Did Black Women Support Hillary Enough? Should White Feminists Support Michelle?

BlogHer Original Post

As many of you know, Senator Barak Obama was formally announced as the Democratic Nominee last evening. In the previous week, there was speculation as to what the residual Clinton supporters would do to try and thwart the vote. Some wondered if Hillary’s and last evening, Bill Clinton’s speeches would be effective enough to try and convince Clinton supporters to still support the Democratic Party instead of threatening to vote Republican. Hillary, god bless her cold, cold heart, stressed the importance of unifying the Democratic Party. To hell with the sexism she experienced, sexism that her followers insist robbed her of the nomination it was time to try and salvage this thing before it got completely out of control.

Look, the Clintons ain’t stupid and they know what side of their bread is buttered. Hillary released her delegate votes, allowing her supporters to vote to officially vote for Obama. In last night’s speech, Bill suddenly had a change of heart and decided that Obama wasn’t the incompetent ninny he had portrayed him as during the nomination campaign. Is all to be forgiven?

Can the Clintons and Obamas now join hands and sing a rousing chorus of Kumbaya?

Will Michelle invite Hillary over to the South Side of Chicago and teach her how to cook collard greens and Chitluns?

As I have previously written before, there were many uncomfortable issues raised during the nomination process, one being that the always present divisions within the ‘feminist’ movement suddenly being shoved into the spotlight. Lines were drawn in the sand – does the feminist movement – or at least female Clinton supporters prescribes to - acknowledge differences of race and class? Should there be a blind allegiance to those whom we share the same womanly parts? Can feminists be racist too?

Recently on The Root, Corinne Douglas and Jacquelyn Gray argued that black women did not support Hilary’s assertions of sexism and therefore black women should not complain when white feminists did not speak up when Michelle Obama was attacked my the media and political pundits. Tit for tat, I guess (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)

The misogynistic savaging of Hillary Clinton was one of the most inexcusable elements of the primary campaign, and the silence from black women in the face of those attacks, because they supported Obama, was, at least, a tactical mistake. It is entirely unacceptable to go along with unfair attacks against women simply because you disagree with the particular woman under attack.

I know as a Canadian my opinion doesn’t mean much but I must put my two cents in here: To me, the above statement insinuates that if you are a female Obama supporter you were choosing to ignore the sexist attacks against Clinton -which is making quite an assumption. It also insinuates that the silence means that Clinton somehow deserved the treatment, which I believe is unfair. Thirdly, the writers also insinuate that perhaps racist insinuations coming from ‘leaders’ in a democratic party – those who during their time in office heavily relied on the support of African-Americans  should be dismissed in order to support sexist attacks. Is this going to lead to another “does sexism trump racism” issue?  However, later in the post, the authors add:

Make no mistake, we should not excuse the behavior of Ferraro and those who cry "reverse racism." African-American women are justifiably frustrated by white feminists' failure to fully regard their experiences. But we cannot expect white feminists to come to the defense of Michelle Obama if we deny them the ability to, at a minimum, identify their own mistreatment at the hands of the same oppressors that are victimizing Michelle.

The writers – and perhaps they know better than this – assume that this instance has been the first public portrayal of the tensions between women of color (in this case, black women) and the white feminists. They also are conveniently ignoring how the racism, not just concerning Michelle but also Obama might be, if their assumptions about all black women throwing Hillary under the bus (which, based on the amount of black female Hillary supporters that were prominently displayed all through her campaign and at the DNC, is questionable) were correct, how the dual affects of racial stereotypes about both women (angry, ’uppity’ irrational, militant, desexualized or hyper-sexualized) and men (inherently uneducated, inexperienced, violent, hyper-sexualized, unpatriotic, dangerous, ‘uppity’) not only could affect the voting outcome of the 2008 Election, but how historically racial stereotypes are far more insidious and more permeable than any misogynist verbiage. From Rikyah at Jack and Jill Politics:

Miss Anne Aint Studdin’ About Your Black Behind

From Gloria Steinem to Geraldine Ferraro, I was told loud and clear, that all I was good for was to sit in the back of the female bus. That you two can so profoundly overlook the obvious racebaiting that happened with Obama from the CAMPAIGN AND SURROGATES - not the Media. If we counted the media, I don’t even know how many incidents would be in the Wiki.

I’m very clear about who I am as a Black Woman.

I’m a BLACK woman. I know that my fortunes are tied to the Black men in my life: My father, uncles, nephews, future husband and possible sons. I know that I’ll not be divorced from them. So, when the Racial Dogwhistle was blown, I knew where I stood. I make no apologies for not keeping any pretense of ‘Sisterhood’.

I’ve challenged others, and I’ll challenge you. Make up your own ObamaAttacksClinton Wiki based up on all these ‘sexism’ charges that I hear bandied about. But, here’s the catch: you must only include Camp Obama and their surrogates. Get me 10 incidents. I’m not even asking for 50. Just 10. The media doesn’t count.

I won’t hold my breath.

One issue that has bothered me since Obama was announced the ‘presumptive’ Nominee and there was a concerted effort to market the Obama family to the public, was the insinuation that the family had to ‘prove’ to Americans that they were just as normal as everyone else. That the fact that both the Senator and his wife, Ivy-League grads and lawyers still were seen as suspicious to Americans who regard BET as a credible news source. I couldn’t believe how a female journalist (white) from CNN had the audacity to ask her guests just prior to Michelle’s speech what Michelle had to do to prove to the “American public that she was normal.” That’s feminism for ya, right there. From Chauncey at We Are Respectable Negroes:

As I watched Michelle Obama's speech I experienced happiness, pride, and anger. I know I am not alone when I share the pride in seeing this historic moment, a period where America is acting with a little more maturity as she perhaps grows out of her racial adolescence. But, I was also upset, and again I think this is a common feeling to black folk, especially those who are middle or upperclass and circulate in predominantly white social and professional worlds, by how this accomplished person has to justify herself as sufficiently "American," "middle of the road," "wholesome," "a good wife," "a good mother," and "not angry." How her success, and that of her husband is always suspect, that she (and Barack) has to justify herself and downplay her accomplishments lest she seem "angry" or "uppity." This righteous anger comes from the same place as when someone with good intentions praises you for being "articulate," "not like those other ones," "so clean" and/or "smart." Ultimately, there is often a sense that however high we climb, and how successful we are, that we still have to be twice or three times as accomplished as our white peers in order to get the same level of respect.

Reverend Irene Moore discusses the LBGT relationship with Feminists for Obama looking at the relationship between straight and Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and transgendered feminists:

With the Democratic National Convention this month, the delegates that identify themselves as “Feminists for Obama” will come out in droves. The trek to Colorado will be made by dykes, dykettes, dykelings, bi-sisters, trannies, and, oh yeah, our straight sisters, too. But as my LBT friends have pointed out to me, the sisterhood between straight feminists and us is strained at best and nonexisting at worst. And with Hillary Democrats moving slowly over to the Obama camp, we LBT women also move with hesitancy given Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage.

While the fault lines are already rearing up among “Feminists for Obama,” so too are the fault lines of gender expressions and sexual orientation, as LBT women attempt to convince our straight sisters that our families, like theirs, matter.

And while I believe many of our straight sisters understand our struggle, will they forge a sisterhood with us against a presidential candidate who supports civil unions for same-sex couples but not marriage?

Sure, it’s not the best to use one representative to try and prove Root writers Douglas and Gray wrong, but the DNC attendee Anne Price-Mills, who “Freaked” after Hillary Clinton’s speech might be a fair representative that not all blacks are a) pro-Obama and b) that in an admittedly complex way, show the divisiveness within the black community. Dream and Hustle discusses CNN’s mini-interview with Price-Mills and with distain, talks about ‘Black Feminists’ (yes I know to fully describe the usage of feminist and feminism would take a whole ‘nother post).  Here is what she had to say about Price-Mills:

Now, real quick – everybody already said that this is now about the Democratic Party winning the White House, including Hillary Clinton. And for that one Black feminist to run her mouth like that automatically tells you it was not about Hillary Clinton and it was never about this election. This was about her personal hatred of progressive Black people like Barack and Michelle Obama. She said several times over and over when asked if she will vote for Barack Obama that “she will not vote for John McCain” refusing to acknowledge Barack Obama. She is so blinded in her own bitterness she failed to comprehend that Michelle Obama could easily trail blaze into the US Senator spot for Illinois just as easily as Hillary Clinton has done with the Senate seat for New York after she was first lady.

For more commentary, I suggest you head on over to read the post at Racialicious.

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