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Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Black Women Voters Will Vote on the Issues

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Originally posted at BlogHer on January 24, 2008

Sunday night while deep in the throes of procrastination I happened upon the following article from CNN: “Gender or race: Black women voters face tough choices in S.C.”

For these women, a unique, and most unexpected dilemma, presents itself: Should they vote their race, or should they vote their gender?

No other voting bloc in the country faces this choice.

Democratic analyst Jehmu Greene says, “We’ve all wanted the day to come where there was a black person in the White House, where there was going to be a woman in the White House. I don’t think we imagined it would be having to decide one or the other.”

My curiosity beat out doing actual work and since I am a black woman voter I clicked through and read.The first perusal was met with many a ‘hmm’ due to the rather sweeping – though innocuous – generalizations about black women as a voting bloc. The repeated ‘hmm, interesting’ quickly faded and turned into general annoyance. And let me put a disclaimer here that I can only speak on this from where I sit. I am not about to be the voice of all black women everywhere. That said I will admit to being intrigued by CNN’s willingness to explore this demographic a little more thoroughly. I’ll even – ever so briefly – give them the benefit of the doubt since having a white woman and a black man being the statistical frontrunners (they are) of a Presidential race is historical and for those who are not black women, it maybe seem as if we have this great choice to make: Do we vote with our race or do we vote with our gender? Yes. I can POSSIBLY understand that. But then the more vexed I became for surely they weren’t suggesting that this very important election was the first time that black women felt as if they had a role in the political process. Basically the more I thought about it, the more I started to appreciate my apparently brand spanking new enfranchisement and this 2008 election was my big coming out party. What do I wear?

I know I am being flippant about this because as a black woman, a black woman who is only voting in her second presidential election (do the math), a black woman who has voted in every primary and Midterm Election by ABSENTEE ballot – which are known for low turnouts and interest – the more aggravated I become. Some readers, also black women, responded to CNN with quick wit and aplomb – or at least more than I could muster at the time – about how this particular article gave the impression that when thinking of this election, black women wake up each day and think “Race, gender, race, gender. Who gives a rat’s ass about the economy?! Race or Gender”. The following, from a woman named Tiffany said it far better than I ever could:

An e-mailer named Tiffany responded sarcastically: “Duh, I’m a black woman and here I am at the voting booth. Duh, since I’m illiterate I’ll pull down the lever for someone. Hm… Well, he black so I may vote for him… oh wait she a woman I may vote for her… What Ise gon’ do? Oh lordy!”

Tiffany urged CNN to “pull this racist crap off” the Web site and to stop calling Hillary the “top female candidate.”

“Stop calling Barack the “Black” candidate,” she wrote.

Many readers were upset that the story did not delve beyond a cursory mention of the issues.

Greene says women, including herself, face pressure to vote their race. In the African-American community, there is a perception that race trumps gender, she says

The biting wit! The sarcasm! Be still my heart and if I had half a mind to respond so quickly with such gumption, I probably would have but I was still sitting and thinking about how I will ever make such a TOUGH decision. This isn’t to say that I’ve never heard the argument among blacks as to the whole white woman/black man conundrum but only in a historical context. And for the record this conversation was held in a wine bar. Also let me put to rest the whole notion that we black women only discuss politics and current events each Saturday while getting our hair done. WE, as a collective do not. You know that old adage “When you assume you make an ass out of you and me”? Well CNN assumed that black women would ONLY choose between two candidates based on appearances alone. For clearly they debate because they have nothing to do on a Saturday night because they have they EXACT SAME MESSAGE. CNN ended up looking like an ass for portraying black women as relatively uninformed and unable to look past skin color and gender, who would never think to look at the actual issues. Last I checked, the ability to choose based on where a candidate subjectivity on education, healthcare and war was part of the democratic process. Then again, I didn’t learn much as a political science major living in our nation’s capital for six years. My bad.

This isn’t JUST about CNN making an error and being presumptuous, even if their intention was to show that black women as a demographic have had their electoral interest piqued.Which some might argue may very well be the case. I’m not trying to be irreverent either but CNN did more harm than good as it continued to perpetuate a stereotype about black women that is rather tired. As they neglected to mention that black women play a huge role within the Democratic Party infrastructure which was pointed out in a New York Times magazine article a few years ago. What has made me so angry is that I am a young, black woman who has been ensconced in politics from my first viewing of CSPAN so I find it ludicrous to take black women as a voting bloc and assume that they don’t…I don’t know…read or watch CNN or have never seen a freaking debate but instead say Who looks more like me? That’s the person I’m going with.

It goes beyond CNN as even on BlogHer the debate has deepened as to how women in general will choose the candidate they should go with. The first from Morra Aarons-Mele in reference to younger women as a voting bloc:

I think many young women are coming around to Hillary because despite our hesitancy to re-join the Feminist Majority, we know it’s time. Oddly enough, I think it took a reminder from the godmother of feminism, Gloria Steinem, to wake us up. As (male) uber-blogger Markos put it: “You underestimate that sympathy at your own peril. If I found myself half-rooting for her given the crap that was being flung at her, is it any wonder that women turned out in droves to send a message that sexist double-standards were unacceptable?”

The next from Faboo who writes in response to Morra’s post:

While female bloggers recently gave us entries on Feminism, all of them took Steinem’s lead with dismissing or ignoring racism. We’ve gotten rallying cries, as women, to back up Clinton, because she is female. These are the same women who tell me that black people who vote for Obama because he’s black are short-sighted. I fail to see why that’s not quite a double-standard. However in the comment sections of media sites, to blogs, to random discussions, these double-standards are enforced to the point of becoming conventional wisdom.

Try as I might, it’s impossible for me to be objective because I am a 24 year old black woman. For anyone to say that young women should rally behind the woman because it’s the good feminist thing to do and but then accuse blacks of being ‘short-sighted’ for voting for the black candidate is beyond ludicrous. Of course Morra isn’t saying that nor would I accuse her of such but generally speaking that argument looms and is hanging overhead as that is what people who are NOT black women see, feel and think. I didn’t shoot out of bed this morning and think that as a WOMAN it’s time to have the back of another woman. It’s time. I also don’t jump up in the morning and say the same about Senator Obama because he’s the black candidate and it’s time. This isn’t a black and white issue (har!) And it’s hard to explain being a black woman to someone who is not a black woman, historically, personally, socioeconomically, etc. But I will say that WE are not all the exact same people – as with any demographic, but I’m speaking from my point of view – we don’t all have the same lives and do the same things. So to make such a broad based assumption about the new black women voting bloc having to make this HARD decision by focusing on looks alone when making their decisions as to who will be running the free world, seems a little silly and takes ignorance to another level.

I’m being effusive here because it’s aggravating and an egregious conjecture that should never have been brought up in the first place.The question never should have been “Vote with your race or vote with your gender?” I would hope that would never be the question for anyone. The answer should be that we don’t vote with our race nor do we vote with our gender but we have always and will continue to vote with our brains based upon the issues at hand. It seems like the obvious and intelligent answer and yet it’s not for there are still things that are decided upon solely by looks. But voting whether you are black, white or magenta, is not one of them.