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One Day in November

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2010 at 2:24 am

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” ~Anne Lamott

Once someone told me that “you can’t spin hope”. And I quoted it for months with a snicker. ‘Hope’ isn’t part of the party platform. I’ve read the party platform and next to ‘improving public education’ it doesn’t say ‘dream big’ with little unicorns and a heart instead of a dot above the lowercase i. I find myself to be a generally cynical person and pragmatic. The glass is never half full or half empty it’s just a glass with water for me to quench my thirst. Which is why when ‘hope’ was used as a catalyst for people to throw their cautions to the wind and vote for ‘change’, I scoffed and guffawed and remained a non-believer.

There was no push or drive during the last two years, I was just going through the motions of electing a President whose platform most aligned with my ideals. That is until last night when my coworker, Ben, a man old enough to think that he would never see the Berlin Wall come down, started to tell me a story that I had been dying to hear. I was already for the The Drama when out of the corner of my eye I saw something that made me stop everything. It’s rare that I’m at a loss for words or that when something exciting or monumental happens that I’m not shouting from the rooftops. I turned to Ben and politely said to him, “Barack Obama is the President”. He just stared back at me and said “Wait. What?”

“I think that Barack Obama is the President”.

He stopped the story that I was so dying to hear to turn around and look at the television screen with me. You know those moments that are forever etched in your mind? Those moments when you remember exactly how you were standing, which way the moon was facing and the color of the chipped nail polish on your fingers? Those moments? It’s just that…it isn’t everyday that I stand in a room full of people, put my head down and my hands on my knees and feel everything inside of me collapse and then cry. Two minutes later Ben went back to telling me the story and I stopped him to say, “Yeah, whatever you’re going to say is going to be boring as shit compared to this”. But he told me anyway.

I called my father later and he was far too quiet than usual. Not the normal banter and telling me that I’m adopted but he was quiet and thoughtful. If you grow up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, you can never really prepare yourself for raising children in the suburbs of Upstate NY. You probably don’t envision your black son and daughter discussing political science and supply side economics and the LSATS and their white peers as if they were common place. And you sure as shit don’t ever bring yourself to really push your mind to pursue the possibility of a black man living in the White House.

But you hope. I hope for a lot of things. That my check clears or that a pair of perfect shoes are available in my size or that one day I’ll be able to fit into my favorite dress again. I hope that the Giants win this weekend and I hope there’s more wine. I’m neither sentimental nor idealistic, but yeah, sometimes I hope. We all hope every single day because it’s what gets us up in the morning: That hope that things will be better or just as good as the day before. That hope that whatever we are working towards – either alone or as a people – will go well and get better. It’s just that on any given day we don’t realize how much we hope because we never outwardly say it because it’s just a little too trite and rainbows and kittens to say that you spend your days hoping. Though I think it’s human nature and catching to see one person be optimistic and so it’s hard to avoid that drug of good feeling.

So would you like to know what my first thoughts were last night? After the tears and my father. It was of my friends, Leah and Simon, and then of every other parent I know that has young children. But Leah and Simon especially because they’re having a baby in six weeks and their baby will never know of anything different than having a black president it will be natural to him and forever be a grip on my heart and something that I remember vaguely thinking about. Just as it will always be baffling to my father that Garrett and I have always experienced integration (its ups and its harsh, harsh downs) as it’s always been natural to us but a grip on his heart.

There are these little tiny babies who will always think of this – what just happened – as ordinary. And they will have that luxury and life because one day in November several million of us chose to lean on the idea of hope a little more than we had in days, weeks and months prior. It was one day in November when we said we could and so we did. We hoped and then we changed.

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Finish Line

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

“I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.” ~Joseph Baretti

Her: and why doesn’t our fucking state have early voting? Or is it just my borough?

Me: Nope. Everywhere. I already voted though. Guess who I voted for?

Her: Did you vote with your heart?

Me: Yes, with my heart. My heart says, “I’m a socialist”

Her: “and a terrorist”

**

Torrie and I recently had a conversation about the random acts of ignorance we’ve both been privy to over the past months. There’s a difference between genuinely disliking a candidate’s policies and then being able to name one of those policies – any policy – showing that research and thought has been given to the decision and disliking a candidate – for ANY office – based on race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or whether or not they prefer their carrots cooked (vomit) or raw. As partisan as I am, I give very little thought to how someone votes. I really do not care. If you are die hard pro-life and that drives your decision process for who to vote for then good for you*, but the second you refer to me as a “baby killer” because I am pro-choice, is the second I laugh in your face. Any other word that comes from your lips will be tantamount to busting out in 17th century Gaelic. I will have to no idea what you’re saying since you have chosen to say such asinine and thoughtless bullshit. It falls on both sides of the aisle I wouldn’t refer to someone as a facist or racist or bigot unless there was concrete evidence of such behavior and I wouldn’t expect for someone to call me – or the candidate I’m supporting – a misogynist, a socialist or a Muslim terrorist.

*But that doesn’t keep me from talking about you later but I wouldn’t call you mean names to your face I might just ridicule you from afar if you start on that ‘health of the mother’ (in airquotes of course) bullshit. Still! Not that bad!

It’s like trying to have a conversation with a six year old. Everything is going well and you’re discussing Hans Solo versus Yoda and it’s all good until I say that I really like Hans Solo. In return you flop on the floor because I had the nerve to disagree with you on why Yoda can be slightly irritating and instead of a respectful disagreement you start calling me stupid and a dumbass because OMFG YOU ARE RIGHT AND I AM WRONG and the only way for you to convey just how right you are is by calling me wrong.

Children fight and argue and behave in such petulant ways that I have been witness to over the past two years. Children behave that way because they don’t have the vocabulary that adults are equipped with in order to convey their thoughts clearly and fully. Not that all adults are perfect nor do they always say exactly what they mean the first time they say it but when unable to adequately communicate how they feel one would suspect that said adult goes back to think a little because WE’RE FUCKING ADULTS. Ergo, it’s impossible for me to think that resorting to name calling and throwing a temper tantrums and hanging effigies of a candidate is the proper way to express a dislike of someone’s political positions.

The past two years started so calmly: Polite conversations that have turned into name calling and behavior typical of three year olds. And by adults. Fucking adults. It boggles the mind how several people who are supposed to be intelligent and otherwise competent people can turn to me minutes later and say that they won’t vote for Barack Obama because he is a “muslim terrorist” and I want to shove my foot in the face (see? I’m no better) of the person who said to my face that he was going to destroy Israel.

The thing is that I had never encountered ‘those people’ until after my conversation with Torrie. The conversation that we had where I gave myself a pat on the back for being so progressive and non-judgmental. The conversation where Torrie had to point out to me that perhaps I am slightly close-minded because I only surround myself with people who are relatively like me – current and former city dwellers, somewhat progressive, rampant travelers, people with a good grasp of politics and well read – thus rendering judgment and sometimes a hearty eye roll towards people who have lived in Deliverance country for their entire loves. Clearly I’m not all that open minded when I show off my righteous indignation and mockery towards people who think that Syracuse is a major city. Of course I’d never thought of that because I am right and perfect 100% of the time. Regardless only friends of friends knew people who were so clueless to believe something about a candidate, which had been refuted by every major news network. So when I was faced with actually knowing someone who thinks that Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist it was with an amount of incredulousness ever experienced; for surely I could not know someone who believed such a massive amount of bullshit.

I sat in silence when I found this out. It wasn’t said directly to me, thank God. And my first instinct was anger and name calling, even though all rational thought pointed to calmly telling this otherwise kind and respectful person that she needs to try experiencing the evening news instead of re-watching episodes of America’s Next Top Model. So that is my answer to the question of what to do in such a situation: To seriously contemplate resorting to listening to my gut instinct and hit below the belt OR! I could be calm and thoughtful while keeping my grievances about this person and the amount of helium taking up perfectly good space in their brain, to myself

Perhaps this is another sign of maturity that continues to creep up on me when I least expect it, but as humans we are driven by instinct: To protect or to defend or to recoil in fear. But perhaps a little less instinct and defensiveness is needed. Or so I’m starting to believe after the past years, months and weeks. I’m finding that sitting down to calmly explain, to think a little, to open my mind, to try to see from the other side, to do a little less eye rolling and a little more listening, to read more – well, I’m finding all of those approaches far more satisfactory than the inclination to give a good punch to the gut.

I think that after two years the back and forth and vitriol has reached is pinnacle. We’ve hit the climax of being as fucking vicious to the other side as we can possibly be. I’m ready for people to calm the fuck down and get off their periods. As much as I love children, I like them best when they’re being well behaved and have their heads firmly intact instead of getting in such a tizzy that the entire thing falls to floor. And I feel the same way towards adults. Stop with the bickering. Male or Female try popping a Midol or feel free to use my patented remedy towards calm behavior; a shot of Grey Goose with a klonopin chaser. Whatever.

Take a few deep breaths.

We’re almost there.

I have no words for this

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm

“Your ignorance cramps my conversation. ” ~Anthony Hope

If someone close to you – a family member, coworker, friend – came up to you and sincerely thought that Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist; how would you respond? Would you feel it is your civic duty to set them straight or would you IGNORE, IGNORE, IGNORE and then drink?

The Rules of Engagement

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Now with bonus head-exploding addendum!

“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.” ~Clarence Darrow

I’m 24 and I could probably tell the average 34 year old more about politics in 30 minute pedicure session all the while blissfully reading this week’s US Weekly and interjecting with my thoughts on Speidi after flipping each page. I’m not an expert on politics; electoral, congressional, presidential, gubernatorial, none of it, but I feel like I need to say very slowly to some members of our studio audience that there are people – me – who actually go to school to study the science of politics and then they end up with careers in that particular field. There are actual people in the world who discuss politics each and every single day to the point where if they go home and have to read the regurgitated, hyperbolic, misinformed bullshit from people who suddenly decided to pick up the newspaper – apologies, it’s 2008, so by ‘newspaper’ I mean blog – then their heads will explode. Death by Ignorance.

And while I commend people for taking the time to now get informed on issues that others have been engrossed in for decades, I don’t appreciate taking a stance on an issue based on a wikipedia entry or deciding on who to vote for because someone sports the same genitalia that you sport.

Yesterday evening I got angry. Like irate over the presence of a photo on Flickr of a McPalin sign. Which is fine, if you agree with someone on the issues then that is fine but don’t then get huffy and menacing and have your wittle baby feelings hurt when people start to question you or offer dissenting opinions. Especially if your ‘post’ on why you support them leaves much to be desired. And when people voice their valid opinions and ask you WHY then don’t go off and stomp your feet and say that people are so fucking rude. They aren’t being rude they’re asking questions and if you’re going to broadcast your political affiliation then at least be prepared to answer simple god damn questions.

There are bits and pieces to both candidates that are imperfect and their stances are still being worked out. Fuck, Barack Obama once proudly supported school choice and vouchers but at least I am able to wade through his positions and tell you which onces I can wholeheartedly support and which make me feel like he’s raking his nails across a chalkboard just to see me flinch. And so if McPalin is your choice fine, go right on ahead and vote for them, that’s the great thing about Democracy but be able to back up your reasoning and do not, I repeat do not, get offended when someone tries to tell you otherwise. That’s the great thing about America; people are allowed to argue and fight their point until their blue in the face. But you don’t want to look like some dumbshit who just yesterday discovered television.

All of this angry and need to put my foot down came after a post that Stara wrote that was incendiary even if she didn’t mean for it to be as such but was also well thought out and frankly, I was proud of her for putting herself out there. But the comments she received left my mouth gaping and possibly drooling that people would actually use in an argument “Can you please not offend me personally”. I hope that one day Chuck Todd interviews someone and when he presents that person with a truthful and fair argument I hope that the interviewee stops the interview and says “Um, this argument you’re presenting me with offends my delicate sensibilities, could you please stop?” I hope he does stop and then apologizes and then they hold hands and walk off into the sunset.

I’m going to cut and paste exactly what I told Stara and leave you with this so I can go walk around and breathe and appreciate literacy. I wrote this right before the irritation of utter stupidity caused so much pressure in my head that my brain shot out through my eye sockets and left nostril:

I’m just sick of fucking sanctimonious, self-righteous people who suddenly are interested in politics and think that they are brilliant or know what the fuck they’re talking about. Try doing this every god damn day as a fucking career. If any of these people had to do this for a LIVING, they would be curled up in the fetal position whimpering for their mommies because the mean man made them cry because they couldn’t adequately argue their positions and they keep getting hammered on it. I don’t write about politics and it’s my fucking job. You know why? Because I am an expert in one thing: [redacted]. That is all. So I’m not about to argue any position but I do compliment people who write well thought out posts on a subject that they have clearly researched. But don’t come and comment on those posts with some bullshit because it personally offends you. That’s not what politics is about.

Addendum and I swear I’ll be done after this:

So there’s this chick on Flickr who is all Ra-Ra! McPalin. In her description all she says is that she loves them and loves Sarah Palin the end. When people in her comments section ask why she gets all up in arms because OMFG People had the nerve to ask her a question about why she is supporting who she is supporting. And then she got an attitude with me so I copped an attitude right back saying that it kind of comes with the territory: If you post something political people MIGHT ask why you’re supporting who you are supporting. This was her response back to me:

I’m sorry but stating “no one has given any real reason for
why they like her” is ignorant and then asking me why I do
is insulting. There are many reasons why I and many others
like her and showing my support doesn’t mean I have to make
a list for other people to respect my choice. I and
disagree that it comes w/the territory. It only comes with
it when those types of personality come into play. I figure
that people who like Obama have learned about him and choose
to like him anyway…I dont ask them why. Do I need to past
a test w/everybody to show I have researched her and
therefore am allowed to like her?

And then there’s that ceiling. The one made of glass.

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Originally posted at BlogHer on September 10, 2008

My generation is known for being lazy, selfish, needy and good at talking the talk but not walking the walk. Though I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up with the world literally at your fingertips. When you want to know something, the answer is there in a matter of seconds that is if the wifi hasn’t suddenly gone out. I am of a generation of people who have been very, very lucky.

With that luck though comes the cost of forgetting what happened prior so as not to make the same mistakes over and over again. We don’t want to relive history and we try to be anti-establishment and set our own pace because that’s how most of us have been brought up. That we – male, female, black, white – can be whatever we want to be. For this particular generation we have never been told that we can do something based on a specific set of caveats and presets but instead hat we can do something based solely on our willpower and working hard. While idealistic and possibly naive, it’s still how we were raised: If you want it, you can do it.

The way the triteness drips off that last statement is causing me physical pain and yet it’s the truth. I was brought up as an black female with parents that never emphasized that I am a double minority. In fact it was rarely an issue. My parents – one from Birmingham circa the Civil Rights Movement, the other circa Queens in the 1960’s – never started off a sentence with “Because you’re a girl…” When I told them that I wanted to run for Congress and that I wanted to pack up and move to Washington, DC because I saw some other woman do it, they were all Go for it! And in Washington I encountered a slew of other young women just like me. The kind that were raised by parents – mothers specifically – who helped fuse the backbone of the Feminist and Civil Rights movements and so it was automatically ingrained in us that with that basis we can and should do what we want to do.

It was in Washington when the ‘feminist’ bug bit me. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist necessarily and the definition of such is fluid but how my mother raised me has a lot to do with the woman that I am now. The woman who when she wants a job goes after that job and will negotiate the hell out of a salary. A woman with strong beliefs on birth practices. A woman who isn’t necessarily ant-patriarchy but one that doesn’t feel that marriage is a necessity for happiness and that if married couldn’t be paid enough to change her last name. Obviously all of this could change but the beauty of being in your mid-20’s is that you get to be a little credulous. And I was surrounded by other women my age with the same beliefs of what a woman can do (EVERYTHING) and that we should go forth and take over the world. We were all supported and inspired by our parents, peers and professors. For me college resembled this New York Times article by Hannah Seligson:

I WAS born in 1982 — about 20 years after the women’s rights movement
began. Growing up in what many have called a post-feminist culture, I
did not really experience institutional gender bias. “Girl power” was
celebrated, and I felt that all doors were open to me.

When I was in college, the female students excelled academically,
sometimes running laps around their male counterparts. Women easily
ascended to school leadership positions and prestigious internships. In
my graduating class (more than half of which was female) there was a
feeling of camaraderie, a sense that we were helping each other succeed.

The above is one of the onslaught of articles that have popped up in recent weeks where women have to be reminded of their place and that while we’ve come so far we still have far to go. Perhaps they’ve always been there lurking but with the “equal pay for equal work” mantra during the Democratic National Convention and the Palin – Is She a Feminist or Isn’t She – factor at the Republican National Convention it seems as if all that can be discussed is that there are cracks in the glass ceiling. 18 million cracks to be specific and we women need to fight and stand up for ourselves and thrust ourselves into the debate of where a woman should be if she has young children.

These articles and arguments are mostly coming from people a decade or more older than I am. These people are far wiser so who am I to protest what they’re saying and yet they forget one thing: They forget that there is an entire generation of women, like me, who were raised to believe that women as leaders in the corporate or political world is a natural thing. What has been happening as of late is a big deal and yet it isn’t. It feels like it’s time and yet there’s that feeing from many young women that it’s an obvious ‘DUH’ to have a woman as vice president so what’s the big deal and she doesn’t win there is more time. We work for women who could be us. I’ve spent the majority of my fairly brief career around other black women so the assumption that someone like myself can have the job that I have and do what I want to do isn’t all that far fetched. Again, basing this all off of MY personal experience. Yet Seligson points out again that in this day in age things are still strikingly imperfect and imbalanced:

But outside forces are only part of the story. I have also seen
young women — myself included — getting in the way of their own
success. I have found that we need to build a new arsenal of skills to
mitigate some of our more “feminine” tendencies. Having lived in a
cocoon of equality in college, we may have neglected these vital,
real-world skills.

In my own case, I realized that I needed to
develop a thick skin, feel comfortable promoting myself, learn how to
negotiate, stop being a perfectionist and create a professional network
— abilities that men are just more likely to have already.

There’s this odd dichotomy and I am quoting a simple statement from American Princess who said “In this day and age, I tend to believe (or at least wish) that women
are recognized as the equal of men. I know that’s not true all of the
time…” I’m not that starry-eyed and fanciful and yet in the back of my mind I’ve never had to think or say Why aren’t women allowed to do this? It’s more like Why not? Lately though, I keep being brought back down to Earth where most everyone else lives. Based on response from the pundits and the public that we’re still debating the things we’ve always been debating and that there have been giant leaps yet more steps need to be taken. It’s almost like every time I feel ready to stand up and for every time that I have stood up, the second I raise my head, it’s met by this hard surface. And when I look up to see what’s above it’s just that stupid glass ceiling always in the way. Yeah, it’s got a few cracks but perhaps if I bang my head a bit more, I’ll finally be able to crash through.


Heather B. also blogs in such obviously complacent fashion at No Pasa Nada. She apologizes in advance.

It Was a Bittersweet Convention

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Originally posted at BlogHer on August 31, 2008

When people ask me why I moved back to Upstate New York the answer is a very succinct “Because of the money”. And then I shrug and say that it’s just ok. When people ask me how I ended up in Washington, DC for six years, the story is longer. I don’t shrug or give it a brush off, I happily go through each step starting with my early acceptance into American University and crying in the middle of Houlihan’s when I was accepted.

Oh but where to begin? I guess when Hillary Clinton decided to run for the Senate from New York. I was 16 and already well versed in senatorial politics and thought that CSPAN was – and still is – far more exciting than MTV. But there was no exact feeling when she announced her intentions. Perhaps I was too young? But it slowly turned from a blase attitude about a First Lady to finally warming up to her. Then again that is how I approach any new relationship with anyone. It’s a long process, with quizzical looks from my end and general suspicion.

The first time I met Hillary Clinton was a few months shy of my 17th birthday at an event in Rochester, New York. President Clinton let her enter the green room by herself so as not to overshadow her and I felt my heart begin to beat faster and my palms began to sweat as she approached me and had the audacity to ask my name. ‘Heather’ which is two syllables, came out in a whisper as she shook my hand and I was suddenly hooked.

She won her election easily and I was afflicted with Hillary fever. I wanted to be her. I wanted to meet her again and shake her hand and stand in awe of her because there was something – that thing that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time something that both she and her husband had- about her that brought me to my knees. And so I had options of Cornell, The University of Chicago, Boston College, Syracuse. But I chose American because; and I couldn’t make this up if I tried; I wanted to intern for Senator Clinton. That was my whole goal for DC ;to stare at her slack jawed and call it “work”. I had big dreams, let me tell you.

Working in that Senate office was like having the business end of a chopstick shoved into my esophagus each day. I was miserable. I hated the work (I am not meant to work a Xerox machine) and because she was THE Hillary Clinton I was one of four from the Great State of New York. But I suffered through and met her when she swooped into the office and each time just stared and drooled a bit because despite my misery, it was still Her.

I’m talking about the woman like she’s Jesus or something. Putting my pronouns in caps but it’s the way that this woman affected me. Perhaps our kindred spirits or that we have the same birth date thus making us both completely Type A possibly obsessive women who want what we want and will try and try and try until we get it. So when I think of it now I owe every minute of the past seven years to her. To her mere presence that drove me to pursue some unknown and haphazard career in Democratic Politics. Because of one woman I met on a crappy day in Rochester – She is who I want to be.

That was eight years ago. And what has happened in that eight years for me personally and professionally, (and my God, in the world as a whole), will be fodder for decades to come. When she announced that she was running, I can tell you the exact feeling that came through me: That’s it. It’s her. It will be her. There wasn’t a single doubt in my mind. (A brief digression to tell you about my friend Zack who at one point early on said that no one would ever vote for “some obscure black man”.) She was going to be it. They might as well start fitting her for a new State of the Union pant suit today.

Their platforms weren’t dissimilar, this is true. And for me and for most New Yorkers who loved our “favorite daughter” it was because we knew her. We knew how hard she had worked and I know right now how completely trite this all sounds but she worked her ass of for us. To prove herself and to understand a state that she had only recently adopted as her home.

In College I took a course on Electoral Politics. I know as much about as Electoral Politics as I do about the third season of the Real World (Read: A LOT). During that course we debated the primary process and I was the only person who brought up how unrepresentative New Hampshire and Iowa are. They are two lovely states, I’m sure, but lovely states that are fairly homogeneous. It felt as if two states that didn’t represent the country as a whole were effectively choosing who would be a Presidential nominee. Ludicrous at best and fairly undemocratic. As a firm believer in democracy and the democratic process I cannot tell you how thrilled I was that the Democratic Party changed the primary process. I know that politics isn’t kindergarten and that things should be fair but we all should be able to choose from a pool of greatness not just from one person essentially dictated by two states in January.

Oh and the things that were said about Senator Clinton towards the end. What got me most were those who decided that THIS election they were suddenly interested in politics and were often the same people – on both sides – who would then stamp their feet and say that if the other won, then they would have to vote for the Republican. Are you kidding me? Really? If I spent my entire career stamping my feet after each and every disappointment due to my political party then I would currently be slinging hashbrowns at The Waffle House. People who said that she should drop out for the “good of the party”, how about the good of democracy and voting and everything that this country is based upon?

Anyway, I still had hope. Even at what seemed like the end. I was standing in a kitchen on Capitol Hill at a fundraiser on June 3rd when it was all said and done. It was raining and I took a shot of Patron because I was sad. It was like when John Kerry lost after I had spent my entire fall as a full time staffer on his campaign. When someone you believe in loses an election it feels like a little part of you dies.

I won’t recap the months leading up to the convention except to say that for some reason I still had hope. Far fetched hope and belief like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus were going to show up at the simultaneously and drop off $800 under my pillow and a new lens under the tree, respectively. Everyone speculated as to what would happen at the convention. That because Her name was placed on the ballot that it could still happen. Look, even the biggest Hillary fan girl knows that somethings are just impossible but that doesn’t quell the want for a different outcome.

I was at the New York State delegation breakfast when she spoke and sincerely told all of those from her home state to join with Barack Obama. I was there when during a massive rally/press conference last Wednesday afternoon when she released her delegates. And then it felt over. It felt like the joy and any modicum of home were suddenly sucked out of that room. I was there, when we all filed out and grown men and women were in tears. I turned to my bosses and said ‘Well this sucks’ (they hired me because of excellent vocabulary. And I was there during the roll call when she and Shelly Silver and everyone other New Yorker on the planet – or so it felt – got up on that stage and nominated Barack Obama by affirmation. And I was there, sitting in section 102 of Invesco stadium, screaming and waving my flag and tearing up and texting everyone and their brother, when Barack Obama accepted the nomination.

It’s hard to want something badly and to fight for it with everything that you have – as I saw so many do – only to see it disappear in what seems like such a fleeting manner. It all has gone by so quickly and yet the last eight years have been EIGHT years. I know actual eight year olds who are fully functioning and can crack jokes. That’s a long time. As hard as it all is, it’s somewhat comforting to have someone – and you can call the woman what you want but she can lead like no other – who does know when to call it quits and does so with class. It wasn’t that she fought to the bitter end, she just let every American have their chance to vote and to use their voice. She believes in democracy and the good of this country and as cliched as this all has sounded, it’s because of that, that so many believed in her.

Heather B. rarely writes about politics but is always this full of cliches at her blog No Pasa Nada. She is totally now afflicted with Jobama fever.

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.