Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Racism & Sexism: 2008 Election
As nutty as that t-shirt is, it was the best visual to allow me to address an issue that's been in my head for the last week. You see, the day after the Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was announced, I saw something that I never really thought I'd see expressed openly. A black co-worker pulled me aside and said: "They just shot themselves in the foot." I said, "What?" He replied, "Foreign countries would see us as weak with a female VP, let alone a possible female President. Heck, most nations right now won't even show up to meetings with Condoleezza Rice because she's a woman." After having him clarify the Rice statement, I asked him, "You really feel that way." He responded, "There is no way that I want an emotional woman at the button."
As you might expect, this floored me. Not just the line of logic but that he had no reservations in saying it. So I said, "That's funny that you mention it now. What would you have done if Hillary was named as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee." He then said, "Well, our family talked about this and we said we couldn't vote for Obama if Clinton was on the ticket."
My jaw dropped open and I'm still left in awe of the exchange but more so that I thought sexism was a dying stereotype. In 12 years we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment and the 200th anniversary of the movement advocating women's suffrage. Nationwide, it wasn't until 1965's Voting Rights Act that blacks would see the end of most forms of disenfranchisement.
I had another co-worker ask me if I was voting for Obama. When I told him I was a Libertarian and leaning more towards Bob Barr, the response was "You just won't vote for him because he's black." It's a bit sad really when it is believed that the only reason people have to not vote someone into the highest offices in our government is because of color or genitalia. Do I believe that can happen. Well, from conversation #1, we know that someone will use the latter as an excuse not to vote one way.
With that in context, what shook me was how easy it was to be sexist despite having over half our population being women and their voting rights being affirmed nearly a century ago. I just didn't think that it was this prominent. Yes, you still hear cries of racism here and there. Never would I have thought that a presidential election would become a battleground or a momentary resurgence of gender and racial politics.