On Race, Gender and Reconciliation

It was a brilliant summer day in Atlanta, and the lumescent, blue sky lifted my already risen spirits as I was planning my wedding. A coworker and I were shopping for wedding dresses in an upscale suburb, both of us dressed in the standard uniform for such an event: sweats and sneakers. My coworker carried the look off with much more chic than I, with her tall frame, warm brown eyes and rich, espresso colored skin giving her the natural grace of a woman for whom sweats is a weekend indulgence.

Me? I just looked a little dumpy.

We had just hit our first shop, a cozy, new business run by a mother/daughter team. The dresses, and brides, and bridesmaids, and friends, and female relatives filled the tiny store with a joyous, bustling excitement. My coworker found The Dress, and insisted to me it just had to be The Dress, and after I tried it on still was talking about The Dress when we hit our second shop.

The second shop was a bigger establishment, with large windows, and floor to ceiling mirrors, teaming with mostly blonde-haired, mostly blue-eyed, uniformly petite, white, female staff. As we walked in we saw the demographics of the clientele matched those of the store assistants, like separate socks of an identical pair.

We proceeded toward the racks of dresses, placed in the middle of the expansive space, when we were met by a store clerk.

"May I help you?" She asked, suspiciously eyeing my coworker.

"Yes." I said. "We just want to try on some dresses."

The clerk, never taking her eyes off my coworker, exhaled deeply, her voice trembling with annoyance and a touch of fear.

"Our brides," she said, "make an appointment."

"Um...okay." I said. "Can we make one later on today?"

"No." She said, barely looking at me.

"Well, can we make one next weekend?" I asked.

"No." She said. "The only day we have available for appointments is Wednesday. And the store closes at six."

"Oh." I said, unsure of what to say next. "Well, we both work so, I guess we'll just go somewhere else then."

"Yes, I think you should." And with that the store clerk glanced toward the door, willing us toward it with all the body language she could muster.

It was outside, heading toward the car that my coworker looked at me, a small, white woman, her eyes still stinging with disbelief.

"Was that..." She hesitated. "Was that what I think it was?"

I looked up at her, my blue eyes meeting hers.

"Yes." I answered.

We silently drove back to the cozy, cramped store, not knowing what to say about what had just happened.

The problem with racism is it strikes regardless of whether you're prepared for it or not. Like a cold slap it hits you in the face, unprepared, and leaves you reeling as you try to search for answers. What just happened? Was this really real? Why did it happen to me?

And then it leaves a small wound in your soul, that heals slowly until the scab is ripped off by the next event that takes you just as much by surprise. It leaves you with a small kernel of pain deep inside.

Sexism does the same thing. I remember the frustration, sitting in front of my corpulent boss after getting up the nerve to ask him to be considered for a promotion from secretary to one of two sales jobs that had just opened up, when he told me in no uncertain terms that because I was a young woman all I was going to do was go have babies so why would he give me one of these jobs just to have me leave. My education, my experience with the company meant nothing. I was young, and female, and somehow that meant "unpromotable".

And sometimes events like this, across a person's life, just serve to grow that kernel of pain until it lashes out at the society that nurtured it. It can happen when delivering a sermon, in the heat of cheering crowds. It can happen when writing an op-ed in the New York Times, telling women they just have to vote for a female candidate in order to be "true" feminists.

The one strength we have as progressives is empathy. We aren't progressives because we're rich, or because we love free markets and small government. We're progressives because, at some point in time, all of us have felt or seen others feel that kernel of pain, either because of race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or economic status. We have seen injustice in people being denied health care, and we question a foreign policy that pursues death and destruction over peace and diplomacy.

We have empathy. We put ourselves in someone else's shoes and understand injustice from that person's perspective.

But somehow in this presidential race, good progressives have lost that empathy. We have allowed ourselves to be so co-opted by winning, and strategy, and what's-worse-sexism-or-racism that we have lost our empathy. We have turned our back on the very thing that made us progressives in the first place. We have failed to understand each other, and instead hurl insult and invective at each other as fast as our fingers can fly over our keyboards.

This is no longer about Barack Obama. It is no longer about Hillary Clinton. Forget the "50 state strategy", or coat-tails, or turning red states into blue states. Partisans on both sides have now become the rigid idealogues we have decried on the right for so many years.

We have lost our empathy, and in doing so we have lost our way.

So, this weekend, try for a moment to walk away from the keyboard, shut your eyes and put yourself into that other person's place. Understand where they are coming from. Put aside the anger, and frustration, and outrage.

It is time to reconcile, and take back our strength again.

Tags: 2008 elections, Barack Obama, Democrats, Equality Rights & Issues, gender, Hillary Clinton, progressives, race (all tags)

Comments

35 Comments

My first post here...

..and you know what's weird is when you submit the screen loads the home page. Thought I lost my diary for a second...just something to get used to :)

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:29PM | 0 recs
I was hoping

you would post this around the blogs!

The original... I think... is here at EENR!
http://www.eenrblog.com/showDiary.do?dia ryId=391

by kevin22262 2008-03-15 02:34PM | 0 recs
Why yes it is!

and a shout out to EENRers :-)

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:38PM | 0 recs
Great stuff, grannyhelen!

Thanks for helping us all step back and see the big picture for what it is. Yes, there's still a "racism" problem that we need to deal with. Yes, there's still a "sexism" problem to deal with. And no matter who we ultimately have for our nominee, we'll need to deal with both before we take on McCain.

by atdleft 2008-03-15 02:46PM | 0 recs
That last part is especially true...

imo the time to reconcile is now, and not attempt to do so at or after the convention when - if unchecked - the ill will on both sides will be at a high point.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:50PM | 0 recs
Nice to see you posting here grannyhelen.

You are one of few diarists that I've missed since giving up on dKos. And you're right, as usual. But where do we start? The Obama supporters are convinced that Clinton played the race card, and the Clinton supporters believe the Obama camp played the race card, and played the Clinton's and a large part of the electorate for suckers in the process. Maybe the private talk between Senators Clinton and Obama on the Senate floor last week is a start.

by georgiapeach 2008-03-16 05:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Nice to see you posting here grannyhelen.

I hope Clinton and Obama themselves are trying to put a stop to this...but I think it requires a third party intervention.

Maybe Gore, Edwards and Carter can have a sit-down...

by grannyhelen 2008-03-16 05:50AM | 0 recs
Maybe that's what they're planning.

They have all three stayed neutral. But I think it would be more helpful if it came from the candidates themselves.

by georgiapeach 2008-03-16 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: On Race, Gender and Reconciliation

So true. Thanks. I'm hoping cooler heads prevail. Recommended.

by grlpatriot 2008-03-15 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: On Race, Gender and Reconciliation

Thanks grlpatriot :) I appreciate you stopping by.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:30PM | 0 recs
Re: On Race, Gender and Reconciliation

welcome!! But I still recommend

www.hillaryis44.org
and
www.taylormarsh.com

by prisonbreak 2008-03-15 02:31PM | 0 recs
That's alright...

...I'm not saying to not be partisan, but let's step away from the molotov cocktails ;-)

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:40PM | 0 recs
See
my take, my rant on this and a few other things.  :)
http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/3/15/1545 16/481
by kevin22262 2008-03-15 02:36PM | 0 recs
Will do :) n/t

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:42PM | 0 recs
Amen - seeing people

this week call a Black Church "KKK-Like" and Ferraro a racists has been terrible for the country...some things are bigger than this race.  I posted a diary, earlier, about Wright's comments and where they come from...aside from the campaign...he reveals a truth that Blacks think of themselves quite differently than Whites, and shockingly the same is true of religious differences.  Sadly, the news has been full of old white women decrying Wright, and earlier Ferraro, and nobody ever took a step back and asked what is this all about.

by CardBoard 2008-03-15 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Amen - seeing people
Sadly, the news has been full of old white women

Grannyhelen, can you add ageism to the list too.
by grlpatriot 2008-03-15 02:45PM | 0 recs
Too true...

there's so many areas that divide us...we need to try to get past that.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:49PM | 0 recs
Oh I'm so sorry I didn't

mean to put "women" I meant to put "men,"  I was referring to O'Riely, Hannity, Matthews, etc.  who feel the entitlement to comment on things they have no clue about, and are doing a lot of damage in the process.

by CardBoard 2008-03-15 02:51PM | 0 recs
A lot of this comes from the pain of

experiencing sexism and racism. We need to see that in each other and then understand where the passion comes from, both from African Americans who proudly want to elect the first African American President, and women who want to elect the first female President.

We just need to all take a big, collective, deep breath.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Amen - seeing people

mean 'men' not old white 'women'

by CardBoard 2008-03-15 02:51PM | 0 recs
we really need to keep

all woman over 40 in the back room.  Who wants to see them just because old white women are the majority of the democratic party.

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2008-03-16 03:30AM | 0 recs
Re: On Race, Gender and Reconciliation

thank you for posting this.  lovely.

by proudliberaldem 2008-03-15 02:42PM | 0 recs
Thanks, proud :) n/t

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 02:47PM | 0 recs
point of no return

It has reached the point of no return. For me, I didn't trust Obama from day one, I suspected he was a crook and closet race baiter, and I'm frankly happy how my suspicion is not unwarranted. Many Hillary supporters have given him benefit of doubt for many many times. However, as things stand today, a significant portion of Hillary supporters will not support him in general election under any circumstance if he gets the nominee. McCain may be an evil,but at least he's the evil you know. Hillary's base is moderate and conservative democrats, so it's naturally they'll becom McCain democrats. Remember almost 1/3 of Lieberman demorats stuck with him, and that was enough to push him over the top in a very blue state - CT!

I'm sure lots obama supporters will threaten not to vote for Hillary is she is the nominee. But does this really matter to us Hillary backers? Not at all, as I said , we're the moderate/conservative type, so even if she loses to Mccain, it's better to beat an ultra-liberal who's going to be a disaster for sure. Lamont can't persuade Lieberman democrats to back him in general election, I doubt Obama can persuade those blue-collar whites, many hispanics, women, asian voters to switch to him in the end. It simply doesn't matter which party will win in general election for this demographic group.

I predict if Hillary is the nominee, she will have no choice but to pick Obama, otherwise black will riot in streets as suggested by Sharpton.

If Obama is the nominee, I don't know what he'll do, but he may also have no choice but to ask Hillary to join his ticket, which frankly I believe Clinton should decline.

Another scenario is looking more likly everyday. If neither Clinton nor Obama is acceptable to each other's supporters, and if polls are showing both Clinton/Obama will lose to McCain badly in July, I predict a return of Al Gore. He might be the last heavyweight that's acceptable to each side.

by prisonbreak 2008-03-15 03:18PM | 0 recs
I respectfully disagree w you,

prisonbreak, on a number of levels.

But maybe the best place to start out with is why are you a Democrat? What gets you excited about politics?

Because those things - from what you're sharing with me - make you resonate toward Hillary, and that's awesome. Will those same needs be met by a McCain...? That's what I don't know.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 03:33PM | 0 recs
Re: I respectfully disagree w you,

I'm not excited by either party. I'm excited by individual candidate.

I need to vomit when I see Pelosi/Kerry/Obama/Kennedy on TV the same way I do to George W. Bush.

by prisonbreak 2008-03-15 03:46PM | 0 recs
Re: point of no return

I think you give too much credit to "hatred".   I still believe that there is a lot of love left in this world.  And I do believe that a lot of AA don't share the divisive teaching of Wright.  

During the course of this campaign, through its rock and hard place,  Hillary never abandon the AA community.  She attended the State of Black Union.  She spoke many times in many different ways that she's proud to share the central stage with an AA candidate.  

She never once retorted that her AA super delegate switched side to support Obama.  Instead she said that she understood the difficult situation that her AA super delegate must take, and it "pained" her to see them struggle internally.

I have a lot of faith in love and harmony in AA community.  And I refuse to let MSM poison pills divide Democrat party.  I will do what I can in my ability to cure the rip.  GrannyHelen is doing her part by writing this dairy.   And Hillary will do her biggest part to heal the party.

by JoeySky18 2008-03-15 03:37PM | 0 recs
Re: point of no return

I admire your optimism, but I am a realist. I look at history, look at patterns, and look at numbers to draw my conclusion.

Hillary has frankly done all she can do to woo the AA community, but I think it's futile. Obama has successfully branded her as somebody who's the enemy of the black. I'm sure it's very very hurtful to Clintons, but there's nothing you can do. Sorry for my bluntness, but I won't put my faith in a group who votes 90% for somebody largely because of skin color. Those 10% that have been sticking with Hillary are indeed very very courageous while facing constant blackmail, threat etc.

by prisonbreak 2008-03-15 03:44PM | 0 recs
Thanks, Joey...

...have to take care of my little ones now...but will check back later in the thread :)

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 03:55PM | 0 recs
Re: point of no return

I am a Clinton supporter and absolutely disagree with this.  I don't think that Obama is more progressive.  I think that Hillary has come out with more progressive policies than he has.  In particular, I don't like Obama's stance on nuclear energy use.  I really, really, don't care for his stance on health care and the question of mandate or no mandate.  One of the things that I disagree with Hillary on is the question of America's complete support of Zionism.  I think we need to rethink our support of Israel until they find a fair solution for the Palestinians.  
However, that being said, I don't believe that if Obama is the nominee, that I would be better served by voting for McCain.

Voting for McCain is a really ridiculous argument if you are a progressive; however, if you are a conservative and republican lite, perhaps McCain seems like a better choice.

By the way, far be it from me to prevent someone from expressing themselves, but isn't this a democratic/progressive blog?  If you aren't here to promote progressive thought or to help elect progressive democrats, why are you here?

by moonheart 2008-03-15 03:48PM | 0 recs
Re: On Race, Gender and Reconciliation
Thank you for the lovely appeal of this diary, grannyhelen. I hope people will read it and take it to heart.
I'm very worried about what I see happening.
I find the level of vitriol depressing and have had to cut way back on my blog reading. I hardly visit dkos anymore - I used to think of it as home. It's awful to see people I used to respect not only caught up in the ugliness, but seeming to revel in it. So sad.
by suki 2008-03-15 06:05PM | 0 recs
Thanks, Suki...

I think if enough of us point out that the way things are going is, indeed, a problem that's a start.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-15 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: On Race, Gender and Reconciliation

Great stuff granny. Recommended.

I have been begging for untiy and reconciliation for weeks!  I hope you fare better than I have!

Love, Guns!

by a gunslinger 2008-03-15 08:33PM | 0 recs
Thanks, Gun...

...I think we just have to keep writing about it. If folks across the blogs call for reconciliation I think it'll be listened to.

by grannyhelen 2008-03-16 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Thanks, Gun...

As long as reconciliation doesn't mean the nice lady stepping aside and giving up her dreams and all she has fought for because that's what "good girls" do. I like the idea of letting Gore, Edwards, and Carter bring their mediation skills to the process for the greater good that a progressive agenda will bring to the Democratic party and our country.

by pan230 2008-03-16 07:00AM | 0 recs

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