Racism And Sexism On The Going Rogue Book Tour

With articles like "The 'Palinization' of Palin," coverage of Alaska's most famous ex is starting to sound like Being John Malkovich. But underneath the weirdness are some serious questions about gender and race.

In her surreally titled Newsweek article, Julia Baird argues persuasively that cries of "Palinization" obscure both Palin's real limitations and her belittling remarks about other women. Of Palin's outrage over her leg-exposing Newsweek cover, Baird writes,

Palin's pins are not her major problem. Her problem is that the end of her that is supposed to be "really functioning" isn't functioning very well at all. She was a popular and tough governor, is forceful and bold, and has a canny knack for speaking to the disenfranchised. But she has made a stunning number of errors, and her claim to celebrity outshines her claim to authority. She has not proved her ability to run a campaign or a country, and she quit her job as governor of Alaska before her time was up, with a lame excuse about being a lame duck.

She adds,

Palin also does not shy from "Palinizing" other women, notably Katie Couric, whom she calls "The Perky One" and "the lowest-rated news anchor in network television." While she writes that her "blond, pretty" McCain campaign adviser, Nicolle Wallace, possesses charm she thinks some other women in politics lack, she blasts Wallace for leading her to believe that her gaffe-laden interview with Couric was going to be a homey chat between women. It is offensive to assume that someone seeking serious political power should not be asked hard questions or critically scrutinized-that it's OK to think an interview with a serious journalist like Couric would simply be a girly chat between working moms. This is embarrassing for women. And working moms.

Palin's not necessarily the champion of powerful women she claims to be — and despite her claim in Going Rogue that "whatever your gender, race, or religion, if you love this country and will defend our Constitution, then you're an American," she may not be a supporter of all Americans either. LZ Granderson writes on CNN,

I'm a black man with dreadlocks and, judging by the racial makeup of most of the cities Palin has scheduled for her tour, it doesn't seem I'm her target audience.

I'm not suggesting that she should avoid going to places like Noblesville, Indiana, or Washington, Pennsylvania, both with overwhelmingly white populations. It just seems that in going to few diversely populated cities, she's purposefully steering clear of minorities. I mean, what author with a $5 million book deal avoids promoting books in large cities?

Palin's unconventional book tour schedule has been cast as a way to avoid "liberal media" hotbeds, but it's also had the effect of producing audiences that are overwhelmingly white. And these audiences aren't always friendly to those who aren't like them. The Times talked to Chris Schwartz, who camped out to see Palin in Grand Rapids — she makes the somewhat sinister pronouncement that, "My goal is to make [Obama] a half-term president. We need to get enough people in Congress to stop him in his tracks. One term is too long." Her words aren't outright racist, but they reveal a level of hatred for Obama that, in many Palin supporters, has a xenophobic character. One Palin fan interviewed at a recent book signing said Palin wouldn't be able to win in 2012 because Obama was naturalizing too many "illegal aliens" who would vote for him. Another echoed the common refrain that Obama isn't a citizen. A third said, vaguely and chillingly,

We do need to have profiling. I meant the political correctness has got to get out now. I mean, we're Americans, and she sticks up for the American people, not for other people. We're first, other people last.

Granderson doesn't accuse Palin herself of racism — he simply points out how little she did "to address the racist ugliness around her during the campaign." And now that the campaign is over, Palin has done equally little to reach out to people of color, forgetting that it's not just white people who have the working-class values she champions. Granderson writes,

As a Midwesterner with some Southern roots, I actually have a lot in common with Palin. I've hunted with dogs, fished, had a kid in hockey, I go to church on Sundays and, having worked in New York and L.A., I've had my fair share of run-ins with elitist, liberal snobs.

This is why I am so profoundly disappointed with her. Instead of using her popularity and influence to highlight our similarities and move the nation forward, she has allowed some of the nation's most painful wounds to be re-opened to advance her career.

Billy Graham apparently believes that Palin's purpose is "to wake America up" (I prefer to use an alarm clock). But what she seems to be doing instead is stirring up hate. If she's really "tired of the divisions and the special interests that pit us against each other," as she says in her book, she'll speak out against the racist comments of her supporters and quit "Palinizing" other women. If she doesn't do these things, she'll show that she likes divisions just fine as long as they work in her favor.

Palin In Black And White [CNN]
The ‘Palinization' Of Palin [Newsweek]
Enthusiasm For Palin, And Echoes Of 2008 Divide [NYT]
Matters Of Faith, Politics On Table As Palin Visits Graham [Charlotte Observer, via Politico]

Earlier: Borders Line