• DOUBLETAKE 08: “Taking a second look at race and racism in the 2008 presidential elections”

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Can Obama win over the white working class?

Commentary by Organizer KD

Can Obama win over the white working class? This is a question the media has devoted a lot of space to. In just one example worth looking at an Washington Post article asks, “Can He Be a Working Class hero?” But if the title was accurate it would read, ‘can he be a WHITE working class hero?’ The primary issue is related to the racism emanating from a sizable section of the white working class and the other issue is the unwillingness to point out whiteness in a prominent way within the title of an article whose main focus is the white working class.

The framework of debate around this question has narrowly focused on what Obama and the Democrats have to do to court the white working class. This isn’t necessarily strange considering that is exactly what politicians do to gain potential votes, but a question that isn’t being asked is why would the white working class vote in their racial interests and what compelling reason is there to continue another term of Republican rule? George W. Bush has clearly shown himself to be an enemy of working people; whether it was the Enron scandal, his bloated military budget and creation of a new federal department, Homeland Security (funneling tons of money into costs like offices, supplies, etc.), the continued lay-offs of workers and rising unemployment, the current housing crisis, where many people are losing their homes to foreclosures due in part to predatory lending practices, or the proposed 700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street and finance capital. So why would any working person vote for John McCain, whose voting record was the same as Bush’s 90% of the time, not to mention his recent comment about the fundamentals of the economy being strong. I can understand if large sectors of the white working class were rejecting both political parties, but the majority of the white working class is not necessarily liberal, forget about radical (unless perhaps you’re talking about right wing radicalism).
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White Women, My Sisters, You’ve Been Played.

Commentary by Organizer CF

Earlier this week on NPR, we learned that married white women in particular are now extremely energized behind the Republican ticket since the debut of VP nominee Sarah Palin at the RNC a couple weeks ago. White women, the reports say, are going to be a decisive vote this year- and it’s on Barack Obama to “win them over.”

As a feminist– and a woman who cares about women and supports women leadership– I am appalled and frightened with this horrible manipulation of women and co-optation of feminist principles. As a white woman against racism, it drives me insane.

First, the nomination of the Alaskan governor as a ploy to pull in disappointed Hillary supporters and other (white) women couldn’t be more obvious. Anecdotally, I’ve heard the argument that the narrative around ex-Hillary supporters for Palin isn’t necessarily supported by the numbers. That it is, in fact, a Republican tactic to generate the idea that women-who-support women are now turning their backs on the Democrats.

But whether the data is there in large numbers or not, women- white women- are now a voting bloc to vie for, according to the coverage.

I’m frustrated with my white sisters who are unquestioning in their “feminist allegiance” to another woman. Make no mistake, women too can perpetuate sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. Sarah Palin is not our ally.

As Eve Ensler- a fiercly anti-racist white woman and playwrite- put it:

Everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to
Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth,
ending racism, empowering women,
giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance,
and ending violence and war.

Now, as a white woman who fights for a world free of racism, it drives me insane. Insane to witness the way a millenia of gender oppression is invoked to lull us back to the comforts of whiteness and privilege. The way our “allegiance to our sisters” is dangled before us so that we may feel vindicated in another woman’s victory… but absolved of the pesky responsibility to racial justice. For me, it smacks of that terrible tradition in struggles for women’s rights when white women abandoned and dismissed their sisters of color as they pierced the glass ceiling by means of white privilege.

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