The Real Issues

by matttbastard

While I agree that most race and gender based personal attacks do not address real political issues, we should not forget that racial and gender issues are real issues. We should not forget that racism and sexism are still fundamental problems in the US.


I know many Americans are uncomfortable openly discussing how race and gender influence our political system, but this doesn’t mean that these issues are not “real.” Denial won’t erase social inequality. It’s a shame that many people would rather purge discussion of racism and sexism from the public discourse than actually work to give people an equal shot.

– Rachel @ Rachel’s Tavern, “Let’s Get Back to the Real Issues”

(more real issues after the fold)

I’ve written many times about sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton as an old, ugly, castrating witch-and-what-rhymes-with-it, but Gloria Steinem’s New York Times op-ed in defense of her, “Women Are Never the Front-Runners,” was not helpful, to put it mildly. “Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life,” Steinem wrote. “Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).” Yes, black men got the vote first, although they could be lynched for using it. Shirley Chisholm, the black Congresswoman who ran for President in 1972, did famously write, “Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black.” But Barack Obama is only the third black senator in the modern era; Deval Patrick is only the second black governor. It may be true, as Steinem suggests, that “the sex barrier [is] not taken as seriously as the racial one.” But that doesn’t mean the racial barrier really is less serious. It just means that the public expression of racism is beyond the pale in a way that the public expression of misogyny is not.

– Katha Pollitt, The Weepy Witch and the Secret Muslim

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I mean, honestly, I’m appalled by the parallel that Ms. Steinem draws in the beginning part of the New York Times article. What she’s trying to do there is to make a claim towards sort of bringing in black women into a coalition around questions of gender and asking us to ignore the ways in which race and gender intersect. This is actually a standard problem of second-wave feminism, which, although there have been twenty-five years now—oh, going on forty years, actually, of African American women pushing back against this, have really failed to think about the ways in which trying to appropriate black women’s lives’ experience in that way is really offensive, actually.

And so, when Steinem suggests, for example, in that article that Obama is a lawyer married to another lawyer and to suggest that, for example, Hillary Clinton represents some kind of sort of breakthrough in questions of gender, I think that ignores an entire history in which white women have in fact been in the White House. They’ve been there as an attachment to white male patriarchal power. It’s the same way that Hillary Clinton is now making a claim towards experience. It’s not her experience. It’s her experience married to, connected to, climbing up on white male patriarchy. This is exactly the ways in which this kind of system actually silences questions of gender that are more complicated than simply sort of putting white women in positions of power and then claiming women’s issues are cared for.

Now, what I know from the work that I’ve done on the Obama campaign is that there are tens of thousands of extremely hard-working white men and women, as well as black men and women, as well as actually a huge multiracial and interethnic coalition of people working for Barack Obama. And so, for Steinem to sort of make this very clear race and gender dichotomy that she does in that New York Times op-ed piece, I think it’s the very worst of second-wave feminism.

AMY GOODMAN: Gloria Steinem?

GLORIA STEINEM: Well, it’s very painful to hear her say that, because what I meant was the opposite, you know, was to bring into the discussion the equal treatment of these kinds of questions, because—I mean, I didn’t want to write this. I was sitting there trying to do my own work and not do this, but I got so alarmed at the way that Hillary Clinton was being treated almost porno-–not just almost—pornographically, in ways that you can’t even mention in the New York Times.

– Democracy Now, Race and Gender in Presidential Politics: A Debate Between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell (h/t Magniloquence)

Comparing racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, religious oppression or other forms of -isms are like trying to compare the panoply of tastes in a fruit salad — the measures by which we attempt to judge the “devastating-ness” of oppression are inherently subjective, and thus cannot lead to objective results.

By far, African Americans suffer the most numerous of violent hate crimes in today’s America (assuming equal rates of reporting hate crimes), but how do we judge the severity of that narrative compared to the suffering of the Asian/Pacific Islander Americans who immigrated as refugees late in the last century and still reside in abject poverty today – who fall victim to fewer hate crimes but also suffer less awareness (and fewer resources) to their plight in the national eye? It’s true that women make up 51% of the world’s population, but can we even compare the sexism faced by a well-educated, upper-middle-class woman in America with the destitution of a blue-collar single mother of four? (Certainly, the fact that sexism between these two groups of women differed so profoundly was the very impetus for the birth of Third Wave Feminism). The problem with comparing identity politics is that it’s too complex a beast to compare; we cannot imagine the devastating ripple effects of the discrimination faced by people whose lives we do not share, so by what criteria can we decide what force — race or gender, abelism or class — is “the most restrictive force in America”?

And yet, the Oppression Olympics rages on as one of America’s most-treasured past-times, distracting activists from tackling the true devastation of race- and gender-based oppression by pitting feminists and race activists against one another.

– Jenn @ Reappropriate, Steinem’s Corrections Miss the Point

If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it’s the dark persistence of misogyny in America. Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life. For many men, it’s the true national pastime, much bigger than baseball or football.

Little attention is being paid to the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular.


To what extent are the candidates of either party concerned about these matters? Do they have any sense of how extensive and debilitating the mistreatment of women and girls really is?

We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.

If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.

– Bob Herbert, Politics and Misogyny (h/t dnA, discussion @ Feministe)

One of the things Terrance has been commenting on is that he doesn’t have a “dog in the fight” — his candidate for president is Rep. Kucinich because of his stands on LGBT issues, such as on marriage equality.

So, he got me thinking about what’s the “deal breaker” issue for me. What is the issue that I demand a candidate to have said “magic words” in support of to get my vote?

As y’all might expect, my “deal breaker” issue is the inclusion of transgender people in LGBT civil rights legislation. If a candidate hasn’t used the words of “gender identity” or some variant of the term “transgender” in a statement that supports equality for LGBT people, then I’m not going to vote for that candidate in my state’s primary. And, I’m scheduled to vote in California’s Democratic Primary, which is a “Tsunami Tuesday” (February 5th) primary — so my primary vote actually may mean something this year.

– Autumn Sandeen, Q Of The Day – What’s Your “Deal Breaker” Issue? (h/t Hilzoy)

In a story on page A1 of the [New York] Times [Tuesday], reporters Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer stated that Latinos are not going to support Senator Barack Obama in his bid for the White House because, “in Obama’s pursuit of Latinos, race plays a role.” In other words, they said that Latinos would not vote for a black man, and backed it up with nothing other than a couple of anecdotal quotes from random Latinos in Los Angeles.

The sloppy, inaccurate story goes on for 32 agonizing paragraphs, using the terms “black” and “Latino” as though they were mutually exclusive – which they are not. Historians estimate that 95 percent of the African slave trade to the Americas took place in Latin America.

To this day, the vast majority of people in the African diaspora live south of the U.S. border, in Latin American countries from Brazil to Colombia to Cuba and, yes, even Mexico. The song “La Bamba,” in fact, was brought to the Veracruz region of Mexico by Africans enslaved to the Spanish. The song likely has roots in the Bembe (Bantu) culture from what is now the Congo. This is only a stone’s throw, geographically, from the Kenya of Obama’s father’s birth.

How quickly we forget in this country. How brutally we refuse to learn.

The New York Times not only ignores completely the African history of Latin America by positioning “blacks” against “Latinos” as if none of us were both. To do so is enormously irresponsible because it dissolves from public consciousness the fact that African slavery was a crime committed all across this hemisphere, by colonial Europeans who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. The story also erroneously portrays Latinos as a race unto themselves – an error egregious enough to be stated in our own census bureau’s definition of Hispanic as a person “of any race”. Including “black”.


I suggest the reporters and editors of the New York Times stop taking their cues on Latino identity and politics in America from the boxers on Resurrection Boulevard and other nonsense TV shows, and take the subway uptown for a spell. Walk around. Go to a bodega or two. Listen to people talk. All those “black” people you see in Washington Heights? They’re Latinos.

And many of them (us) will be voting for Obama.

You want a source on blacks and Latinos, New York Times? Call me, the Cuban woman whose father was dedicated to the Yoruba God Obatala when he was a child. Call me, who knows that the phrase “Fulano” comes from the Fulani people of Africa. Call me, who knows that the double-headed tambora drum of merengue music, the national music of the Dominican Republic, has roots in West Africa. Call me. You have my number. I’m the one who writes you an editorial every week that you ignore. I’m the one who is supposedly one of the most influential Latinos in America, but can’t get your attention on this, or any other Latino issue. Yeah. Me. The one who busts all your stereotypes up into little gray flecks of newsprint.

You want to talk about blacks and Latinos? Then stop forgetting history.

– Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Obama and the Latino Vote in the NY Times (h/t Jill @ Feministe)

Our politicians, the media and economists are just now waking up to the fact that the economy is in trouble.

The current numbers make it clear that we are probably in, or probably headed for, a recession.

Also, the polls show that people are concerned about the economy, and it’s an election year. The people are out ahead of our governing and media and professional economic classes on this, because they live in the real economy, the one that’s been leveraged, and the professionals are either in, or work for, the investor class that has been doing well.

So there is, at last, talk about doing something about the economy.

The Feds will cut interest rates!

George Bush wants a stimulus package. Tax cuts, tax cuts and make my tax cuts permanent! After all, that policy has worked so well. He said the cuts must be at least 1 percent of the GDP. That will be $145 billion.

Harry Reid and Nancy Policy (the King and Queen of Effective Politics) will offer a competing one (tax cuts, tax cuts!). Although they promised pay-as-you-go economic policies from a Democratic legislature.

Pundits in the media talk about a crisis in consumer confidence. And how the fix is to restore it. So we will go out and buy. Presumably on credit.

How about consumers think there’s a problem because there is one. Not because they’re weird emotionally. They reasonably see themselves so overextended, with so little hope of being better earners, that they won’t be able to pay things off. Not even with a one-time government check of somewhere between $300 and $1,200.

In short, most of those solutions will go to making things worse.

The real solutions are pretty obvious and pretty simple.

First, we have to make a choice: Do we want a sound economy for all of us and a strong America? Or do we want to have a few people of unlimited wealth who use that wealth, among other things, to control the government so that it helps them milk more money from the rest of us?

By the way, this is not a call for socialism! Or other ism! Except a call for sensible and effective capitalism. Based on what we’ve seen work and seen fail.

In the real world, there are no such things as free markets.

In the real world, business people manipulate and conspire to control markets, and governments both control and collude with business, while tax policies and government spending have a major affect on the economy.

Let us accept that, and then the argument is only over how best to do it.

Simply giving money to rich people doesn’t work.

– Larry Beinhart, The Fraud of Bushenomics: They’re Looting the Country

The other day I heard a commentator say that women of color have a difficult choice to make between voting for Obama, Clinton or Edwards. That may be true, but a bitch also thinks this campaign has brought to light another task facing all people not currently represented in government.


This election has already been historic…a black man won the Iowa caucus and a woman won the New Hampshire primary…but it has also been a clinic on the complexity of diversity and variety of privilege.

So, we have to be politically present…women, young people, people of color, seniors, LGBT people, the disabled, the poor, workers, immigrants, religious minorities and any and all combinations of all of the above must stand up and step forward into political life.

No one will speak for me as well as I can so you can bet your ass a bitch is standing up

– Shark-fu, A political presence pondering…

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

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