Saturday, January 19, 2008

Must We Pit Race Against Gender?

While Ms. Winfrey is making it no secret that she has Sen. Obama's back, her mentor, Dr. Angelou, publicly endorses Sen. Clinton. As a result, much is being made about the significance race and gender are playing in these presidential primaries.

However, is it not extremely problematic to assume that one's politics are based solely on these categories alone? Would it not be the same as asking a person of colour: Are you more loyal to your race or your gender? In the case of Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou, the more specific question would be: Are you Black first, or female first?

Is this not a ridiculous question? How would one respond if put on the spot like this?

Well, Dr. Angelou was put on that spot. Having made enormous contributions to both the American Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement, CBC's Evan Solomon made sure to ask her where her true loyalties really did lie. But make no mistake, Dr. Angelou made sure to give Solomon some perspective on the true nature of her politics:

SOLOMON: You’re one of the great observers of America. If you were going to say where we’re at now, how would you describe it to me?

ANGELOU: To say where we are today...we are in the throws--and I love the word--in the throws of finding out who we really are…how courageous we really are…how intelligent we really are. Sometimes we’d rather bear the ills we have rather than fly to others, and we know not ours. Sometimes we will vote for the same people our families voted for knowing very well that it hasn’t served us very well.

SOLOMON: You have worked with the great champions of civil rights…


SOLOMON: Malcolm X…


SOLOMON: -- as you say…Martin Luther King. Now there’s a very good chance Barack Obama, a Black man, has a very good chance to become the President of the United States...that Dr. Maya Angelou would see this as the fulfillment of one of the great civil rights dreams, and yet you’ve advocated for Hilary Clinton.

ANGELOU: Yes…I don’t see that as a contradiction in terms. That is to say that I have advocated for the best person. And I admire Mr.…uh…Sen. Obama. I admire him. But I also believe in going out with whom you came in with. Mrs. Clinton has earned my respect, admiration, and even affections over the last twenty years. When she was the wife of the Governor of Arkansas, I liked her then. She came into Arkansas with a fresh voice. And she didn’t try to talk down to anybody. She didn’t try to appease anybody by what she thought they wanted. She was herself. And when she stood up in the after having become a kind of joke, and she stood up. She didn’t argue, she didn’t shout, she just stood up like a woman. I thought, hmmm…If decided to run for anything, I would back her.

SOLOMON: In America, can you take out gender and race from the equation? Or are both of those movements—both of which you’ve been so intimately involved with—crucial factors to consider?

ANGELOU: I’ve taken them out.

SOLOMON: But how can you?

ANGELOU: Well, I’m an intelligent person. I don’t have to follow what is done by other people. I have intelligence and so I act intelligently. What I do, is I don’t say of Ms. Clinton that she is a woman so I support her. No, no, no. I meant she is a full human being so I support her. I support her because I admire her. I admire what she has been…and been to people in our country. Her dreams about health for all Americans are really notable.

SOLOMON: I wonder if you’re old friends, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, were sitting here and they looked at you and said, ‘We’ve finally have a presidential candidate….’ What would they say to you?

ANGELOU: I think they would say, ‘Good on you, Maya Angelou!’

**[The excerpt was transcribed from Solomon's interview, "Race vs. Gender Politics," that aired on CBC News: Sunday on January 12, 2008. You can watch the full interview HERE.] **


Wendell said...

Racism and sexism are alive and well in the media, where public figures are, first and foremost, defined by their skin colour and gender. Did he do well in this state? Must have been "the black vote". Did he do poorly in that state? The women must have voted in force. Curiously, I haven't yet heard anyone say "John Edwards is having difficulty organizing the white, male vote" - though surely that must be the case if, as the media insists, everyone votes on the basis of race and gender.


BURAOT said...

sometimes i wish i could carve out my own eyes, so i couldn't see the color of one's skin. Or slice my ears out, so i wouldn't hear someone's accent.

we got used to identifying everybody in terms of classification, be it race, gender, religion.

much so that i am still trying to comprehend the government's role on "equalizing things" in workplaces, colleges, everywhere.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Wendell, thanks for visiting! While I can recognize that for some, it may be about voting in the first Black or female president, ultimately race and gender can only go so far if you don't whole-heartedly believe in the candidate's political platform.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Nice seeing you, buraot! I definitely see what you're saying. We see the world through our individual lens of race and gender so it is only natural that both would impact one's politics. However, if the candidates in a Canadian PM race were a Filipino Canadian male, White female, and a bunch of the usual White males, there would still be a long list of considerations I would have to make aside from the obvious contentions of race and gender.

mschumey07 said...

I just wonder why the Clintons' New York neighbors are supporting Obama instead of Hillary. Is htere something we should know? They said they know her and that is why they are not supporting her.

The All Seeing Eye said...

Another item that has me annoyed is reading that so-called fans of Oprah are calling her a traitor for endorsing Obama ( And these so-called fans are getting rather nasty to Oprah on her own web site. I have a sneaky feeling that these people aren't true fans but rather volunteers or paid workers of the Clinton campaign playing dirty politics. It's my opinion that Oprah is entitled to endorse anyone she wants. If you don't agree, then simply don't agree. There's no need to get nasty. I am sure these so-called fans are among those who claim to be always open-minded people (the biggest line of BS that you can hear). They are only open-minded if you completely agree with their opnions. In fact, this comment has gotten me so annoyed that I will probably end up making a post about this on my own web site. I am sick of the dirty politics and people not being called on it.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Shumey, that's a good question! I don't have the answer but maybe we can try to get to the bottom of that one....

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

the all seeing eye...Wow, I didn't realize that there was such a backlash regarding Oprah's Obama endorsement--that's pretty damn lame! I'll make sure to check out your link. Like in Dr. Angelou's case, it seems like the public PRESUMES that Oprah has now "sold-out" her gender on the basis of her backing Obama which is obviously a ludicrous assumption. Man, you guys are in for one exciting presidential race!

P.S. I look forward to reading your "pissed-off-about-dirty-politics" post! LOL!

May said...

As if colour and sex are really an indicator of ones actions. It angers me to see such simplicity disguised as complex issues. Leaders should be elected on their ability, not their high level of charisma, religion, or social status.


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