The Pity Party

Two victimized groups enter a race for president,
only one survives

Top, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, below, Geraldine Ferraro

Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro on Wednesday stood by her comment that Democrat Barack Obama is only where he is because he is black and said the reaction by his campaign was dividing the party.

“My comments have been taken so out of context and have been spun by the Obama campaign as racist that it’s doing precisely what they don’t want done — it’s going to the Democratic Party and dividing us even more,” Ferraro said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Ferraro, the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984 and the only woman ever nominated by a major party for either of the top two U.S. political offices, ignited a flap by telling a California newspaper that “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.”

“And if he was a woman he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept,” Ferraro said. (Reuters)

I was born in a city where racial political warfare has been going on for decades. Where feelings and hatred are so entrenched that city leaders would rather choke off black middle class sections in the city and let them die so they can run poorer tenants out and sell the properties to businesses who promise to bring jobs and bring nothing but EPA violations.

A city where the black aldermen and women face off against their white counterparts, where white darken the faces of their opponents to make them look more sinister, where the cities first black mayor was dogged constantly by scandal after scandal and chastising editorials in The Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis is a city where what can’t be rigged is bought and what can’t be bought is stolen. Where those in power who have always been in power will do what it takes to frustrate, hasten and deter any effort by minorities to be anything but the footstool you step upon to get to the top.

And these racial tormentors, these bigots, these elitists who run my city are Democrats.

Many people make the false assumption, both conservatives and liberals, that political ideologies can be racist, but they are not. You can be a conservative and not be a racist. And you can be a Liberal and be a bigot. Political ideologies are just that, ideologies. Political philosophies are not determined by ethnicity or gender, it is the people who adopt them and determine a racial slant which these views can be implemented.

There has been a long-standing fight between the whites of both parties over who is the real racist. Often the Republicans are plastered with the label, mostly because of their embrace of segregationists after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the forced integration of white schools. The label still sticks to the various bigots and iconoclasts who operate both inside and on the fringes of the Republican Party.

But what everyone over looks is these whites who switched didn’t necessarily drop all their political beliefs. Many of them and their constituents were still populists at heart, but there was a choice between race or their philosophies and race trumped pro-union populism. And not every racist switched to decaf. Many, like West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, a former Klansman, didn’t go anywhere. He couldn’t stomach joining the party of the wealthy opportunists he’d been fighting all his life. Did that make him any less racist? Highly unlikely. But again, one’s party or political beliefs do not inoculate them from racism.

The Democratic Party has enjoyed the distinction of being the party of inclusion since the Northern Democrats took center stage and moved past Jim Crow to reach out to black voters. And while they were at a detriment without white southern votes, blacks repaid them handsomely in party loyalty as they became integrated into the big tent of Democracy where they grew in number and flourished.

The white Liberals within the party felt proud that they weren’t as “closed-minded” as the Republicans, who didn’t bother to appeal to blacks after the ’60s and largely ignored them, figuring any attempt to peel off votes would be worthless.

Once again, the attraction of blacks to the Democratic Party had next to nothing to do with political philosophies. As a minority group, all our votes have been strategic and based on which party was the least hostile to blacks. After the Civil War many blacks were Republicans. The decision had nothing to do with Republican’s views on isolationism or free market capitalism and everything to do with President Abraham Lincoln and the outcome of the Civil War.

It’s easy for people to forget that political designations don’t define whether you are racist are not. When someone points out a bigoted view one can’t clutch their proverbial pearls and gasp,”I can’t be a racist! I’m a Democrat!” and hope that starves off any accusations.

While I don’t make it my habit to read The American Spectator, writer George Neumayr has a point about the “differences” in liberal racism and more aggressive racism. While he makes the sloppy mistake of assuming Liberalism is more prone to racist views, he is correct in how a liberal version of racism is based on white paternalism and elitism.

Left-wing paternalists regard themselves as architects of racial progress, guarding and guiding blacks along the path of success — a role in which they assume to stand forever at the head of the march. But what happens when blacks overtake their enlightened white helpers? All hell breaks loose and the mask of progress drops to reveal the stricken faces of the white avant-garde …

Since liberalism is not based upon natural justice but willfulness, it never fails to devour its supposed beneficiaries. Ferraro’s condescension captures the tone of paternalistic liberalism perfectly. Its “victims” should know their place and plot their ascent according to the progressive charts set up by the white liberal establishment.

We’ll let you know, Barack, when it is your time to win — that’s been the tacit theme of the Clinton campaign all along. Such is the generosity of Lady Bountiful she’ll even let him serve as her apprentice in the VP chair for eight years.

But chaos has erupted and the plantation progressives don’t know what to do, except to blurt out pent-up racial resentments. Then, the victims, whom they spent the last few decades training in hair-trigger racial sensitivity, turn on them in righteous fury, detecting nuances of racism in everything from Andrew Cuomo’s description of Obama’s press conferences as “shuck and jive” events to Bill Clinton’s belittling Jesse Jackson comparison to Ferr
aro’s sniffing at his “luck.”

Victimization, usually a buzz word tossed about to apply bootstrap lifting fantasies and imply social Darwinism, is a real thing. It is a valid issue worthy of discussion. And there has been a long-standing belief in Conservative circles white Liberal guilt is a ruse. That Liberal whites who vote Democratic, dare to teach at inner city schools for a year or two, drive a Prius, sometimes donate money to the United Negro College Fund and live in large white enclaves where never a brown or black face is to be seen are implicitly as racist as their welfare killing and “end Affirmative Action” cousins.

This racism isn’t the murder the black man and hang him high racism. This is the “I let my half-black slave children live in the master’s house and I treat them nicely” racism. The “I even let them read and write” racism. This is the racism of the white families my mother’s family worked for in Arkansas, who referred to my grandparents as if they were members of the family or beloved pets. The racism of Uncle Tom’s original owners in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” before he was sold down the river to brute Simon Legree. These are the “good white folks” whose ice water always tastes colder.

And this all seems so harmless until you see what’s behind it. The slave master didn’t free his children until he died. The people who treated my family members as loved pets were staunch segregationists. And the good white folks who loved Uncle Tom didn’t free him, they set him on that path that would lead him to Legree. This is bigotry with a pretty bow on it. Where blacks are enjoyed, even valued as long as they remain so in those acceptable areas of black success – sports, entertainment and servitude. It is the sort of lovefest that created Jim Crow, where we could have separate with a very small equal.

It is a truth that some white people are only comfortable with blacks as long as they are always in the subservient position, the femininized position. We are the docile children of Africa who became the unfortunate beasts of burden, victims of cruelty and overt racism. When the Great White Father reaches down from his perch in the sky to bless us with SCHIP programs and minority scholarships we should always express fealty and be grateful that he recognized our need and blessed us with his love and devotion. Unfortunately, a benevolent dictator is still a dictator.

All is fine, all is wonderful if we know our place and stay out of the fucking way. That was the mantra of every southern white who saw blacks as their mere proxy, the hired hand or worse, property. Blacks who knew their place were rarely attacked. Blacks who knew their place did not get sprayed with water hoses or beaten by the police. Blacks who knew their place kept their mouths shut and sat in the back of the bus and wore the mask that grins and lies.

I don’t think most Democrats are “racist” in the Klannish sense. Or racist in the ignore a history of racism in this country and yell “pull up yourself by yer bootstraps” sense. I don’t even think they’re racist in the way where they necessarily think they’re better or smarter. The racism that has reared its head in this Democratic presidential race is the kind that only reveals itself when you’re deemed a threat or the competition.

There was a push back when blacks entered the workforce, a push back when they argued for anti-discrimination legislation and a push back when any sport, field or position was integrated. A definitive shove that said, “We’ll let you know when it’s your turn.” The same middle class whites who were for the Civil Rights Movement but against Affirmative Action are now the same upper class elite who were for minority scholarships but are balking the prospect of having to work for or answer to some Harvard-educated, suit-wearing, “having the gall to speak properly and look us in the eye” mulatto who has forgotten all the good that we’ve done for him.

These are cries of exasperation. Of last resort. The pangs and fits of “this was supposed to be our year. This was our time and you’ve stolen something for us that you did not earn. They only chose you because you were black and you are the ultimate Affirmative Action hire. America would rather deal with its latent racism, than its latent sexism.”

Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro’s recent bellowing over Barack Obama’s apparent racial luckiness in the light of a brief senatorial career is about a dream deferred, her own 1984 dream that never had a chance like the chance Obama is getting now. Her wording was inelegant, but the bruised ego is real. How could people she argued for and supported, these black people, now turn and call her racist for expressing her exasperation, her dismay about being asked to step aside because his race is trumps her gender. How far we’ve come when the advancement of black people has run up against another unrepresented group who also happens to be white, wealthy and Liberal.

If you take Ferraro’s solipsism at its words, not going into the racist allusions, this is the classic lament of white students unable to go to their college of choice believing the kid with the minority scholarship stepped on them to reach their way up. It doesn’t matter that white men had the same view of her as she was named to the vice president spot. She did not run in the primaries and was chosen by the Democratic leadership out of cynicism, in hopes women would break from popular Republican President Ronald Reagan. She and Walter Mondale own one lonely state and it wasn’t hers. She called a joke, a political stunt.

I could understand this frustration if Obama were a mere experimentation in happy racial superlatives, but how can winning caucuses and primaries be a stunt? This is where the argument falls apart.

I am not one who sees the racism boogeyman around every tree and critique of Barack Obama, and I think some of the fighting over criticism and calling it racism was reckless, but now things have grown so caustic that Democrats are lashing out at each other over who’s time it is and who is more deserving. It is the winner’s time and it is the winner who is deserving. I’m tired of listening to a chorus of Efie Whites stamping their feet and screeching at the top of their lungs, “And I am telling you I am not going!

This isn’t about you.

This is about getting the White House back.

Won’t both women and blacks benefit from a Democratic Administration? Haven’t we both benefited in every Democratic Administration since Lyndon Johnson’s? Can’t we criticize one another without jeopardizing our chances of making America a better place? Do you not realize by lowering Obama you are reducing your own candidate down to her pure elements: him, an accomplished black man and her, the former First Lady. Aren’t you reinforcing the admonition every white man who has said neither a black or a woman should be here because we are taking some white man’s job?

I don’t think white feminists should stand down, but individuals like Geraldine Ferraro and Gloria Steinem need to listen to themselves and wonder who have they become. You’re now that person standing in the way of progress. You’re now that person blocking the door. How do you go from fighting for minorities to fighting against minorities, crying unfair because your candidate who had all things stacked in her favor is faltering. Arguing for equality but when someone else who is not you gets where you could not. You dismiss all as overly sensitive and you apologize for nothing.

I understand being angry over the sexism Hillary Clinton has faced in the press and I understand being frus
trated by some Obama supporters who over zealous in his support, but I don’t understand using your own mouth to shoot yourself in the foot unless everything you ever did for minorities was all about you and never about them. That all along you were making yourself feel good, assuaging your guilt over the racism you benefited from by tossing bread crumbs from your crystal staircase to feed empty black bellies.

Don’t go away angry, but do please go away if you can not harness yourselves. Good works don’t save one from being a fool and if you don’t believe me ask the party of Lincoln – the party who took in bigots was once the same who set me free.

7 thoughts on “The Pity Party

  1. I’m sorry.But I just don’t see white women as an oppressed minority. Maybe in the early 1900’s, but now…If being oppressed means that I am more likely to be raised in a two parent (i.e. double income) household, gain access to a quality education, land a higher paying job than the vast majority of my minority counterparts, and the ability to get a black man to actually MARRY me — sign me up for “Team White Girl”.

  2. As always The Snob is an astute observer. I read through checking myself as I am a white liberal feminist. Unfortunately both sexism and racism are alive and well. As annoyed as I am with Hillary these days I do have a grudging respect for her. She is phoney and she voted for the war but she is also brilliant and accomplished. Ferraro sadly diminished herself and her own candidacy by her recent comments and that is too bad. I don’t know if Barack Obama is lucky to be who he is or not. To me he seems like a man with a destiny and I sure hope he will be president because times are so critical.We could solve the Race vrs Gender battle and elect Angela Davis (who if you youngsters don’t remember once ran for president. 1968?) At that time America was not ready for a woman, black or especially a communist.Great writing Snob and thought provoking.

  3. rikyrah, et al: There is a certain whiff of “where else are you gonna go” with this whole affair. That’s why I don’t understand the Clintons’ strategy. You’re willing to damage relations between your most reliable base just to finagle a nomination that is already statistically out of Hillary’s reach?It just seems asinine. I think Howard Dean, Al Gore, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Jimmy Carter and Nancy Pelosi need to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with the Clintons. We can’t have black people and women trying to kill one another, unwilling to vote for the nominee if it’s not their candidate.The shenanigans have to stop. Howard Dean can’t just stand idle while the party is a risk of being horribly fractured at the convention. We don’t need ’68 redux. Come to Jesus, Hillary! Come right now!

  4. Her tone was both condescending and craftful in the effort to continually confine Senator Obama’s campaign to the parameters of the campaigns run 20 years ago by Jessie Jackson, which were, indeed, significant in their own right.But she wants to remind those of us in that group – and others – that Senator Obama’s campaign is only symbolic. Something to be proud of because it represents “progress” but not something to believe can really deliver results…a fairytale, as her husband has said.Fearmongering and a coded way to tell people of color to stay where they belong – on the back of the bus. Not this time, if Hillary backdoor this election, I refuse to ride the Democratic Party bus any longer. They don’t mind black folk getting a little something, just as long as it doesn’t interfer with their agenda…They don’t mind enabling those in our society who prefer not to carry their own weight…They’d prefer to give them a little something to keep them right where they are…

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