Friday, September 5, 2008

Post convention thoughts

I teach in an English department. I know the power of narrative, how persuasive the right combination of words can be. And I study popular culture and am aware of the strength of certain images and symbols. Politics, to a large degree, is about rhetoric and spin: it is about persuasion.

A LOT has been written about Sarah Palin, about what she does and doesn't do for the Republican ticket, about her being a heart beat away from the presidency and what her selection says about McCain's judgment in choosing her.

I was going to do an entire post about Sarah Palin and about the RNC, and comparing the RNC to the DNC, but there are so many other bloggers and media outlets who have already done this work (I'll embed some links within my post--it's nice, because essentially these posts are ones I would have written, perhaps in a different style/format, but they tackle the topics I would have tackled).

What I want to end the week with now, and the two solid weeks of being glued, alternately, to CSPAN, CNN, and MSNBC, are a few thoughts about what I would like to see happen (I know this probably *won't* happen, but I thought I'd try to be hopeful and stay positive, because there's just TOO MUCH NEGATIVITY, and I'm tired of the sniping).

*I would like to see an end to coded racist language against the Obama family, in particular, and African Americans, in general. I'd like to see an end to coded racist language against all people, but the truth is, in my opinion, African Americans get the brunt of this more than other racial groups in the U.S. The word "uppity" should only be used, in a vernacular fashion, to refer to objects that are placed beyond someone's reach, as in "Can you please grab that book for me? It's too uppity for me to get it." The word "uppity" SHOULD NOT be applied to a U.S. Senator who is also the Democratic candidate running for President, and by the way, is the first African American representing a major political party, as in this quote by Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland:
"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said. Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

*I would like to see an end to people equating Islam with terrorism or Muslim culture/references with Islamic terrorism. Here's a choice quote from another U.S. congressman:
"Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that Obama's middle name – Hussein – is relevant to the public discourse surrounding his candidacy, saying in March that if Obama were elected, 'Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror."

*I would like both parties held accountable for telling the truth, about themselves and about their opponents. A great website to check out is, which keeps track of both parties and holds both campaigns accountable for their misleading statements or outright lies.

And while The Daily Show is probably not as unbiased as the above site, their juxtaposition of key political figures and pundits is worth noting as we move forward in the final push to November 4:

*I do think that the families and particularly the children of politicians and public figures should be off limits. At the same time, I think that political candidates should not try to make political hay out of their children.

*I think people should be more respectful in their critique of Sarah Palin. Although I find the Republican call of "sexism" a bit hard to swallow in light of the treatment that Hillary Clinton has received during the last year and a half (and really the last twelve years because she got a lot of disrespect based on gender during the Clinton administration), I do think that there's quite a bit of sexist rhetoric, especially in the blogosphere. And if people want to critique Palin, they can do so without using sexist language. Critiquing her, just like critiquing any of her male peers, is fair game--having unfair gender expectations of her, is not.

*I would like people to recognize that women, just like men, are complex creatures. And that just because you are a woman does not mean that you can speak for all women or are in favor of what, politically, we refer to as "women's rights." Same thing goes for being African American--Barack Obama does not speak on behalf of all African Americans. He does not "represent" black American. He is not running for president of the American "black diaspora." He is running to be President of the United States.

*Having said that, I wish people would start to recognize the pervasiveness of racism and racist thought in this country--or perhaps conversely, how difficult it is to recognize white privilege and white supremacist thought. Notice I didn't say "racist people"--Jay Smooth already covered this a few months back. But I've had numerous conversations with friends who have older white parents who are struggling with their internalized racism--these are older white Democrats who have never voted Republican and don't plan to vote for McCain, but they balk at voting for a black man because the picture of Barack Obama and his family is NOT the picture they have of a first family. These are not bad people--and they have raised children who are liberal and progressive minded.

But really--THIS is the reason I teach what I teach, why I focus my research on race, and why I started a blog called Mixed Race America. Race is such a pervasive part of American culture/society/history/politics. It's large and amorphous, fluid and flexible. No one is ever "right" about race, and just when you think you've figured everything out, something changes, something happens, something erupts to blow your previous theory and conceptions, of race, right out of the water.

*And really, what it all boils down to, for me, about Obama and his historic candidacy and the issue of race are two lines from a Pat Parker poem:

"For the White Person who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend"
The first thing you do is to forget that i'm Black.
Second, you must never forget that i'm Black.


Third Mom said...

Excellent, excellent post. Thank you.

Jennifer said...

third mom,
Thanks for the compliment--and for stopping by/being a reader!