Why I Identify with Hillary Clinton
by francislholland, Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 05:27:55 AM EST
I am a Black man, as many of you know. Recently, I was banned from participation at DailyKos, where there are only 2.5% Black people and threatened with banning from MyDD, where there are only 1.5% Black people. http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/2/4/203958/7683#readmore (I post a link to the MyDD banning threat here in the interest of transparency.) The attitude seems to be, "It's not that we don't value people of your demographic group, but we think that your participation at this time is mostly negative and we would be better off without you."
I can't say this attitude surprises me, because it is the same attitude that many on the "progressive" Left seem to have toward Hillary Clinton. "It's not that we don't want a liberal Democratic woman to run for President, but we don't like you, Mrs. Clinton, and we think the race would be better off without you, even if that means that there are no liberal Democratic women in the race at all."
For those who dislike Senator Clinton personally, it doesn't seem to concern them in the least that the effect of somehow convincing her not to run would be that there would be no gender diversity among the choices.
Unless you have been a member of a demographic group that is considered superfluous, you simply cannot understand how it feels to have people say that they want you out of the race, even if that means that nobody like you will be among the choices available.
Now, many people want Hillary out of the race because they know deep down that, if she stays in, there's a strong likelihood that she will win. These people don't want competition from a candidate who is stronger. If she were weak, it wouldn't matter that she stays in the race. They only want her out because they want to free up her front-runner position for someone more to their liking.
Well, that's not really very different from the debates that we've had in America over affirmative action. "If that woman gets the job, then I'll be left out in the cold." White men in general won't be left out in the cold if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. It's true, however, that white male presidential candidates will, for the first time in US history, have to serve in a supporting role. Let's face it: That's going to be a new experience for all of us, and it's going to be something for everyone to get used to.
I am the first person who has said these things at MyDD in this way. A lot of people aren't going to like it. They aren't going to like it when I point out the 43-term exclusively white male monopoly of the Presidency as a reason for Hillary Clinton to stay in the race. Again, they think that the 43-term white male monopoly of the American Presidency is an irrelevancy when choosing a new President, just as they believe that the fact that I am Black is irrelevant when they want to throw me out of a group that is 98.5% non-Black.
So, that's why I identify with Senator Hillary Clinton. Both of us have had to try to make a way in a society that historically has excluded our participation as if it were completely natural to exclude us. I have mostly failed to make my way, so it is even more important to me that Hillary Clinton succeeds.
It amazes me that white men (and some white women) can express resentment that, for the first time in US history, someone other than a white man seems to have corralled all of the important resources early, to lock up the nomination. They even argue that Hillary feels "entitled" because she is the spouse of an ex-President.
Here, the irrationality of sexism rears its ugly head, in my opinion. Because, when, I ask you, in the entire long history of the United States of America, has being the spouse of an ex-President ever helped any woman to become President of the United States? It has never happened in the past and to assert that it is a reason to resent and resist Hillary today is specious and offensive. Effectively, these people deeply resent the only narrative that has ever brought a woman to the point where Hillary is today. They think that the only woman ever to reach Hillary's position has an unfair advantage over the white men who have always run for office. I'm very familiar with this sort of resistance to and resentment of diversity, because it is the same resentful resistance that occurs when one Black fireman or lawyer seeks employment at an all-white workplace. White men who have always utterly and exclusively dominated a field of endeavor believe they face "unfair" competion when someone - one person - who is not a white man seeks to succeed.
Now, let's talk for a moment about the "Two Americas" of John Edwards: To my mind, the two Americas have always been (a) those who historically were denied the right to vote and be elected to public office and were thereby disenfranchised from the political, economic fruits of American society, and (b) those who have been historically privileged with the right to vote and be elected to office. In the latter group, we find only white men, the wealthier of whom have voted since the first votes were taken in the New World. In the former group - those who historically were disenfranchised, lacking votes, property and privilege - we find white women, Indians, Asians, Blacks and everyone who was not a white man.
As a result of disenfranchisement at the voting booth, women, Blacks and everyone who was not a white man also lost the right to buy and sell real property, the right to open businesses and make contracts, and even - in the case of Blacks - the right to learn to read and write. Only white men enjoyed the privileges of American society from the very beginning, including the right to vote.
And it shows. The sequelae of that past exclusion are present in the lower wealth and wages that women and Blacks and others continue to have and receive in America, the poorer health, the lack of participation in government and industry, and even our self-esteem.
Therefore, electing John Edwards president - far from alleviating the historical "two Americas" problem - will inevitably perpetuate and exacerbate the "two Americas" privilege that white men have always enjoyed - the privilege to run the country for their own benefit, to the exclusion of others.
Now, some people say there are other characteristics that make John Edwards a better candidate than Hillary Clinton, in spite of the fact that John Edwards performed no known public service work before he ran for the US Senate; has been in public life a shorter time and has less experience; and only proposes a national health plan now, as part of his second run for the Presidency. These people argue that, although John Edwards voted for the war in Iraq, yet we "know" that John Edwards is more liberal because . . . because of the words that come out of John Edwards' mouth.
To people who feel this way, it does not matter that Hillary Clinton was appointed by liberal President Jimmy Carter to the National Board of Legal Services for the poor even while John Edwards was still getting rich suing the rich, or before that. They do not care that Hillary was working the the liberal Children's Defense Fund with Marion Wright Edelman while Edwards was doing . . . What was he doing?!
When you are a woman or a Black in the United States, there is always something "more important" at hiring time than the fact that you have more traditional qualifications than those who are hired or promoted instead of you.
Before I was banned from DailyKos, I wrote a diary in which I demanded to know whether there aren't ways in which America would inevitably improve as a result of electing its first liberal Democratic woman President. And now I pose that question here at MyDD: As well as denouncing me for writing this diary, I challenge every person who reads to this point to also state at least one way that America might improve if America, for the first time in US history, elected a liberal Democratic woman President. Those who argue that there is no conceivable way that America could improve, and those who perpetually "forget" to address this issue at all, are, in my opinion, the ones who believe that women as such are superfluous. "Like the fact that there are only 1.5% Blacks at MyDD, women just don't matter and their interests are just not sufficiently important for us to worry about them while we go about building our "progressive" dreams."
A lot of people will argue that Hillary is not "liberal". Well, I can only say that most Black people disagree with you, as shown by the polls that say that most Blacks would prefer to vote for Hillary than even to vote for another Black person, Senator Barack Obama. Meanwhile, somewhere between 39 and 43% of Democratic voters polled say that Hillary Clinton is exactly the sort of Democrat that they want for President.
Now, if you hate me for espousing what is surely a contrarian view here at MyDD, then I can understand that. I am Black. I'm used to being hated.
But if you ban me from participation here because I have expressed these view, then you confirm the assertion that you DO NOT value diverse views, and you DO NOT value diverse people. If this is so, then the 39-43% of Democrats who support Hillary Clinton now absolutely ought not listen to MyDD when they determine whom to support for President. Because America is an increasingly diverse country and needs to be led by people who understand and cope effectively with diversity, not by those who run from diversity into all-white online enclaves of homogenous whiteness.
I have confessed to you that I am Black in this essay, even though I know I could have remained anonymous, and thereby avoided the risk that you would know of my skin-color and discriminate against me. Online, I could have all of the "advantages" of being gay, wherein nobody would no of my "difference" unless I somehow slip and mention the movies I like, the people I date, the neighborhood in which I live, the music that I prefer . . . If I just kept my mouth shut about being Black, then everyone might assume I was a white man, and nobody could discriminate against me.
This is the "Black Extinction Theory" of the white blogosphere, holding that Black can avoid white discrimination if we only pretend not to be Black and scrupulously avoid all appearance of being Black.
Even if I were to succeed at that, then when I left the online whitosphere for the real world, the fact of color-based bias would hit me in the face like a ninety degree day does when you've spent the day with air conditioning. I could pretend while in here that it is not snowing outside, but I would still have to shovel my car out as soon as I hit the street. And that is the problem of pretending to be white in the whitosphere. It doesn't help in any way to change the fact that, as soon as I get outside, I will still face all of the same resistances to Blackness that existed before I spend a few hours pretending not to be Black online.
There is another problem with the "Black Extinction Theory": I enjoy being Black, I'm proud of my culture and the unique way in which my experience combines with my expression, and I refuse to hide these things about myself, regardless of where I am.
And so I reject the suggestion that if I only hid my Blackness I could avoid being discriminated against online. Yes, and if you don't eat while you are in a restaurant, you can avoid paying a bill when you leave. That's not very helpful to me. If I haven't eaten then I might as well not have been there at all.
So why, then have I created a whole offensive vocabulary to describe my experiences in the white online world? I'll be happy to explain my thinking:
I describe "progressive" blogs such as DailyKos and MyDD as part of the "whitosphere" simply because their own internal polling shows that DailyKos is about 95% white and MyDD is about 98% white. In a country increasingly characterized by diversity, these websites stand out like the anachronistic all-white country clubs that still exist in many places. The difference is that white the all white country clubs have been so for centuries, the whitosphere represents an opportunity that has been both created and lost just over the few six years. In any case, any blog that has only 1.5% Black membership and similarly lacks other minorities can certainly, fairly and accurately be characterized as part of the "whitosphere."
I have asserted that there is a "White Blog Pass System" at such blogs simply because if Blacks need the permission of whites to participate, then that is the same thing to me as the Apartheid pass system in South Africa, in which Blacks could not enter "white" cities without a pass saying that whites had given their permission. And this really negatively distinguishes the whitosphere from the rest of America, in my opinion. I can file suit against a white restaurant that has no Black patrons and that refuses to knowingly let me participate as a Black man. That right was guaranteed to me by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
However, in the whitosphere, the blog owners insist that their blogs are proprietary, are not the sort of public accommodations described in the Civil Rights Act, and therefore they are within their rights to maintain utterly white blogs should they choose to do so. I don't think this is a legally tenable position, and I don't think that taking this position will increase the effectiveness of the "progressive" Democrats. In any case, if I don't have the same right to participate at a white-owned blog that I would have to eat in a white-owned restaurant or to ride a white-owned bus, then I think the "progressive" whites are actually leading the way to a giant step backwards for civil rights in America.
People have asked me what right I have to come to the white blogs and criticize them on their own turf? Where would you prefer that I criticize you? On the pages of the New York Times, so that the MSN can write more stories about the divisions within the Democratic Party? Your blog is exactly where I should criticize you, to give you an opportunity to respond and to make any changes that are appropriate before our dispute becomes a distraction in the national media that would hurt the chances of our Democratic candidates. It is absolutely appropriate that I appeal to you first, just as I would directly present myself and apply to participate in an all-white club before filing suit against that club in federal court.
Should white-owned blogs be bound by the same civil rights rules that apply to white-owned restaurants? I think that they should, but I would be very interested in hearing arguments that they should not.
Finally, if online blogs are to be as central to American political discussion as many hope they will be, then we cannot ignore the social and political effects of an effective online apartheid. If Black people and white people, women and men do listen to one another and not resolve our disagreements online, American will become even more segregated than it already is and minorities - who will soon be the majority - will become even more disenfranchised, just like in Apartheid South Africa.
I have been challenged to start my own Black blog to express my unwanted Black views, rather than express them here. If I and other Blacks do so as a response to being unwanted in whitosphere, then America will have yet another significant realm in which it is utterly segregated.
I have referred to this digital divide as "Blog Apartheid", because a system in which whites participate in white blogs and Blacks in Black blogs is an Apartheid system, particularly if Blacks don't participate in white blogs because they are banned by whites when they express Black views.
I am a Black person and my views are Black views. I do not represent all Black people, but when I am the only Black person here I am the only representative of Black people. If you refuse to listen to all Black people because none of them, individually, represents all Black people then you engage in a mental gamesmanship that can only end in new race wars.
What happened in Iraq when George W. Bush refused to engage in negotiations with Iraqis, with the UN or with American allies? In the absence of direct discussions, the only alternative was war. This was a triumph, in my opinion of white male arrogance. "I decide whose opinions are worthy and yours are not worthy, so I do not have to listen to anything you say," says the white man, George W. Bush.
It is ironic that white "progressives" fight to end a war in Iraq that has its origins in the same kind of thinking that reigns at white blogs here in America. And it is for this reason, perhaps, that whites find it difficult to enlist Blacks in efforts to stop the war in Iraq. Because, just as in World War II, we know that when we fight for justice oversees it will not guarantee, in any way, that we experience freedom at home. We agree that the war in Iraq is wrong, and yet we see so much similarity between the white male rightists who started the war and the white "progressives" who oppose it than we Blacks refuse to join the whites on either side of the conflict. Making common cause with whites such as these, who own blogs that are 1.5% Black, will not lead to freedom in Iraq or in America.
Someone will say, now, that I really should be banned from participation because I have said too much that other people disagree with. If not, they will argue that I have not shown the respect for the white people here that they are due. Or, they will argue that, unlike the war in Iraq, justice in America ought not be discussed and argued about day after day, because it becomes tiresome. Yet, the unwillingness to discuss justice in America undermines the credibility of "progressives" every time they raise their voices about injustices in Iraq.
Many will argue that I am a troll. Certainly, the Black and white freedom riders who integrated the lunch counters and polling places of the Jim Crow South would also have been called "trolls" had the word existed in the same way at that time. After all, weren't freedom riders disruptive? Didn't their every civil disobedience action lead to "flame wars" that eventually enveloped the entire nation and the world? When Blacks insisted on marching across the Sam Petite (?) bridge, in spite of whites' orders not to do so, wasn't that intentionally disruptive of the peace and tranquility of the pre-Civil Rights South?
Of course those actions were disruptive. That was the point. Injustice needs to be disrupted. The utter homogeneity of the whitosphere needs to be disrupted and replaced with the diversity that characterizes the Democratic Party and the United States of America. If I am a troll, please call me an "integration troll", an "equality troll", a "justice troll". Call me a "rebel rouser", an "outside instigator". You can even call me a "nigger-loving subversive" if you want. I love Black people and I love white people, and I would like to see us live in harmony, for once, within the same geographical and physical space.
Isn't this a rant that I have posted today? Isn't the Declaration of Independence a "rant" against British Colonial rule? Here's another rant, written by African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglas and delivered in Rochester, New York, as part of the 1852 Fourth of July celebrations:
I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin. http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/dou glass.htm
So, Hillary Clinton and I have very much in common, even though I am a Black man and she is a white woman. If she is not free to become the first woman President of the United States, ending the 43-term white male monopoly of the Presidency, then I, too, am not free. We are bound together in our enslavement for so long as it shall last.