It was the summer of 1866. Congress with much rancor and many protests passed the 13th amendment. Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and outspoken supporter of women’s rights had campaigned long and hard for the amendment. He worked with anyone to forward his agenda of justice and opportunity for all. "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong," he would say in response to the coalitions he built. The ultimate goal was to have all people regardless of gender or race able to access all of the opportunities that this country could provide. Although white women had been supporters of Frederick Douglass for years, most abandoned him when he aggressively worked for the passage of the 13th amendment which outlawed slavery, outside of penal institutions, and provided Black (men) with the rights that white men had, e.g., the right to vote. When Douglass came out to speak after the 13th Amendment passed and white women still did not have the vote he was soundly booed by white women. He was abandoned in his ongoing struggles for justice despite his strident record as, what would now be called, a feminist. The case for white women was clear, how could the black man get the vote before the white woman. It was not fair, it was not just, they were after all, well, white.
Fast forward to 2008 as history is being made in the United States of America. An African American man, Barak Obama, and a European-American woman, Hillary Clinton, are both viable candidates for president of the United States. After a long and difficult campaign the European-American, read white, woman concedes to the African-American, read black, male candidate. He is booed. A significant number of woman who supported Hillary Clinton say they will not vote for Barak Obama in the Fall election. A lesser number of the (white) women declare they will work and vote for John McCain, the opposition candidate who in policy and fact supports few of the positions that Clinton supports. Rather than vote for Obama they are willing to make a hard right turn. This history turning back on itself is more than coincidence, in its echoing of racist over and undertones it is a deep betrayal of principles. These women do not have a core belief system based on justice. They have a belief system based on gender. I have no issue with women who simply thought that Clinton was the better candidate. Although I see too few differences between the two in actual policy positions, I understand that there was a choice. They are two very different people. However, if one supports a candidate because of the policies they would forward, because of the positions they take, then is it not logical, sensible, or sincere to continue to withdraw support from the remaining candidate who espouses those same views. How can and why do these women turn their backs on their own (theoretical) ideals? Racism. Better a white man who does not support universal health care, who is a war monger, who does not support women’s equal rights than a Black man who does.
This is a continuation of the American saga, the tragedy of America. Often (white) Americans, and sometimes even other black Americans chasten blacks to leave slavery behind,. They state that those days are over and assert that “you’ve come a long way, baby.” But the summer of 2008 is the Summer of 1866 all over again. And the fact of the matter is, as my good friend likes to says, all motion is not forward.