More on the plight of White America from Geraldine Ferraro:
Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?
I don't know how it is. But I'm rather surprised by how close her hyperbolic language ("Any time anybody does anything that in any way...") resembles that of the Religious Right's, how if one accuses them of homophobia when they're being blatantly homophobic, they come right back with a statement about how being accused of homophobia is worse than homophobia itself.
She also said today:
In all honesty, do you think that if he were a white male, there would be a reason for the black community to get excited for a historic first? Am I pointing out something that doesn't exist?
Well, that's not what she said, but it is an interesting idea. Her logic is that Black people are rallying around Obama not because of his message, policy, or experience, but because of and only because of the color of his skin, basically saying that that's all they're looking at, the same idea that posits the only meaningful votes as those that come from straight, white men because they're the only ones who don't get caught up in all this identity stuff and look to the good of the country.
The end of her logic would have all women voting for Clinton, which would do her a lot better than Obama since there are a lot more women of any race in the US than there are Black people of any gender. But that hasn't happened. I'm not sure if I want to hear Ferraro's reasoning for why white women aren't participating in what she's incorrectly reduced down to an essentialist and flat "gimme" identity politics.
Do I think that Ferraro's racist? I don't know, and since I'm never going to meet her I don't really care. But I do know that her comments from the night before the Mississippi primary were meant to imply something when she said that a hypothetical white, male Obama wouldn't be doing as well because things just get handed to Black men. And her response today that she was only referring to the Black vote (because only Black people have voted for Obama, you see, that's how he won Iowa) is inadequate, doesn't make much sense, and is unpersuasive.
She pretty much articulates the full reverse racism argument:
- White people are under attack
- Any attempt to identify and criticize racism is a personal affront
- Black people have more political power than white people
Take away the words "white," "Black," and "racial" and this can occur along any axis of identity. Like when Michelle Malkin
was pushing the idea that Mexicans were immigrating to America so that they could start a civil war and reclaim the West for Mexico, but you can't talk about it because of the bleeding-heart librul media. Or with Sally Kern
's comments from just this past week about the politically powerful gay lobby that wants to destroy the world, but if you say anything against them you're accused of homophobia. Or anti-semitism in pretty much all its incarnations that create conspiracy theories about how the Jews are running the world secretly, but you can't talk about it because the Jews control everything.
It's the same problem, and we're all in this together.
Besides all that, we're right back in a place where being accused of racism is worse that racism itself. It's a defense mechanism in white America to prevent any serious self-reflection about race, to avoid challenging white privilege, and to make race into an untouchable topic. If you think that pointing out that there's racial baggage in what someone else says is going to make them lash out, you keep your mouth shut so you don't ruin the party.
In fact, that's pretty much the Clinton campaign's response:
I do not agree with that and you know it's regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides say things that veer off into the personal. We ought to keep this focused on the issues. That's what this campaign should be about.
Senator Obama's campaign staff seems to have forgotten his pledge. We have not. And, we reject these false, personal and politically calculated attacks on the eve of a primary. This campaign should be about the leadership we need for a better future and these attacks serve only to divide the Democratic Party and the American people.
You see? It's the people who point out the racial baggage in these comments who are stirring the pot. Jeez, people, just stop talking about this whole race thing because it's really hard to ignore racism when people keep talking about it!
There's a lot of baggage behind what she's saying. I still hold that she's smart enough to know what she's doing - trying to get a group of white "Reagan Democrats" to vote for Clinton because they identify with her plight, what with years of rich folks like Rush Limbaugh telling them that the reason they lost their jobs had nothing to do with the redistribution of the wealth upwards or more easily exploitable labor abroad and everything to do with unqualified affirmative action hires and illegal immigrants taking their jobs.
We still have a long ways to go to having that elusive national conversation on race in this country. But maybe having prominent politicians act it out in the media will help bring it about.
Update: Ben Smith found this from Ferraro back in 88:
Placid of demeanor but pointed in his rhetoric, Jackson struck out repeatedly today against those who suggest his race has been an asset in the campaign. President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don't ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."
Wow. Just wow.
I'm sure former president Jesse Jackson appreciated the sentiment. And does that Reagan comment sound a little familiar?