Dear Professor Melissa Harris Lacewell,
Last night I listened to your debate with Gloria Steinem as I walked home from work. And it was fascinating exchange. I was sad to hear Gloria Steinem, after all these years, not really getting it. And I was sad to hear her arguments so poorly articulated. Clearly, it seems to be time for women like Steinem to pass the torch to women like you. Now, I love Gloria Steinem and respect what she has accomplished. I am indebted to Second Wave feminism, but my indebtedness is informed by my understanding of its inherent limitations and flaws. As much as I was saddened to hear Gloria Steinem less than up to the challenge of a televised debate on race and gender, I was proud to hear you as one of today's spokeswomen for contemporary feminism.
I heard my own thoughts on the Obama v. Clinton debate summarized in the arguments you presented on Democracy Now! You made your points far more persuasively than I could ever manage to do and you put into words some ideas that I had but not fully formed into coherent arguments. Thank you for putting into words what I had been thinking and feeling but could not yet communicate. As a White American feminist who is deeply concerned with matters of race and ethnicity, of these two candidates, Barack Obama for the exact reasons you so clearly explained.*
It is true that I'd like to see a woman -- of any ethnicity -- in the White House! But I don't want to see just any woman in the White House. Clinton is not my woman. And yes, I'd like to see a Black American -- of any gender -- in the White House. To see a Black American in the White House would be an amazing and wonderful and truly overdue step forward. Of course, I would not want to see just any Black American in the White House. For example, I wouldn't want to see Condoleezza Rice as President. As a White feminist, I can revel in the glee and joy and surprise of a Black man running for the White House just as much as I can revel in the fact that a White woman is running for the White House. And I do revel in the fact that people who fit those categories have broken through barriers and have the opportunity to run in this election. But when it comes down to choosing between Clinton & Obama, I choose Obama.*
Although the following is an oversimplification, I'll go ahead and say it: I trust Obama with gender more than I trust Clinton with race. She simply won't fight the fights that I think he just might be willing to take on. He will take more risks -- and fight for more -- than she will. She will compromise more than he -- on both race and gender. Clinton would like us to believe that her consciousness about race and class and sexual orientation is as acute as her consciousness about gender. But I think not. (I don't even think her gender consciousness is that acute -- at least not anymore. Maybe it was at one time in her history.) Her support for her husband's policies such as Defense of Marriage Act and welfare 'reform' and 'Don't ask Don't Tell' demonstrates her failure to see the power of institutionalized racism and classism and heteronormativity. She cannot (or will not) do for the U.S. what Barack Obama is more likely to at least try to do.
On Democracy Now you made a long list of points with which I agreed, but I'll single out only one more to comment on: Your analysis of Hillary Clinton's tearfulness, her 'hurt', etc. as subtle theatre that played on the fears of White Americans about the threatening Black man was both insightful and dismaying. It was dismaying because of its validity. It fit. My mind and my gut both told me you hit the nail on the head. It's exactly the kind of subtle, modern racism that actually perpetuates and reproduces uneasy and uncomfortable and distrustful relations between Black and White folks. I agree with you that her reaction to Obama's victory in Iowa elicited a white female sympathy vote in New Hampshire, women who just might have stayed home had Clinton not played into their fears and anxieties.
Finally, I would just like to say that you are an amazing woman. Thank you for all that you do.
*Of course, in an ideal world, either Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel would win the Democratic primaries. They are the only candidates that are on the left side of the political spectrum. But for some reason, the typical Democrat can't see past moderate liberalism. Of course, neither can the so-called 'liberal' media that so thoroughly block these candidates' messages from reaching the general public.