Friday, May 23, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro is not my Hero

Warning: This post will be all over the place, because I am so angry at so many things, and this is my therapy.

I used to thing that Geraldine Ferraro was cool. I was proud that my party, the Democratic Party, had nominated a female to be vice president of the United Sates. I thought she was a change maker, and I looked to her as a hero of the party (not a personal hero, because I have few personal heroes that I don't know personally). Then this primary season started, and I actually heard the things that came out of her mouth. Now, I'm repulsed. Ferraro's incendiary statements are emblematic of many of the underlying problems that have been exposed by this primary election process.

Now, let me pause here, because anyone who has been following so far will see that I talk a lot about the primary elections. Well, that's because I see them as a great way to approach the subject of race in America. The candidacy of Barack Obama is a great microcosm in which to examine race, and it has exposed a lot that people have not been willing to discuss otherwise. The same can be said for other people, and other situations, which is why I plan on writing about Donovan McNabb sometime soon.

But back to Ferraro. My first eye-brow raising experience was when a friend tipped me off to one of Keith Olbermann's special comment in which he rips into Ferraro and the Clintons. At issue was a comment she made suggesting that the only reason Obama even has a shot at the White House is because of his race. This will take a while, but I want to lay out exactly what comments she has made:

On Fox “News” Radio:

“John, between me and you and your millions of listeners, if Barack Obama were a white man, would we be talking about this as a potential real problem for Hillary Clinton? If he were a woman of any color, would he be in this position that he's in? Absolutely not.”
Then, in her own defense, to the Daily Breeze (California):
“Anytime anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says, 'let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world,' you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. ... Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?”
What? Are you kidding me? First of all, if Ferraro's argument is true, then one must question if a black man can make a legitimate run for the president. Her argument leaves open the possibility that the millions of people who voted for Obama did so solely for the incredibly stupid and simple minded reason that he is black (although statistics show that many haven't voted for him because he's black, and I've heard many advocate that women vote for HRC because she is a woman). Ferraro's comments were remarkably condescending to all of the hard work that Senator Obama has done and to anyone who supports him.

But, this is not what really bothers me. In the interview with Fox Radio, Ferraro goes on to argue that the growing support as “the guys sticking together.” This is representative of her other theory of explaining why Obama has been successful: male privilege.

Now, I won't deny that all men in America and in the West in general benefit from male privilege. However, for Ferraro to argue in such a way that suggest that male privilege operates equally for all men is quite repulsive, because it ignores the issue of race. Particularly, it ignores the fact that Senator Obama is black. It is incredibly naive (or racist, take your pick) not to acknowledge that race and gender are not two parallel phenomena. Instead these two factors intersect in interesting ways. The fact that we have a BLACK man running against a WHITE woman is significant. A while back, Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell had a conversation on this that really got me thinking. Harris-Lacewell made the following point: how is it following the historical trend for the black man to dominate the white woman? In fact, we have a long tradition in this country of protecting the purity of white women from the aggressiveness of black men. The fact that Senator Obama seems to be on his way to the nomination is quite the deviation from the historical trend.

So, knowing all that, it becomes clear why, I was very offended with the way Ferraro conducted herself on the Today Show a few days ago.

For those who don't want to watch the entire nauseating clip, here are a few highlight comments:
  • The men were beating up on Hillary in the first Philadelphia debate. Never mind that she was the front-runner at that point.
  • “I don't want to see another woman get attacked the same way when she tries to do as well.” But, it's OK to attack blacks and make up lies about them in chain e-mails.
  • Obama's “Annie Oakley” comment was sexist. Actually, Obama's comments were made to draw attention to Clinton's sudden embracing of “blue collar” hobbies.
  • Obama's “brush your dirt off your shoulders” Jay-Z impersonation was a sexist attempt to “diminish” Clinton. How dare he defend himself. How dare he let unjust criticisms roll off his back. Who does he think he is? That uppity ni- well you get the point.
Now, let me try to pull this all together into some semblance of an organized summary.

Ferraro's comments are offensive for a few reasons.
  1. They ignore Obama's blackness. They also ignore Clinton's whiteness. Clinton is painted as a victim, Obama as a villein. Sound familiar?
  2. Ferraro is obviously grasping at straws to support her claim that Obama is sexist. The two arguments she offers are so paper thin, I think Rachel Maddow and Meredith Viera refrained from criticizing her in order to avoid embarrassing her. The thorough tongue lashing she deserved just wouldn't have been appropriate for he Today Show.
  3. Ferraro seems to think that there is absolutely no legitimacy to Obama. She names every other viable contender (leaving out Kucinich and Gravell) as potentially competent presidents. Quite frankly, she comes off as odiously racist. Not that she is, but she doesn't seem to concerned about demonstrating that she isn't.
So, I've come to the conclusion that Ferraro is not a hero of the Democratic Party, at least not if the party really stands for any of the good things I once was sure it did.

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