18 Mar

Racism and sexism

A month ago, when it became clear that the Democratic nominee and likely next president would be a woman or an African-American, the party was proud and excited about making history. This is what the Democratic Party is about, we told ourselves. Not only would we turn the page on a Republican president bad for this country, we would break down racial and gender barriers as well.

Somehow in the last few weeks, that pride has crumbled, and now we face a conversation in the party that is depressing and distracting. When we should be talking about healthcare, we talk about racism. When we should be talking about the economy, we talk about sexism.

Geraldine Ferraro resigned in anger after making racist comments which Hillary distanced herself from. In a passionate television opinion piece, “Keith Olbermann of MSNBC slammed Hillary”:http://youtube.com/watch?v=qXBXD2zizIY for even letting herself be associated with Ferraro’s comments. He was right that we can’t stand for it if we are to respect our own debate and come together when the primaries are over.

Sadly these divisive comments don’t come from the top, they come from supporters, they come from us. Likewise on the other side, there is an undercurrent of sexism that we shouldn’t be afraid to call out and move beyond. CNN was one of the first news organizations to “cover this issue in a discussion”:http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/15/kaye.ohioracegender/ with voters.

There’s something pretty common in the Democratic primary this year that I like to call the stay-at-home mom syndrome. In truth, it’s sexism, but we are so used to it that it sometimes doesn’t even register as such. Here’s how the argument goes:

“Just because she lived in the White House doesn’t mean Hillary can take credit for the economic successes under Bill Clinton.”

Tracy Jordan, is his own Saturday Night Live response to Tina Fey, fell for this same trap using essentially the same words. It’s disarming because it does two things simultaneously:

* Relegates women to second place.
* Ignores Hillary’s own real accomplishments.

It’s as if you said stay-at-home moms don’t matter because they don’t get paid — as if raising children and taking care of the house or finances is not also real experience to be proud of. To cut to the truth, you have to strip away the accusations and sexist jokes and look at what Hillary has actually taken credit for. Things that she led while First Lady, like pushing for a universal healthcare system, or working with the senate on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or talking with world leaders about opening borders and pressing for human rights.

This site isn’t about whether one candidate is better than another; it’s about praising both. Together we are strong, but to get there we have to leave the racism and sexism by the side and _encourage a campaign of ideas again_.

Obama gave a “major speech today on race”:http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/hisownwords, at the same time both acknowledging our differences and urging that we move beyond them:

“We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that.

“But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

“That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.'”

The Democratic Party can make history without tearing anyone down. If you see someone using race or gender as a wedge to divide us, call them on it. Let’s discuss the issues that matter in a productive way, because in 4 years or 8 years or 16 years we want to look back and be proud that we came together when America was weak and made a positive difference.