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PSA

Posted by pocochina on March 11, 2008

Once upon a time, there was a brilliant senator from Illinois, a former state legislator, who burned through boundaries to run for the Democratic nomination for president. This astonishingly intelligent politician, with a stunning legal background, ran against the excesses of the Bush Administration, including the war in Iraq, trumping a longstanding opposition to the invasion.

Duh. Not that guy.

I meant her.

Carol Moseley Braun ran for president in 2004.  It was going to be my first primary ballot, and I had already decided to cast it for her. In the Deansplosion that was the early primary season, she got ridiculously little attention.  It was a sad fucking day when this country was deprived of the opportunity to vote for Ambassador Moseley Braun.   Especially since so few people wanted to notice.  I’d imagine it was due in part to her intersectional identities, and part because charismatic white dudes get more attention than all less privileged groups.  It certainly wasn’t a failure on her part to be anything short of an amazing prospective candidate and president.

I’m not trying to create a false comparison, based on her race, for the Oppression Olympics – sexism and racism are both bad, and they are different in how they are manifested and experienced.  I simply don’t know, as an Irish/Italian-American, how to speak fairly about race and politics, except to acknowledge that this is a function of huge privilege.  She is, however, the most recent female candidate for for the Democratic nomination pre-HRC, and one of the most recent African-American candidates pre-Obama.*

I think Representative Ferraro’s remarks were ill-considered, and when it comes to race issues, it is a matter of human decency to be careful and respectful. When she spoke, she failed to examine her privilege, and that’s wrong.  But when speaking about gender and the campaign, she’s absolutely correct to say that a woman with Senator Obama’s resume – here I would inject “and women with even more of what we traditionally call experience, particularly women of color” – would be laughed out of the race. Because it did happen to this amazing woman – this trailblazing senator who stood up for her principles at every turn, and went on to become an ambassador for the United States.  And this amazing woman. And to lots of other amazing women. And yes, Virginia, there’s some not so wonderful political role models on that list, ’cause women are people and sometimes people fuck up.

Does Obama’s race give him an advantage?  Probably with some voters.  It probably hurts him with other voters.  And yes, I hope and believe there are voters of all ethnicities who genuinely don’t care.  It’s the same, in that respect though obviously not in all respects, as Clinton’s gender, and her marital gender performance (as if we can separate the two).  It’s like, you know, the other aspects of their selves and candidacies.

PSA: This shit is way, way more complicated than the ways we like to talk about race and gender. But pretending it’s ALL NEW AND HOW COULD WE EXPECT TO KNOW and blah blah blah privileged psychoanalysis gimme a cookie ad infinitam is ridiculous.

*I’m pretty sure Al Sharpton ran in 2004, as well.

ETA:  No, I am not defending this.

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