2009-06-20

What Comes First: Race Or Gender?

As you guys are all aware, I am OBVIOUSLY a black woman. Many times often than not I talk about race issues, but sometimes I think about gender issues. I used to be a member of NOW. I believe in equal rights for women and people of color. I understand the need for such organizations to exist due to racism and sexism in society, the workplace, and higher education. I know why Affirmative Action, benefits BOTH groups. I sympathize, I really do.

As you know from previous posts, I have questioned the feminist movement. This last presidential election made me question the movement. When you have icons like Geraldine Ferraro and Gloria Steinem making the statements they made about our now President, and their views of race and gender, it makes me sincerely wonder if the feminist movement is for white middle and upper class woman exclusively. Chastising Oprah for choosing the male candidate instead of the female one, it makes you wonder, is the feminist movement able to empathize with other groups and struggles? It feels as if they have forgotten about those of us who deal with more than just gender, but those of us who deal with race and poverty. Steinem herself was under the impression black men have it easier in life as they were given the right to vote before women, which as we all know due to poll taxes and voter tests, was not the case.

NOW is currently has two women campaigning for the organization's presidency. One is Latifa Lyles, who is already a Vice President-Membership of the organization, and if she is chosen she will be the youngest NOW president ever. I should also note she is a black woman. The other candidate is Terry O'Neill a former Vice President and attorney who serves on NOW's national board. She is not black.

I know I should be happy at the nomination for Latifa Lyles, but I can't help to think that even with all her accomplishments, this was a knee jerk reaction to NOW's suffering relationship with African American woman. Similar to Michael Steele's being chairperson of the Republican National Committee. I know both these people are accomplished, but as I can see with the RNC, Michael Steele apparently has no power and appears to be there for looks and nothing more, as it seems the RNC is ignoring him.

NOW for years has ignored African American woman and really don't seem to be able to relate to the unique struggles of black women in general. Now with the firestorm of controversy after this election, it makes me wonder, are they trying to make amends for this?

Do you think that if Ms. Lyles is elected President she will be actually treated with respect, or ignored like Mr. Steele? I often wonder if this is what tokenism truly is. Even with all these two have accomplished, does their skin color override everything else? Note I am not questioning their qualifications, they seem more than qualified, but I do question the authenticity of those who put in their positions of power. If these two organizations didn't have the perception of only focusing on the "mainstream" (read white), do you think they would be so eager to put people of color into these positions at all? Is this pandering to prove their diversity or a true choice for the position?

Is this why Affirmative Action fails? Even with all their accomplishments, you know that someone within their organizations is going to say, they were put there based solely on the color of their skin and that they are unqualified and undeserving, no matter how much they really deserve their positions. The racism will still come out. There are people in this world who sincerely think for every black person in the workplace or college, there is a white person who was jilted. These people will never truly question why they think or assume a white person is automatically more deserving than anyone else. Which then makes me think, is this why Affirmative Action is still needed?