When I first caught wind of Geraldine Ferraro’s now infamous comments on Tuesday, I was looking forward to tearing them apart on this blog. But until now I just didn’t find the time, and in the past few days her compounding b.s. has only been rivaled by the Spitzer scandal in terms of media coverage, blog chatter and general commentary. There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said already by tons of other people. I haven’t been very good with reading the blogs lately, but I did catch and appreciate this guest post on Afro-Netizen by Dr. Imani Perry, in which she says
It is perverse and dishonest to present Barack Obama as the privileged one in this equation. We know why Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to reveal her tax returns. The image of her as a working class champion will suffer with the revelation that her power is not simply a product of being a political insider and public servant. She also has enormous personal wealth.
There is no affirmative action in politics besides that which comes from nepotism, wealth, and inside connections. If there is an affirmative action candidate in this election it is Hillary Clinton. And if there is a bootstraps candidate, it is Barack Obama.
Also, I was really surprised at how much I loved Keith Olbermann’s special comment to the Clinton campaign on the topic. Whoa! Although I could’ve done without the whole bit in which Olbermann talks about how Clinton and Obama should both understand the pain of discrimination and tells them that they should be avoiding injecting such offenses into their own campaigns. OK, white man, we appreciate the passion and indignation about Ferraro’s comments, but that’s enough telling women and Black folks about how much they’ve been hurt and how they should be acting because of it.
At the risk of simply repeating what others have certainly said and written already, I will say that the most infuriating things to come out of Ferraro’s mouth lately were not her initial comments, stupid and demeaning and, yes, racist as they were, but the things she said later in defense. Damn, even Imus had the good sense to capitulate after making a racist ass of himself. But Ferraro just made it worse and worse. She decided to play the ol’ reverse racism card, claiming that “any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls [the Obama] campaign down … you’re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?” How’s that? It’s stupid and categorically incorrect. God, white people really do want to lay claim to every damn thing sometimes, even to being victims of racism! Come on, I assure you, you really don’t want that! Just let it go already!
She also echoed notions that other (mostly white) feminists have been putting forth during this election:
But she also echoed remarks of feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem, who argued in the New York Times that Obama would not have succeeded if he were a woman because gender is “the most restricting force in American life.”
“Sexism is a bigger problem,” Ferraro argued. “It’s OK to be sexist in some people’s minds. It’s not OK to be racist.”
WTF? I mean, yes, sexism is certainly alive and well in our society. And one might even argue that subtly sexist language does get a pass more easily than equally subtle racist language. But one only need look at how race is one of most reliable predictors of things like poverty, incarceration, access to quality education and access to health care in American society to see the immense damage that racism does and the immense power that it holds in our society.
But of course white feminists who take this tack would think that sexism is worse that racism in this country, because they’re not affected by racism. They possess the privilege unique to white people to ignore and elide the true affects of racism. I think that reason why I haven’t caught any prominent feminists of color putting forward this position is because, as women of color, we don’t get to ignore racism or sexism, and we realize that you can’t just put them on a set of scales and weigh them against each other. I’m profoundly tired of white feminists doing just that and then speaking as if they could possibly speak for women of color (or “women of any color,” as Ferraro put it.) It’s the same old second-wave feminist b.s. all over again.