For some unknown reason (to me, at least), we are already several months into the 2008 presidential campaign season – eight months before the actual primaries – and several frontrunners have been speculated within each party, even if some of those people haven’t officially declared that they will be running in 2008.
Within the Democratic Party, the stage has already been set for some sort of a showdown between two people: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Pundits are asking if America is really ready for a female or minority president. Of course, when you think about it, the question they are really asking is if white males are ready for a female or minority president, because it is almost assumed that women are going to vote for Hillary Clinton and minorities (especially African Americans) are going to vote for Barack Obama.
But there is another question that I have been wondering and would like to put up for consideration: who are African American women (like myself) supposed to stereotypically vote for in this showdown?
On the outside, this may seem like a silly question to the average person (and by average, I pretty much mean Caucasians in this case). But think about this for a second. Which is more important: your racial and ethnic identity or your gender identity?
Let’s look at the situation from a couple of different standpoints. African Americans were given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870. Women weren’t guaranteed the right until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. This means that African American women weren’t allowed to vote until 1920 because their gender identity prevailed. But thanks to Jim Crow, it was taken away until the Civil Rights Movement and the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, meaning that their racial identity trumped their gender.
Although they were active in the movement, African-American women weren’t given all of the credit and recognition they truly deserved during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements because they were women and their role was to support their men and give birth to their babies – the soldiers of the revolution.
However, they also weren’t embraced with open arms during the second wave of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s because the movement focused first on the lives and roles of white women and then leapt to that of those in the “Third World.” This is why the lesser-known (but still powerful) Black Feminist movement was started: to represent a group that was being passed over and ignored by two different social movements.
But in getting back to my original question, I want to make it clear that I am not at all in favor of basing your presidential vote on what the candidates look like (people originally voted for Bush because he looked like a “good ol’ boy” and look at where his approval ratings are now). I believe in reading up on candidates and basing your decision on what that person’s beliefs are on issues that are important to you. However, it seems like not enough people do their research and, when a woman or minority candidate is involved, tend to vote for the person that looks most like them.
So the question still stands: which is more important? Am I more African American or more female? Which has caused my predecessors the most oppression in the past? I have struggled with this question because I have felt both abandoned and supported by both identity groups at different times in my life.
Black women have been blamed for the demasculinization of black men, which led to the destruction of the black community (and quite possibly to that of American society as a whole) according to the 1965 Moynihan Report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”
Black men (and women) have stepped in to voice their opinions in support of that opinion, but where were white feminists in order to defend us? After all, white women working and not being in the home has been blamed for the downfall of American society as well.
From which person’s election into the White House would I benefit from the most? The best answer to that is actually neither because I would actually gain the most from Condoleezza Rice becoming president for the obvious reason that she is an African American woman and both sides of my identity would be represented. However, that isn’t going to happen because she has expressed more interest in being NFL Commissioner than president, and I wouldn’t vote for her anyway because I don’t care for her politics.
I suppose it’s a good thing that I do not live in one of the first four primary states because my decision would potentially carry a lot more weight.
Of course, it is assumed that residents of my state will automatically go for Barack Obama because it’s Illinois and we voted him into the Senate to begin with (much to the chagrin of another black man, Alan Keyes); although, Hillary Clinton was also born in Illinois and has always received a lot of love and support there.
I already have opinions formed about both candidates, but I am looking forward to the rest of the primary season in order to learn more about them, and the rest of the candidates as well, so I can make an informed decision – because obviously the stereotypical vote isn’t going to be an easy one on which to base my decision.
Miller is a member ofthe class of 2007.