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Your Whiteness Is Showing

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 twomajor 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 downrightexcited 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.

(This post orginally appeared at counterpunch.orgon June 7, 2008.) 

13 Comment count
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Out of some tribal female

Out of some tribal female need, I wanted Hillary.  I don't necessarily like everything she is about, but I wanted a female president for this country.  It was a strange ache, really, and when she left the race, I was sad.

But her leaving didn't give me a lobotomy!  I have beliefs that Barrack Obama holds dear, too, so of course I will vote for him.  I would think it would be the old "cut one's nose to spite one's face" action to go elsewhere.

So very interesting to read--I had heard that Obama had to woo back voters, but that seems natural in a campaign.  I didn't think it was women so caught in their "whiteness" that they would vote for McCain.  I don't want to believe what you wrote above, really. Perverse.


 Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Absolutely Correct

I must admit, I am a fan of yours. I believe I've heard you speak twice at the University of Michigan. The first time the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) sponsored your visit. I own a copy of White Like Me... and I truly appreciate you.

And I think you are absolutely correct. If the roles were reveresed. Black folks would have sucked it up, and voted in droves for Hillary.

Thanks for everything,

Lhea J. Love

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My whiteness is showing???? Them down there's my spats!

I'll never forget this Red Skelton routine.....when he was playing Clem Kadiddlehopper.....

 Lawyer:    Let's draw up our briefs

Clem:  (Gazing at his feet)  Them down there's my spats!

Carry on.  :)


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Re: "Your Whiteness is showing"

If white women were only supporting Clinton out of just some sort of "tribal solidarity" then where were they when Shirley Chisolm ran for president? Pat Schroder? The sort of denial from white women in regards to Tim's post is just the thing he talks about at length - when called out, all we as African-Americans are met with denials and obfuscations.

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well, I'm a white female...

and I voted for Obama, defended his wife, and I plan on voting for him in November. When it comes to Hillary, I just couldn't vote for her not because she was a woman, but because of all the baggage she carried.

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A relief to hear someone else say it....

"Your whiteness is showing."

When the question came up in Black America, they first wouldn't even admit the possibility that Obama would not win. In the end though, when forced to give an answer, they grudgingly mumbled that they would vote for Hilary against John McCain, because to have another Republican in the White House is something no one in their right mind wants to have happen.

As a black woman, the question always came down to "Are you voting for the color or the gender?" Come November, I am not voting for color or gender, I am voting for the best person to occupy the seat, the person who will fight for what I as an American believe in. White female America, you need to do the same thing; your whiteness is showing.

Come visit me in Bikini Bottom!



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You Move Me

Its 4am here and so Im gonna try to summarize and make this brief, although I may not be able too.I read this when it was first released. I saw it in a bulletin circulated by a friend. I immediately blogged it in reference to you.Since this is about race, I will start off stating I am mullato (greek and black). I live in California where we all kinda intermingle with each other (races). Through-out my life I have seen racism from many angles..from whites for being black, from whites toward my mom for having a black child, from black women toward my mom for being a white woman that dates black men, from black women toward my mom as the claim she was a white woman that couldnt raise a black child, from blacks because im not black enough, from the economically lower class blacks (even tho I grew up in a economically lower class home) because of how I articulate.In January, I was ready to vote for Hillary Clinton. Ive seen Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson run for pres and not get too far in that endeavor..so I didnt take the time to listen to Barack and didnt take him too serious. I know I was wrong..but thats how I thought. I knew the Clintons had some baggage but I didnt know the details and saw it as a good thing..first woman president. One day I was talking to this guy I know..he said "you voting for Obama?"...I was like pfft! Why are you? ..he said yes..and I said.."Why because hes black? cause that doesnt mean anything if he aint talkin bout nuthin" (reminisent of the run ins with black police officers that pulled me over for no reason and treated me worse to prove I wasnt getting any passes..growing a hatred for blacks in authority..as fakes)..then he went on to tell me, in his own way, that Obama said alot of real good things and to give him a chance. So a few days later..about a week before my time to vote (2/5) I youtubed Obama. From that day forward I was sold. I told my mom, we have to vote for Obama! Shared him with her and we were both ready to join the campaign. I didnt hate Hillary till she completely shitted on Barack..with any method to gain votes. We all know the things she did so I wont get winded with my words for HRC. She made me hate her though. Bill made me turn my love for him to a pure hatred at the site of his face.So my point in that is, she did this to herself. Ive had some online encounters with "PUMA" and honestly...I dont think Obama needs them. They arent coming and I personally wouldnt want anyone with a mind that closed, representing the "newness" of Barack Obama.Not trying to make this a "Yes We Can" response...but just for your info Tim...if it wasnt for Obama's inspiring me to be more then I am and to travel a different road then im goin (politics, education, career path)..I wouldnt have discovered Michael Dyson and in turn discovered you. You all have brought new (and this is gonna sound corny) meaning to my life. I never knew there was a politician that was mixed and good people. I never knew there was a M. Dyson, advocating for one of my biggest passions (hip hop) and politics..I didnt know someone other then a rapper, was defending music! and doing it so eloquently..and the most beautiful thing to me..and maybe its cause I see it in my mother..just not on these levels...an educated white man..defending the rights of blacks, standing up to racism right at the core, and teaching ME where all this hate stems from. You are wonderful Tim and I thoroughly appreciate you!4:42amdamn i wrote a whole nutha blog..im sorry..lol

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Hey Tanya

sorry to hear that you've been through so much! Well how about this a black woman, with a black mom and dad against the whole world! Nobody seemingly wants to be bothered with Black. I love Black I love Me I Love Africa and her little children. We will one day have to get over this thing the smallest thing I heard that makes us who we are our color gene. I loved this man and was instantly attracted to the redroom after hearing what he had to say. I haven't left yet and I ain't goin no where. There are a few tainted folk in here but the good one's far outweigh the bad. Sis Angelou, Brother Barack, Brother Tim Wise, now about 80 years ago they would have called him a nigger lover. My isn't it funny how time can change a thing. Time, the collected efforts of others, patience, faith, and the audicity of hope. I remember when I used to sing Lift Every Voice and Sing in grammar School. It didn't mean a thing. I sang it in June at my niece's graduation and dropped a few tears. We obeyed in grammar school not knowing what the end result would be, but finally a glimmer when things were pitch black. Literally. All I can say is this is the happiest that I have ever been and no matter what happens it won't slow down my momentum

Be Blessed

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Thank you for the comment

Thank you for the comment Doris. I love black too! Haha, matter of fact..the blacker the skin..the more beauty I find in it! I will be a truly happy person when color becomes irrelevent. Being raised the way I have been..racism isnt brand new although it is to the extent that I have seen it lately...and I cant understand it...this down south confederate "ill tell you to your face" stuff is a big eye opener. Its the only thing that will ruin my day in this political race. I am a leo..we are strong and verbal and fighters. That is me! I become a very passive when I get too much of a racist thing. I do know that the millions who are on my level, outweight the minority that arent...so for that I am thankful and I rely on it when I need too. My pain is becoming something that is inspiration though. So hopefully, sooner then later, I will blossom into an advocate against the things that bring me pain. Im workin on it..poli sci baby!!! Hahaha, im starting at 33 yo but I want to be someone thats heard by many and in control of alot..the best way to change something is to get inside and make the changes...congress? senate? we will see..I have high hopes though. A riot is the language of the unheard. - Martin Luther King Jr

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Damn Youre Good!

I had totally forgotten why I came to the redroom until I hit the link on a new members page. Damn, you are good! I like not only what you say but how it just seems to roll right off of your tongue with such, how can I say this, ease. It's like you know the truth and ain't ashamed to say it. I have had my mannerisms on and have not had the opportunity to vent, not out of rage or ignorance but out of a sheer sense of obligation. I'll keep my cool and save it for my best-seller. Keep up the awesome work, I'd like to come to a book signing you should post a calendar or something.

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No Trolling? Sweet!

Wow, I was expecting with 11 posts that at least ONE would be critical of Tim. I'm quite pleased to see reasonable people engaging with the evidence.

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A couple of comments to add to Tim's

Democrats as a group chose Obama over Clinton.  It was a heartbreaking choice for many.  But millions of Democrats chose.  As Democrats, surely we wouldn't dream of suggesting that Obama should have stayed at the back of the bus to guarantee Hillary her turn as the nominee.  Would we?  Because that is what this resentment about Obama seems to be about - believing that he should have stayed at the back of the bus.  I use that metaphor intentionally hoping that those fellow whites who still don't get it might see.  So instead, Obama entered the race and gave us a choice of two strong candidates.  And the people chose. 

Now there are some who are equally put off that Obama didn't choose Clinton for the VP slot.  Let me offer this simple equation.  A significant portion of the population is racist and will never vote for Obama because he is black.  A significant portion of the population is sexist and would never put a woman within such close reach of the Oval Office.  Another portion of the population is not necessarily sexist (they say), but dislikes Clinton intensely and would never vote Democratic if she was on the ticket.  Of course there is a lot of overlap between these groups.  However, given social realities, adding racism + sexism + Clinton hatred to the Democratic ticket would have been a recipe for defeat.  I don't pretend to know Obama's motivation.  Maybe he did think Biden would be the better choice based on positions, record, and their history and ability to work together.  But in the end, I think Obama would have had to play the demographics game.  He doesn't have to compete for the votes of true Democrats by giving us Clinton as VP too - we will vote for whoever the Democratic candidates are regardless.  (If you are not voting for Obama, which is voting for the Democratic platform, you were simply never a Democrat.)  Obama must compete not for voters within the party, but for the Undecided Voters, a group where all these negative realities play a bigger role.

I am so grateful to you Tim.  I have styled myself a liberal/progressive person, but you have challenged my own racism still lurking in hidden corners of my brain.

I hope Obama wins not just for all the things he wants to do to turn this country around, but for what he represents to African-Americans.  His victory will say that we have evolved as a nation.  It will say that African-Americans are a vital, indispensable, integral part of the American family making profoundly valuable contributions that, by the way, we can't afford to go without.  No, not every wound will be healed overnight.  Not every injustice will cease in that moment.  There will still be a long road to full brother- and sister-hood.  But what an inspiring, joyful, thrilling landmark.  What a new beginning that will be!