November 29, 2007

Barack & Black Women: Losing Home?

I spent part of the last few days in a running rhetorical gun battle with the contributors and regulars at WAUD regarding the Obama campaign and whether black women should support it.

WAUD's writer in chief posted her view that Barack had not made a convincing case or indeed any case at all for why his presidency would be better for black women than the other candidates. I made the mistake of suggesting the following in response: I think that the reason he is not getting more support from black women is really more about the failings of black men than the failings of his policy agenda. I think black women are reluctant to give their support to Obama because they are angry and/or discouraged by the failings of black men.

I was immediately inducted into a high ranking position on the Black Thought Police and branded a misogynist. I also got pretty savaged by contributors and readers and even those who seemed to agree with me were NOT helping me much (BRENDA!). It was a lonely experience, much as I like the open combat of ideas. I even called in to the WAUD roundtable blogradio show cuz, well, I ain't skeered and I'm stubborn when I'm trying to win a debate.

The experience for me has been a little like picking up a stone to reveal the seething entrance to an ant colony where I least expected it. The metaphorical stone I removed was the assumption that black women would support Obama's run because he is qualified, credible and bonus, black. My own informal polling of the women in my sphere had been signaling this wasn't the case, and the WAUD crew are the shock troops of the apocalypse on this issue. I had to duck and dodge rhetorical bullets like..

....because I am a Black woman, I am supposed to give my vote away for free. I am not supposed to examine whether a candidate's policy positions are in MY best interest...

The above was never my position, but the ladies jumped so very quickly to the conclusion that their intellect was being dissed and their concerns trivialized and pushed aside for the benefit of black men, that we all seemed to miss the clarity of each other's thought. To be fair, we had commenters that were very incendiary (BRENDA!) and essentially branded the WAUD crew as black man hating feminatzis. That wasn't me, but once she fired that shot, it was downhill. As an aside, BRENDA has no publicly viewable blogger profile, so its hard to know more about where she was coming from.

Another interesting piece of the argument was this thought:
you do your candidate a disservice by saying that we must vote for him because he is Black.

The essential nugget of my argument for supporting Obama is that because he is qualified, credible and black, black americans should support him in making the best possible run he can make because there is no down side for black people in doing so. This is the primary and I argue that as black people, we should want him to make a very strong showing if not flat out win. His run is lifting up black people, lifting up the black family, lifting up black men and dare I say women, his performance on dunbar and genarlow aside.

Win or lose, his run is good for black america simply because its being made, because of the precedent its setting, because of how his run is affecting our political engagement. So I want to see the guy win the nomination and I want him to go to the big dance because even though he is a democrat and I don't agree with him on some important things, I still want to see this brother and sister team be successful because it lifts me up and black people up to see it. That he is black alone is not a sufficient reason to support him. That he is black, qualified and credible is. His race is as valid a factor to take into account as anything else, particularly when you consider that race is really not just his skin tone, but is a proxy for his culture, his perspective, his norms, his loyalties, his sensitivities.

PLEASE don't blame Black women and their “animus” towards Black men as one comment stated.

I said ....I think that the reason he is not getting more support from black women is really more about the failings of black men than the failings of his policy agenda. Some of you, maybe many of you, are angry on this score. I think black women are reluctant to give their support to Obama because they are angry and/or discouraged by the failings of black men.
I am advancing the argument that the withholding of support from Barack is very much wrapped up in the feelings of black women towards black men in general

I think the reluctance of black women does have something to do with the failings of black men in regard to them. Feelings arising from our historical relationship to one another as black men and women do indeed shade and color our decision making in regard to Obama's run. And while the WAUD contributors rebuked me for even having such a thought (BlackFem Thought Police anyone?), they indeed supplied quite convincing evidence that there is something to that idea. Here are some of the ideas I was summarily caned with.

Too often we have marched, fought, bled and died for the black man's revolution -- to help them achieve THEIR goals, just to be left in the dust, begging for scraps just like we were before.

too many of the so-called 'good brothers' have put gender equality on the fire to burn."

I, for one, am sick of the 'loyalty card' being thrown in the faces of black women. Mostly because black WOMEN are never -- I repeat NEVER, on the receiving end of that loyalty."

many prominent black men OPPOSED voting rights for Black women, meanwhile expecting black women to be on the front lines of the bloody battleground for their OWN right to vote.

Oh, here we go again. Black woman put your needs aside and support black men even while they ignore your needs. When we get ours we'll take care of yours. Sorry, we fell for that okey dokey a long time ago. Ain't going there again. Try another one out of the Mammy handbook.

his supporters are showing up expecting the same blind allegiance black men have come to believe they're entitled to.

That same movement that black women funded and organized while the men took all the glory for themselves. Even running Rosa Parks out of Montgomery

promoting the needs of black women doesn't mean competing with black men. Contrary to popular belief we are not joined at the hip. Black men figured that out a long time ago. About damned time for black women to buy a vowel.

Black men have an EXTREMELY poor track record of looking out for the interests of black women. Black women were pushed to the back of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in term of leadership and overall power!!! That is a fact.

Hell, Black men did not support Shirley Chisholm when she ran for president. They dogged her out!!!!

I don't accuse or believe any of the WAUD crew have a animus (hatred) towards black men. But if these are widely held sentiments among black women, if they are representative at all of the black female body politic, there is indeed a reservoir of anger and discouragement over the failings of black men in general, and that IS context for the adamant position that he must stand and deliver on some policy commitments around issues they define as important. Its no great leap to imagine that those sentiments are coloring their perception and decision making as to whether to support Obama or not. Thats not black women bashing, I think thats just the facts based on what this admittedly small sample of black women have said, assuming that these women are indeed representative of the political thinking of a larger sample of black women voters.

I'm capable of enough self analysis to acknowledge the possibility that being raised in a single parent home where my momma warned me to be wary of interaction with white women because it could literally get you killed (brothers testify) may color my perception of Hillary's candidacy. I think its a reasonable supposition and a relevant influence on how some, perhaps many black women out there may be thinking about their choices in this election.

And for having the temerity to advance that very reasonable position I got branded a black women hating misanthrope representative of the Black Thought Police. To be fair, Shecodes, one of the WAUD contributors, apologized for calling me a misanthrope when I called into the radio show, which I appreciated and accepted in the spirit it was given, though it wasn't necessary. I didn't have any hard feelings. Now, I'm pretty sure I still rate as BTP misogynist misanthrope to the other contributors, or at least a first grade annoyance, cause they didn't apologize or try to soften nuthin they said LOL.

The entire exercise has been revealing and instructive. To my way of thinking, there is no reason why Obama can't obtain the votes of the black female politic, but clearly he is going to have to work harder for them than he perhaps first thought. I think he can be forgiven for thinking that the implicit message behind his choice of wife and what their relationship looks like would communicate some of the most important things about what his candidacy might bode for black women. Guiliani consistently must fight the perception that his personal relationships put out there for example. Obama will suffer in my view if he doesn't adjust his tactics and it seems to me a little adjustment might do him a world of good. On the other hand, it will be instructive if he should indeed tack the campaign more towards black women issues and not be rewarded for it. Two very big ifs.