Obaramarama: Time for Progressive Black Women to Speak Up!

February 5, 2008

So, you’ve heard it before. 

I don’t know what to do; how can I choose between a “black man” and a “woman”. 

Why did this have to happen now; why did we get both at the same time. 

Oh. I see.  So, there’s nothing wrong when all we have to deal with is a sea of white people, and only one “minority” voice or body to deal with.  But don’t let the contest look like the multicultural fantasy that we claim to want and embody in this US.  No. Then we complain that we can’t have ‘them’ competing against ‘each other’.   So much for our visions for permanent change in the American political landscape.  God! Then we would have to deal with people on their own merits.  But clearly we can’t; so all you can hear is, well, at the end of the day, “women should vote for Hilary” and “Blacks will vote for Obama”. 

And Black women should figure out where they “truly” belong and vote accordingly.  No, we’re not supposed to vote for Clinton, because race matters first.  No, we’re not really women, so of course we will vote for Obama.  Neither argument is acceptable; both are downright insulting to us.

I like this response from Barbara Ransby about Robin Morgan’s diatribe:

Friends, colleagues, sisters and brothers,I have read this piece by Robin Morgan three times now. I am stunned by the audacity and re-writing of history that Robin Morgan’s piece represents and the gut-wrenchingly shallow read on race. How ironic that a pivot point in terms of gender/ race and electoral politics can be turned into a revisiting of old rifts and a verbal slugfest (sometimes with gloves, sometimes without). But if we must go there, we must. I am so taken aback and “taken back” by Morgan’s throwaway lines about the declining significance of race (some countries are non-racist but none are non-sexist). I am sorry but my political map seems to be missing the predominately white countries that are led by Black people or countries, including SA, that have eliminated racism. There are countries where millions of male voters have elected women in the recent and not so recent past (Chile, Argentina, Israel, India, Pakistan, England, Phillipines, Ireland, Guyana, LIberia etc.) That said, none of those countries abolished sexism or escaped racism in the context of global empire and entrenched patriarchy (even though Morgan’s fantasy of a non-racist oasis on the planet sounds lovely but it doesn’t exist). So, we are still confronted and out-gunned on issues of gender, race and sexuality, not to mention class!

While I am as outraged as the next feminist about the misogyny in this campaign, and the misogyny oozing out of virtually every cultural/ political pore of our society, I am equally incensed by the way that Black women, like me, are used, and used carelessly, as analytical pawns to prove its really sex versus race, or some other stupidly simplistic binary.

But what are the real questions? One question is — which candidate is going to move things forward in a progressive direction (and how?) —- given the painfully and pathetically limited confines of electoral politics. The second question is what is and will be the status of grassroots progressive organizations (aka movements)? Does this campaign make us stronger or weaker or neither? Have we fallen back on and into our narrower selves and our less-ambitious visions of what is possible?

Can we not define, describe and strategize this moment for ourselves without the silly pundit-driven frame that seems to keep finding its way into the mouths of so-called progressives?

Sorry for the rant. I am angry but as you notice, it is not a pro-Barack or pro-Hillary rant. They both disappoint me (on gay rights, the war, religion, poverty, immigration, healthcare etc) but what disappoints me more is the silence (or muting) of some of the most intelligent voices out there who are radical intellectuals and organizers. [Several black feminists]  have talked about the need for a big tent left-feminist conversation about the layers of complexity here and the missed judgment calls and perhaps missed opportunities to dig a little deeper and aim a little higher. In the days to come I hope we will be exploring ways to facilitate such a conversation (if my sanity holds up and blood pressure stays down).

In Solidarity,



One Response to “Obaramarama: Time for Progressive Black Women to Speak Up!”

  1. Esteban Agosto Reid Says:

    A very incisive and thought provoking perspective/rant by Barbara Ransby.Indeed,the politics of bifurcation or the bifurcation of politics with respect to race and gender,i.e.Barack/Clinton is ostensibly becoming more debatable,dubious,and problematic in terms of black feminists.And Longbench,I concur totally,it is time for progressive black sisters to speak up and determine where they truly belong on critical and essential issues,such as the war,poverty,immigration, healthcare,gay rights,the economy,the future of the country, foreign affairs,abortion,education,crime etc.Again,intriguing post! RESPECT!!

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