (suffered?) through Nixon, Reagan and three Bush terms for a total of thirty-three years of hunkering down under republican administrations. Certainly I can't speak for older women but I can speak for my own experience. I don't look to Hillary Clinton for inspiration. I think other older women experience her as very healing and in that light she does inspire. I have never cried when a candidate spoke but Hillary brings out tears. Tomorrow that hope and dream will officially come to an end (I am crying as I write this).

At least for me, this is why Hillary Clinton inspires such loyalty. To me, Obama is just another man, another suit after seeing sixty years of suits. I do not believe he gives a shit about me and he certainly doesn't speak for my experiences. You might understand, that after having been so involved and so close to the fulfillment of a life-long and very healing dream of having a competent woman in office so close, that the prospect of rushing out and working to put another suit in office in order avoid a worse suit is hardly motivating at all. There is no healing in it for me. In fact, I experience Obama as being abrasive and I do feel he has duped his younger supporters. Working for Obama feels incredibly punishing because I do not believe in him.

Although I cannot speak for other older women, I know I am not alone in this experience as we have ached since February. It does seem to me that rushing out and working for Obama is nothing less than a torturous request. I feel really deserted by the younger women that support Obama.


Although I recognize the privilege in saying this, my dislike for Obama is not about race. There are some things that are much deeper. I would have the same response to any man with his characteristics. When I look at someone, I don’t see black or white. I listen to their heart.

Hillary Clinton is far from perfect and I recognize that. But Obama has nothing spiritual to offer me. Hillary has already touched me.

Anonymous said...

"With regards to misogyny, sexism, and racism, I have to disagree with you. While you are certainly entitled to feel that misogyny and sexism are "bigger elephants" than racism, you can't say that's what "we see in every day America".

Gendered Class is the fundamental oppression. How could you possibly want more evidence? You have a male African-American candidate where the press cried "race card" any time there was a racist statement and there were racist statements.... and these protests came from a sexist press. The press coverage was highly gendered and Obama received far more coverage than Obama did (NewYork Times).

Not only that there was polling data (Rasmussen) that clearly indicated that people were more likely to vote for an African American man than a white female.

ONLY a man (or Phyllis Schlaffly) could make such a statement.

bint alshamsa said...

luv nun,

I know it's not unheard of for people to threaten to vote for the other party if their preferred candidate isn't nominated. Still, I think that race and gender have added some extra dimensions to this because, when it comes to presidential elections, it's usually a choice between one white guy and another white guy. I think that we may have to see if these Clinton supporters actually do vote for McCain in order to determine whether or not their threats were just the usual sort that occur in every election or whether it is indicative of the bigotry that many white females and males are unwilling to own up to.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for butting in rudely :)

Luv Nun, there are a few people one can find at places like who claim that they are voting McCain if Clinton doesn't at least make the position of running mate - and some, no doubt, even if she does. Still more are suggesting that Clinton might run as an independent candidate. And racism has also come from these folk - suggestions that "AA are taking over the party" and snide comments about how Obama will obviously make Snoop Dogg secretary of state. Plus, indeed, some sexism as they say all manner of things about Michelle Obama and other women they see as being unsupportive of Clinton.

I am sure these people are a minority, and that the bigotry that comes out of these places is only a tiny fraction of the whole of the Obama-disliking Democrat faction. But it can be difficult to tell when there are some people come out with the usual "I'm not racist but..." before talking about how they fear for their safety around black colleagues and how white women will surely be put in burqas under Obama. And if you look around hillaryis44, you can see I'm actually not exaggerating there :(

(sorry for the long post)

bint alshamsa said...

Hello RainSong,

I think that what you're saying about younger feminists not seeing what Clinton represents to your generation cuts both ways. I do wonder if those within your generation really understand what Clinton represents to many women of color and women within my age group.

I think that age is a factor but it would be a stretch to claim that it's the over-riding one that separates those women who support Clinton and those who do not. We all measure time differently. While you may have waited for thirty years to see a woman president, many women your same age have spent the same amount of time waiting to see a person of color filling that same position. Is there any reason why a woman of color should be more excited about a woman president than a person of color as president? I certainly can't see any.

Whether women experience Clinton as healing doesn't simply depend on their age. It also depends on the extent to which a woman can separate herself from those who are on the marginalized side of white privilege. It really saddens me that so few white feminists have been willing to address the white privilege that Clinton has wielded like a sword throughout this election. No one who is unwilling to address the effects of white privilege can really claim that their experiences are my experiences because, as a woman of color, I am forced to deal with this form of oppression every day of my life. No white person one who ignores the effects that their actions have on my world can ever be experienced by me as healing. In fact, those who refuse to acknowledge their white privilege are just as those who refuse to acknowledge their sexism or ablism.

Of course, those who share Clinton's white privilege can ignore the implications of her actions. After all, white privilege has been making that possible for white women for hundreds of years. So, you know, excuse me if I don't think that someone who is intelligent and educated enough to be aware of what white privilege is that but still chooses to use it to her advantage whenever possible (e.g. Clinton) is worthy of one iota of my loyalty.

I have known many white women who did not have the economic and educational advantages that I've had. I don't feel particularly privileged because I know plenty of people in my social sphere who grew up with a lot more money and went to a lot better schools than I did. Still, living in Louisiana, you don't have to look far to find whites who didn't even have the option of graduating from high school or going on to college.

That's classism at work and it overlaps here because if a woman has to focus on where her next meal will come from, she might not have the time or strength to spend reading up on the experiences of other women. So, I can understand that there is an entire sub-section of whites who can legitimately claim to have very little understanding about how white privilege affects people of color. However, Clinton is not among that group. As you have pointed out, this is an extremely gifted and educated and experienced white woman. This is the same woman who, along with her spouse, has bragged about their especially close relationship with the black and latin@ communities. So, I think the argument that she's acting out of ignorance would be an insult to what we know about her intelligence, education, and experience.

I don't dare claim to know you completely but, from what I do know, you seem to be a woman that really does try to recognize and respect the perspectives of other women. I want to write a lot more to you but I have to get off the computer right now. My mouth hurts like all hell because I got my last two wisdom teeth removed yesterday. I really am going to get back on here tomorrow and finish responding to you but I wanted you to know that I had started on it.

Anonymous said...

THis whole election has just been one great big spectacle. Neither Obama or Hilary truly represent POC or Women. They just happen to inhabit certain bodies that we have encoded with a specific value. Elect either one of them and the world will remain the same. You cannot fix corruption from within, you must rip it out at the root.

Anonymous said...

I said, I've been waiting sixty years, Bint, my lifetime. Thirty years is way too short.

I recognize Hillary's privilege both class privilege and white privilege.

It troubles me and I recognize that it IS as you say.

But privilege does not nullify the work that has done and wants to do for people.

While I am at it, I acknowledge my own white privilege. I acknowledge that as a white woman I have only one class of oppressors and that's white men. In solidarity with you, I recognize and acknowledge that with you as a woman of color that I benefit from your oppression AND will stand beside you and glued to you to fight that oppression and to relinguish those benefits.

I'm happy that you are happy with Obama with whom I am really miserable.

I have seen clues that her class and privilege do blind her to some unmapped (meaning fully known to me) segments of black experience. I don't attribute that to ignorance, I attribute that to lack of the lack of epistemological privilege that comes from her social privilege much in the same way that men cannot comprehend the opprssions the women face. They have less epistemological privilege than I do because they have more social privilege.

I see her blindenesses and as I've said she is not perfect. You see, I have spent a lot of time wondering where my next meal was coming from.

Bint, I am deeply sorry you are hurting. I take solace in an old saying. "What problems did you have to solve to have the problems you have now?" I am so grateful that your pain is in wisdom teeth and not in your mortality. We both know that you will heal from the wisdom teeth.

-heart to you.

Anonymous said...

"I do wonder if those within your generation really understand what Clinton represents to many women of color and women within my age group."

I have spent much time with WOCs of my age, and I feel almost osmotically that I know what older WOCs feel and I would not argue with them. On the other hand... I am totally in mystery with regard to younger women of today. Our values and concerns are so very different.

I feel a richness in connection with women my age and I understood the theme which bonds Hillary's supporters. It's palpable and I can feel it. However, I feel it ironic that I feel closer to most African American women my age, than I do the average twenty-year old white woman of today. The older Black woman and I have lived through the same events although, we may have had different perspectives at the time but we both lived through throught them such that we can talk about the experiences. That's something that neither an older black woman or myself can say about a twenty-five year old.

peace Bint.

Anonymous said...

This campaign isnt illustrating some new fault line between women of color, specifically Black women, and white women. It's always been there, and white women for the most part have been cheefully able to ignore it.

I know Black women much older than seventy who are much more vociferous in their condemnation of Hillary than Bint is.

I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

Also I'm at the point where I dont think that a lot of these white women can 'stand with" women of color. Not only do they benefit from our oppression, they also help to perpetrate it, and the unwillingness to really address that makes it impossible for the kind of 'solidarity' that a lot of white women are calling for, to happen.

The Truffle said...

All I can say is this:

I'm a white chick. I'm a feminist (sometimes, anyway). And I support Obama because I ran out of reasons to defend or support Hillary. Maybe it's a generational thing. It's the baby-boomers/second wavers/"women of a certain age" who are bellowing about voting for John McCain in spite.

People from earlier generations--the ones who came of age during the civil rights movement and second-wave feminism--came of age with certain racial attitudes already instilled. Younger generations are less likely, IMO, to support a candidate just because that person is black or female. This is simply because race and gender are not such important issues to these generations when it comes to choosing a candidate.

I'm confused, however. Why does Hillary Clinton represent the hopes and wishes of American women? Why not a women who DIDN'T need to climb on her husband's back to grab that coveted brass ring? I'm getting kind of tired of it.

Anonymous said...

“People from earlier generations--the ones who came of age during the civil rights movement and second-wave feminism--came of age with certain racial attitudes already instilled. Younger generations are less likely, IMO, to support a candidate just because that person is black or female. This is simply because race and gender are not such important issues to these generations when it comes to choosing a candidate.”
Where I agree with you that the support of white women is rather thin, you are inaccurate in talking about my experience. My mother was from Appalachia and was a high-school graduate not given to overly deep contemplation. When I asked questions about racism, she had a singular answer, “love all people”, simple and almost impossible. It would be silly to say that I love all black people. I don’t. But when I don’t like an African-American, it’s not about skin color or culture, it’s about the person.

“I'm confused, however. Why does Hillary Clinton represent the hopes and wishes of American women? Why not a women who DIDN'T need to climb on her husband's back to grab that coveted brass ring? I'm getting kind of tired of it.”
You might be one person I don’t like because you are trivializing the work and contributions of someone who is very important to me. Hillary Clinton is not on the surface of this earth to please you. Your judgments about of her and your framing of her career is not feminist. What you see to miss is that the presidency and any high-level position is a barrier to women. There are no women CEO’s in the fortune 50 and only about thirteen in the fortune 500. Those are reasons to care about gendered class divisions. There is a pay gap of thirty cents to the male dollar. When you stop and think about these things along with violence against women, the prostitution and trafficking of women, rape coupled with universal social devaluation of women – then you’d have a lot of reasons to be incensed and concerned. But you’d have to think about it.

Anonymous said...

"Lord knows I'd like to see even one of these white Western feminist Clinton supporters explain how McCain is going to protect Roe v. Wade and LGBT rights, but it's not going to happen. They won't even try. White privilege means they don't have to explain why they'd ignore the issues and vote white instead."

It would be nice to reconcile the apples and oranges of this statement so that the question could be answered.

"Roe v. Wade and LGBT rights", do not intersect with race except in some aspects of Roe.

Here's what's occuring. People voted for Obama. After they voted for Obama, THEN they sy, "Oh dear if you Hillary folks do not vote for Obama then we'll get McCain and all of these things will be in jeopardy.

I have an answer for that and I will respond. You should have voted for Hillary to begin with. She led McCain better than Obama did before she suspended her candidacy. She is a stronger candidate. Screaming at Hillary supporters now to get on YOUR bandwagon is eating your candy and your cake too.

I don't dislike Obama because of his race. He ran a susbstance-free
"feel good" campaign that allowed him to build up lead over Hillary in February. So now, I have a choice between a socially insensitive suit and a brash ambitious performative suit because you did not support a woman.

You want that to be my problem and I'm not going to make it my problem. You'd like to make that an issue of privilege when I am simply tired of suits in the White House black, white blue or purple.

With either McCain or Obama I will suffer just as I did with Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush and Bush. I'm a lesbian. Obama does not truly care about me. What he does care about is being president. If paying attention to women will get him elected, he'll pay enough attention to women to be elected but not because he cares about women, but because he cares about being elected. As with almost all men, our concerns are very secondary to theirs so do not make my dislike of Obama about race. I would not like any candidate who ran the campaign he did. Actually, I want a bumper sticker that says, "Congratulations America, you've done it again."

The bottom line is that I have voted for my last suit because to me, they all pretty much look the same.

m said...

I have a blog and I agree with you sister!

I call this White Female Supremacy.

Much love.

Anonymous said...

Whoa !!!!!!!!

You really misunderstood where I am coming from.

I stand beside my sisters no matter what color they are. I see and feel hearts, not skin color. In no way do I support the myth of white supremacy.

I don't dislike Obama because of the color of his skin. I would dislike Obama no matter what color he is. I don't love Hillary because she's white. I'd never vote for Barbara Doyle or Condoleeza rice.

So, I fear your board is one place I'd not show up. I'll stay here (at times) and yell at that horrible liberal bint alshamsa (I am a radical). I would be at Bint's back because she of her spirit and her color. I rarely agree with her but I dearly love her.

You'll never ever see me support any kind of white supremacy. The thought of it sickens me and leaves me in pain.

The Truffle said...

I think that it's an exaggeration to believe that Clinton supporters are really that die-hard. And yes, this goes for feminist women as well. The handful of "we'll-vote-McCain-so-NYAH!" voters really repulsed a lot of people. Including those feminists who support Obama.

And speaking as an Obama supporter, I'm tired of the "sexism vs. racism: what's worse" debate. They both suck, but Hillary's campaign repelled me with her winkity-wink race-baiting. She should have known better.

And on that note, here is something to make everyone smile: