Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Let me show you how it works:

  1. A female, POC and/or LGBTQ politician/leader is appointed in your area. This is cause for celebration, because
  2. while you aren’t sexist, racist or homophobic, you’re all too aware of the fact that other people – and, more specifically, The System – are frequently biased in those directions, making it harder for such candidates to be accepted regardless of their qualifications. Certainly, this new person is a definite a minority among their high-powered brethren, which suggests that
  3. they must be exceptional in some way. Depending on the context, this specialness could be ascribed to any number of skills, passions or characteristics, but the most important thing is that
  4. despite their gender, race and/or sexual orientation – or rather, despite the biases of less enlightened people who consider such things a handicap – the candidate has succeeded. But no matter how glad you are to see them installed, it’s important to remember that
  5. the candidate did not succeed because of their gender, race and/or sexual orientation. Regardless of whether quotas and/or tokenism are a relevant in this instance (which depends entirely on the individual circumstances), it’s generally seen to be the job of obnoxious, right-wing objectors to claim, sneeringly, that so-and-so was only let in because of their gender, race and or/ sexual orientation, this being a basic means of undermining such a candidate’s qualifications from the get-go. Nonetheless,
  6. it’s clear that their gender, race and/or sexual orientation is a relevant factor in terms of how they’ll be perceived in their role, no matter how irrelevant it might be to their actual portfolio. But even though these details only matter to you in terms of your being happy to see The System veer away from straight white male dominion,
  7. should an instance arise (as it inevitably will) where the candidate is in a position to act (or not) on left-wing issues – and particularly where, either accurately or not, you perceive those issues to overlap with their own gender, racial and/or sexual identity – your natural expectation is for them to Do The Right Thing. And as you’ve already acknowledged that the candidate is special,
  8. you’ve automatically set yourself up to hold them – albeit with the best of intentions – to a higher moral, social and political standard than their straight, white and/or male counterparts. Even if you can acknowledge that people in positions of authority must, of necessity, compromise their own values in order to maintain alliances, get work done in the long term and keep their position within the party/organisation, all that hopefulness about seeing a female, POC and/or LGBTQ candidate in the arena can turn swiftly to feelings of betrayal should they compromise on the issues you care about,
  9. because they, of all possible candidates, should know better. But now they’ve gone and abused your trust; they’ve proved that they weren’t special after all – no better than their straight, white and/or male colleagues, really, and certainly worse in terms of causing you heartache, because of how they should have known better. And because you took their betrayal personally, rather than viewing it as a pragmatic (if irritating) function of their being a human in office, you can’t bear to support them any more. You’d feel like a hypocrite now, and anyway, keeping them in just to maintain diversity and at the expense of your principles would really be tokenism. And so you take the only remaining, logical course of action, and
  10. vote them out of office. It’s a shame they couldn’t live up to your expectations, but maybe the next woman, POC and/or LGBTQ candidate to come along will be different. After all, is it really so unreasonable to expect that your chosen leader be a flawless paragon of virtue?

Congratulations! You have now succeeded in holding minority candidates to such an unreasonably high standard on the basis of their gender, race and/or sexual orientation that you’ve effectively recreated the same type of discrimination you were so angry about in the first place. Wash, rinse and repeat, until society collapses or insomniac authors die from an overdose of facepalm.

This tutorial/rant brought to you by politics, the internet and human nature.

I watched Mississippi Burning last night for the first time since school. It’s based on real events following the murder of three Civil Rights workers by the Klu Klux Klan in¬†1964, ¬†and as the date flashed up onscreen, knowing what was to come, I had a series of¬†wrenching thoughts.

First: My mother was fourteen when the killings took place. She remembers Freedom Summer, and segregation, and protest rallies. And she remembers being in Darwin as an adult Рnot too long, even, before I was born Рand still seeing segregation between the white and Aboriginal population: on buses, in the cinema. Enforced, but unspoken. Present. And even now, in that instance, I wonder how much has changed.

Second:¬†Men and women who were young¬†Klan supporters in the sixties are still alive¬†today. How many of them raised children, now adults, in their beliefs?¬†Not long ago, they even reared their heads. I find it sharp, strange, to think of these people¬†living and breathing on my same Earth, who¬†aren’t¬†part of history, but alive now.¬†

And, third: Barack Obama was three when these killings took place. Forty-four years after the state of Mississippi refused to try Klan members who’d murdered three civil rights activists, America elected a black man to be the forty-fourth President. There’s a certain lovely symmetry to that.

And as¬†remembrance¬†of these things moved through me, I looked up and¬†thought: How far we’ve come. And then I thought: How far we’ve yet to go.

But go we shall.

Back when Barack Obama was still duelling banjos with Hillary Clinton over the Democratic Party nominations, there was a huge flurry of speculation as to who black women would vote for, and how conflicted they must be feeling, forced (as the media had it) to choose between the first African-American president and the first female president.

If the language of those discussions was anything to go by, many people were already sure the Democrats would win; or maybe, given that neither candidate was the first woman/African-American to run for president, it was simply more exciting to assume that one of them would succeed. Whatever the reason, however, more commentators than not focused on Clinton as the (potential) First Female President, just as Obama was then, and is now, the First African-American President, and these perceptions dominated discussion.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been cheering for Obama since last year, and the significance of his being the first African-American president is not lost on me. That being said, the Democratic primaries and all their attendant speculations on whether race would trump gender made me extremely angry: because the ultimate display of non-prejudice is to vote in someone regardless of ethnicity or sex, simply because that person is the best candidate for the job. When the media based all their commentary on the face of these two qualities, they only served to emphasise the problem: that these are things we should be above considering, but aren’t.

Look at this another way. Historically, when both candidates have¬†shared the same gender and¬†pigmentation,¬†the media¬†focus has been on policy. If (and, inevitably, when) the debate has veered¬†into personal territories, it’s been¬†understood as the triumph of our human fondness for gossip, but not lauded as a vital part of the political process. Often, in fact, it has been condemned – rightly, too. So when Obama and Clinton first locked horns, it angered me that here we had¬†two powerful, intelligent competitors – equal underdogs, if you like –¬†stuck in a process where most of¬†what passed for commentary hinged on¬†the twin novelties of their¬†gender and parentage.

To cut a long story short: I am vastly more enthused by the idea of Barack Obama as an intelligent, forward-thinking¬†leader¬†than I am by his being¬†the first¬†black president. Because the real point of mentioning his race is, ironically, to prove that it doesn’t matter: that skill, regardless, of the body in which it resides,¬†should always¬†speak for itself.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin; or, rather, to the nebulous-yet-worrying notion that she¬†plans to¬†run for office in 2012. Maybe.¬†It’s less a plan at this point than an unfertilised potential plan, and¬†at best, it’s a tiny wee zygote. Nonetheless, moose-lovers and moose-haters everywhere¬†have pounced on it with a kind of animal glee, whipping themselves into a frenzy over what is right now, and will be for at least the next three years, zip,¬†nill and nada.

But. (You knew there’d be one.)

Even from her supporters, and especially not from her critics,¬†the obvious phrase which hasn’t stuck to Palin – ever – is First Female President.¬†The¬†women¬†who rallied to Clinton (and who, pointedly, threatened to turn Republican¬†once Obama won) have not subsequently rallied to¬†Palin.¬†There’s a variety of good reasons for this, ranging upwards from She’s¬†Not My Type, through She’s¬†A Republican and into the land of She’s A¬†Raving Imbecile, Are You Insane?, because to say that¬†Palin polarises is an understatement akin to comparing the Grand Canyon with a cracked pavement. But the point,¬†the lesson we should take from Sarah Palin,¬†regardless of what happens (or doesn’t happen) in 2012, is this:

That supid people can run for president too, and that not all of them are middle-aged white men.  

Because stupidity doesn’t have a gender. Poor leadership doesn’t have an ethnicity. The flaws of the human race are universal. Margaret Thatcher’s femalehood didn’t make her a fluffy bunny, nor did it make her intelligent, left-wing, determined, frivolous or anything other than biologically capable of falling pregnant. Obama’s race, undeniably, was responsible for the influx of black voters this past election, but it’s not what makes him suited to leadership, nor should it be the sole reason for which we laud him.

The moral of this story is: don’t be dazzled by what shouldn’t matter. If we truly are building a world of equal citizens, we should be free to vote¬†for or against¬†women and black candidates, not because of who they are, but because of the strength of their policies.

Now that’s democracy.

As has been mentioned previously, I’m heartily¬†sick of the media dubbing each new scandal a Blahgate. I’ve contained my rage at Troopergate, if only because it appeared to be an election-spawned one-off, but no. Now we have Auntiegate, with the revelation that Obama’s half-aunt (on his father’s side) is an illegal alien. I mean, Christ on a bicycle, Media – can’t you think up something original?

Wait. That was a stupid question.

We’ve had Iguanagate, which couldn’t be redeemed even by the wonderful, ludicrous¬†phonics of the word ‘iguana’. We’ve had Gong-gate, wherein the entire Woollongong Council proved themselves unfit to govern a white elephant stall, let alone¬†handle real cash-money. We’ve had Grannygate and NAFTA-gate. We have, in fact, had it up to here with gates, fences, walls, doors or perimeter-keeping objects of any kind.

More importantly – and I say this with feeling – Watergate was the name of a hotel, you ignorant bastards! It was a scandal that brought down the Presidency in an unprecedented fashion, not just an amalgam of popular controversy! Fall in a well and die!

OK. I’m calm again now.