Sunday, June 08, 2008

Damn, Tim Wise

Your Whiteness is Showing:
An Open Letter to Certain White Women
Who are Threatening to Withhold Support From Barack Obama in November

By Tim Wise

June 5, 2008

This is an open letter to those white women who, despite their proclamations of progressivism, and supposedly because of their commitment to feminism, are threatening to withhold support from Barack Obama in November. You know who you are.

I know that it's probably a bad time for this. Your disappointment at the electoral defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton is fresh, the sting is new, and the anger that animates many of you--who rightly point out that the media was often sexist in its treatment of the Senator--is raw, pure and justified.

That said, and despite the awkward timing, I need to ask you a few questions, and I hope you will take them in the spirit of solidarity with which they are genuinely intended. But before the questions, a statement if you don't mind, or indeed, even if (as I suspect), you will mind it quite a bit.

First, for those of you threatening to actually vote for John McCain and to oppose Senator Obama, or to stay home in November and thereby increase the likelihood of McCain winning and Obama losing (despite the fact that the latter's policy platform is virtually identical to Clinton's while the former's clearly is not), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and increase the odds of his winning (despite the fact that he once called his wife the c-word in public and is a staunch opponent of reproductive freedom and gender equity initiatives, such as comparable worth legislation), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and help ensure Barack Obama's defeat, as a way to protest what you call Obama's sexism (examples of which you seem to have difficulty coming up with), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

Your whiteness is showing.

When I say your whiteness is showing this is what I mean: You claim that your opposition to Obama is an act of gender solidarity, in that women (and their male allies) need to stand up for women in the face of the sexist mistreatment of Clinton by the press. On this latter point--the one about the importance of standing up to the media for its often venal misogyny--you couldn't be more correct. As the father of two young girls who will have to contend with the poison of patriarchy all their lives, or at least until such time as that system of oppression is eradicated, I will be the first to join the boycott of, or demonstration on, whatever media outlet you choose to make that point. But on the first part of the above equation--the part where you insist voting against Obama is about gender solidarity--you are, for lack of a better way to put it, completely full of crap. And what's worse is that at some level I suspect you know it. Voting against Senator Obama is not about gender solidarity. It is an act of white racial bonding, and it is grotesque.

If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women--you know, the ones who aren't white like you and most of your friends--but rather, like white men! Needless to say it is high irony, bordering on the outright farcical, to believe that electorally bonding with white men, so as to elect McCain, is a rational strategy for promoting feminism and challenging patriarchy. You are not thinking and acting as women, but as white people. So here's the first question: What the hell is that about?

And you wonder why women of color have, for so long, thought (by and large) that white so-called feminists were phony as hell? Sister please...

Your threats are not about standing up for women. They are only about standing up for the feelings of white women, and more to the point, the aspirations of one white woman. So don't kid yourself. If you wanted to make a statement about the importance of supporting a woman, you wouldn't need to vote for John McCain, or stay home, thereby producing the same likely result--a defeat for Obama. You could always have said you were going to go out and vote for Cynthia McKinney. After all, she is a woman, running with the Green Party, and she's progressive, and she's a feminist. But that isn't your threat is it? No. You're not threatening to vote for the woman, or even the feminist woman. Rather, you are threatening to vote for the white man, and to reject not only the black man who you feel stole Clinton's birthright, but even the black woman in the race. And I wonder why? Could it be...?

See, I told you your whiteness was showing.

And now for a third question, and this is the biggie, so please take your time with it: How is it that you have managed to hold your nose all these years, just like a lot of us on the left, and vote for Democrats who we knew were horribly inadequate--Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, right on down the uninspiring line--and yet, apparently can't bring yourself to vote for Barack Obama? A man who, for all of his shortcomings (and there are several, as with all candidates put up by either of the two major corporate parties) is surely more progressive than any of those just mentioned. And how are we to understand that refusal--this sudden line in the proverbial sand--other than as a racist slap at a black man? You will vote for white men year after year after year--and are threatening to vote for another one just to make a point--but can't bring yourself to vote for a black man, whose political views come much closer to your own, in all likelihood, than do the views of any of the white men you've supported before. How, other than as an act of racism, or perhaps as evidence of political insanity, is one to interpret such a thing?

See, black folks would have sucked it up, like they've had to do forever, and voted for Clinton had it come down to that. Indeed, they were on board the Hillary train early on, convinced that Obama had no chance to win and hoping for change, any change, from the reactionary agenda that has been so prevalent for so long in this culture. They would have supported the white woman--hell, for many black folks, before Obama showed his mettle they were downright excited to do so--but you won't support the black man. And yet you have the audacity to insist that it is you who are the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party, and the one before whom Party leaders should bow down, and whose feet must be kissed?

Your whiteness is showing.

Look, I couldn't care less about the Party personally. I left the Democrats twenty years ago when they told me that my activism in the Central America solidarity and South African anti-apartheid movements made me a security risk, and that I wouldn't be able to get clearance to be in some parade with Governor Dukakis. Yeah, seriously. But for you to act as though you are the indispensible voters, the most important, the ones whose views should be pandered to, whose every whim should be the basis for Party policy, is not only absurd, it is also racist in that it, a) ignores and treats as irrelevant the much more loyal constituency of black folks, without whom no Democrat would have won anything in the past twenty years (and indeed the racial gap favoring the Democrats among blacks is about six times larger than the gender gap favoring them among white women, relative to white men); and b) demonstrates the mentality of entitlement and superiority that has been long ingrained in us as white folks--so that we believe we have the right to dictate the terms of political engagement, and to determine the outcome, and to get our way, simply because for so long we have done just that.

But that day is done, whether you like it or not, and you are now left with two, and only two choices, so consider them carefully: the first is to stand now in solidarity with your black brothers and sisters and welcome the new day, and help to push it in a truly progressive and feminist and antiracist direction, while the second is to team up with white men to try and block the new day from dawning. Feel free to choose the latter. But if you do, please don't insult your own intelligence, or ours, by insisting that you've done so as a radical political act.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's Marriage Season

School's almost out, which means a number of things. First, I'll be relaxed sometime in the near future. Second, I'll probably have time to pack on some much-needed pounds. Finally, I'll be blogging again. (Confetti! Sparkling Lights! Silly String! Heavily Oiled Gentlemen in Thongs!) Yes, everyone, the excitement is palpable.

To kick off my return to the webiverse, allow me to pay homage to wedding season. Just a week ago, Afenya, the sister of a high school friend, tied the knot. It was a nice wedding, sweet and all that. Later this summer, another friend, Rachel (shout out!), will be making the big step. All of this has me thinking about wedding songs, tunes perfect for making major commitments, and I came up with a list of epic proportions. Luckily, I'll only include a small slice of that list here.

"Mo Betta" Raheem DeVaughn

This is a relatively new song, but it may be eligible for all time status; only time will tell. Some months ago I raved about Raheem's latest CD Love Behind the Melody. Well it is that same album that contains one of the most moving declarations of r&b love ever. The song is "Mo Betta" and, honestly, it doesn't get much better.

"Can't Go Wrong" O.C.

The year was 1994. Everybody was on Nas's jock, especially my friend Rachel (not the same getting married Rachel mentioned above). I, however, was singing the praises of another Queens rapper, Omar Credle AKA O.C. (People don't name their sons Omar anymore; that's too bad.) I Looooooved Word ... Life. Jewelz, which came out about three years later, was his follow-up and criminally slept on cuz there was this hip hop witch hunt that sought to figuratively hang any rapper who appeared to be going commericial. "Far From Yours" did not help the cause. Too bad, Jewelz was and is damn good and contains one of the best hip hop love songs of all time, "Can't Go Wrong."

"Let No One Separate Us" The Deele

Boy did I love The Deele. Yep, I knew "The Deele before Babyface went solo" © Ras Kass. I even had a crush on Kayo (see: first verse of "Two Occasions"). Anyway, most people don't know that their slow jamming repertoire extends past that and "Shoot 'Em Up Movies." "Let No One Separate Us" is a wonderful concoction of sweet n' sappy 80s.

"Lullaby" Omar Lye-Fook f/ Syreeta

I once had friends. We used to ride around at odd hours of the night doing things octogenarians enjoy like hitting up the 24-hour Super K-Mart, eating at the Squeez (Baker's Square), or hitting up the suburbs just because. On these journeys, we'd listen to tunes on top of tunes. See, at the time, I worked at a slightly snooty, but customer friendly independent music store (Crow's nest employees, stand up!). My friends were music elitists, so our driving soundtracks were allways on point. One particular artists we all enjoyed was the the Brit soulster (that was menat to be funny ... soulster) Omar. Dude had jams. One such jam is "Lullaby," a duet with Syreeta Wright (yes, Stevie's ex) which appears on his 1997 album This is Not a Love Song.


"My Heart Belongs to You" Jodeci

Man, sometimes you just gotta break out the leather vests with matching pants, get down on both knees, and wail like you're auditioning for the Ebenezar Baptist Church choir. Jodeci is one of my top five male groups of all time. I love those dudes. "My Heart Belongs to You" is simply that shit.


"Orange Moon" Erykah Badu

Other times, you gotta don a head wrap and burn some nag champa and as you clutch your lover's shea butter-soaked locks in your silver and turquoise encircled fingers. ASHE! yeah, mickeyfickeys are extra sometimes, and when Erykah Badu first dropped, I was annoyed as hell. With Mama's Gun I momentarily relented on the hate and enjoyed the ride. I'm still not sure what the hell she's singing about, but "Orange Moon" is great, so I kinda don't care.


"Stay This Way" The Brand New Heavies f/ N'Dea Davenport

Once upon a time, I was a weird youngster who dressed funny. I've since changed. Now I'm old and dress funny. Back in the day, though, I was very close to idolizing a lady by the name of N'Dea Davenport. She and The Brand New Heavies were so ill to me. They had fun and funky songs that I danced aroung to in my room. "Stay this Way" is one of my all time favorites. It's such a happy, optimistic love song.

"Love Ballad" L.T.D.

No explication; if you're in the know, you know. A straight classic

"You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" Sylvester

No list, in my eyes, is complete without at least one disco tune. I have a weird infatuation/obsession with Sylvester James. S/he epitomized the perfect combination of diva and gospeldelics and raw 70s energy. "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" is perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time, regardless of genre. Every time I hear it, I have to get loose. I'm so enamored of this song that I've committed myself to singing a rendition of this tune at Rachel's wedding later this summer. I'm gonna need a lot of vodka cranberries to get the job done, but I'm sure I'll be fantastic.