Black vs Boobs: How to Pick a President

Early on in the Democratic nomination campaign – in fact before there actually was an official campaign but when everyone knew Obama and Clinton would run, I was in a class full of women. One woman, who was black, said something along the lines of: “It is terrible that a black man can’t even beat a white woman”. Instinctively I thought “You’re a woman. How can you say that?” After all, we all know that men have always been politicians; surely you, as a woman should be excited about the prospect of a woman president…shouldn’t you?

And that’s where it all begins. Whose side do you take? Which part of who you are is the most important?

As a white woman it seems that my interest should be in having a woman leading one of the most powerful (debatably at this point) countries in the world. But does she represent what I want for the world just because we both happen to have breasts? And if I choose her over Obama does that make me a racist? (come on, you know people are thinking it).

The discussion about race has been: what colour of people voted for which candidate today?, and is Obama really black?(he went to Harvard after all and you know they don’t let black people in there) And there has been, of course, plenty of talk about gender. The age-old gender stereotypes come flying out: she isn’t feminine enough, she’s a bitch, her husband is running the campaign. “Oh my god! Look at her clothes! I can’t vote for a woman in a pant-suit! Pant-suits are for lesbians!” “She’s wearing a dress? You can’t run a country in a dress”. Ok, maybe I made some of that up. I do believe the t-shirt that said “Iron my shirt was real”. And sure, most people don’t condone that t-shirt, but Hills (as I like to call her), unlike a {white} male politician, will never be judged only on her ideas.
Then comes Obama. I like Obama. He is interesting to listen to, passionate, fresh, and all those other good things that politicians seem to lack. So what if he has little big-world experience? Charisma takes you far in this world. Just like the Clinton, Obama cannot be seen exclusively as a candidate of only ideas. And why should he be? Having a black (or brown, or purple – anything but white) president is important for a lot of people. It seems to indicate change in the world. If there is a black president of a country that has been plagued by racism for so many years then the world must have changed. And I get it – well as much as I possibly can get it being as white as one can get. We can’t go around saying that the “isms” don’t exist anymore if we don’t have some tangible proof. The women have jobs and abortions now so we know there is no need for feminism anymore. So how do we show that racism is dead?

I guess that is hard to do if it isn’t true huh? I just finished reading an article in Toronto Life magazine about the infamous “ghetto dude” Evon Reid. What intrigued me, more than the incident itself (which is old news by now) was the discussion about how race is discussed in every day life. There are so many words that are used in mainstream language (like ghetto) that once meant terrible things to many people, that are now used casually or even with pride. This reappropriation of language in both race and gender discussions is not new. But is it really helping? In the case of Evon Reid the woman who made the comment claimed she couldn’t be racist because she was Asian. So who can be racist then? If only white people can be racist, then how do we ever effectively discuss issues of race in our society? The bulk of the world isn’t white, and therefore can’t be racist, and all the white people are afraid to talk about it in fear of being labeled racist. Seems pretty productive to me.

I started university thinking that racism didn’t exist anymore. Come on, everyone knows racism ain’t cool. Why yes, it was a rude awakening when I said something really stupid one day. I also had a really endearing experience with a young friend recently who was horrified when I said I didn’t think that the US was actually going to elect a black man president. She said I was mean. (I’m not the one voting!) I appreciate her anger at my statement. She should be angry (especially if I am right). But is this refusal to acknowledge racism part of what keeps change from happening?

Everyone knows that the democratic nomination is about race and gender more than it is about foreign policy decisions and budgets. Obama’s skin colour is talked about just as much as what Hilary is missing between her legs, except Obama’s ability is not questioned because of it – at least not out loud. That would be racist. So why then is it ok to question Clinton’s ability to govern based on her role as a woman?

We seem to have come far enough in our society in dealing with race – we know to ignore it, and in feminism to know that being a feminist is no longer cool. Women are the worst offenders of backwards feminist movements. We are the ones (yes not all of us, calm down) who do our best to play with the boys and not get offended. Women learn to be strippers to feel “empowered”, use men when they want something but say no because they can, and best of all judge the hell out of other women. Women are allowed to criticize Hilary Clinton for being not enough or too much of a woman because we are the same as her, just as it is allowed for the “N” word to show up in songs.

My question is: if we have come so far as a society, why do our most obvious physical features require finite numbers on the stereotypometer?

I guess the world really is black and white.

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