Related: Civil & Human Rights, Politics, Social Issues

Race Matters


On the website tonight, an article about former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro’s resignation from Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already garnered 1680 comments, while New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s resignation after revelations about his involvement with prostitutes has only snaged 280 comments.

What’s up with that? Why are more people commenting on the departure of a somewhat venerable icon of feminism rather than the fatal attraction problem of yet another powerful man?

Quite simply, Ferraro’s resignation came on the heels of remarks she made about race and gender (not sex), specifically, remarks about Barack Obama’s dominance in the Democratic campaign for the presidential nomination. You can read and hear what Ferraro said on the website.

The comment volume numbers may be superficial, but they illustrate something important: race trumps sex (sex, not gender!) in the public forum these days.

Race matters in America, profoundly. Efforts to shunt-aside the meaning of race in politics or other endeavors almost always fail because of the great shame of the racism that is still rampant in too many places in this nation, and the ongoing political, social, economic and spiritual consequences of racism.

Were Geraldine Ferraro’s comments racist? Some people think so, others think not; I think they were inept, coming from an experienced politician who should certainly know that she was playing with fire by ascribing Barack Obama’s success to his skin color and gender. When will the grownups stop playing schoolyard games? To try to advance your own candidate by talking about how someone else looks is the most elementary “mean girl” tactic.

But our focus should NOT be on Ferraro. Rather, we should take a look at a random sample of those 1680+ comments. If anyone really needs proof of why race matters still in this nation, try to have the stomach to digest the virulent, ugly, profoundly racist commentary. Yes, it’s true, there’s a lot of virulent, ugly sexist commentary about Hillary Clinton as well. But we cannot even begin to fathom the depth of the racism that still rages just beneath the scrim of our more advanced culture.

Tear another peephole into this abyss: see the comments posted about the suspects in the murder of Eve Carson, the UNC student body president. To be sure, this murder is horrific, a tragedy beyond belief, and the murderers must have the full weight of justice brought to bear.

However, it does not lessen one bit the outrage over such a murder to note as well that the virulent, ugly racism of many of the comments posted also illustrate this nation’s continuing crisis when the subject is race. For far too many people, in too many places, skin color remains the greatest marker for better or worse.

We can dream of a colorblind society, but we live in the real world where racism scrawls its name across the internet or passes judgment in the more urbane silent spaces where observations lead to discriminatory actions.

A grave disappointment in the current presidential campaign is that the candidates seem to indulge the politics of personal identity when what we really need are demonstrations of true moral and social leadership. We need a president who can change the entire national conversation — on race, on gender, on war, on peace, on poverty, on equal opportunity — a real leader who can call us as a society to a more just and peaceful existence.

The candidates can start by putting an end, once and for all, to the politics of nastiness and name-calling, demanding that all of their surrogates focus only and exclusively on issues. What matters is not the race or gender of the candidates, but what they will do about the racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination and injustice that are far from eradicated. We need each candidate to tell us how they will live up to the promise of this nation to ensure equal justice, economic security, peace and prosperity for all.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
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