Late yesterday, CNN ran a story on its website titled "Gender Or Race: Black Women Voters Face Tough Choices in S.C." The article, much like the Bill Maher video shown earlier, explores the "dilemma" facing black women: Do you vote for the black guy or the chick? "Recent polls show black women are expected to make up more than a third of all Democratic voters in South Carolina's primary in five days," it reports. "For these women, a unique, and most unexpected dilemma, presents itself: Should they vote their race, or should they vote their gender?" Within moments of the story's posting, readers reacted — angrily — to its entire premise. Reader Tiffany e-mailed CNN: "Duh, I'm a black woman and here I am at the voting booth. Duh, since I'm illiterate I'll pull down the lever for someone. Hm... Well, he black so I may vote for him... oh wait she a woman I may vote for her... What Ise gon' do? Oh lordy!"
Another reader wrote: "Are you suggesting that white women are going to have it easier [?] How about issues? Should a black woman consider the candidates position on issues, or should we just stick to race and gender?" And on The View today, Whoopi Goldberg said the story "pissed" her off.
But CNN isn't the only media outlet focusing on identity politics, i.e. race vs. gender issues. The Los Angeles Times reports that an new poll shoes that more Americans are ready for a black president than a female president. And two weeks ago, The New York Times printed a piece about the clash between suffragists and civil rights leaders in the 19th century. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women's rights' pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton were friends until Stanton condemned the 15th amendment, which gave black men the right to vote but left out all women.
During a heated meeting in New York City's Steinway Hall in 1869, Stanton wondered, "Shall American statesmen ... so amend their constitutions as to make their wives and mothers the political inferiors of unlettered and unwashed ditch-diggers, bootblacks, butchers and barbers, fresh from the slave plantations of the South?" At which point, Douglass rose, paid tribute to Stanton's years of work on civil rights for all, and replied, "When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when they are dragged from their houses and hung from lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed out upon the pavement; when they are objects of insult and rage at every turn; when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down... then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own."
What is a black woman to do? Consider the issues important to her, of course, but then? Is it her responsibility to support and uplift women everywhere, including the first woman who has a real shot at leading the United States? Or must she consider the centuries of disenfranchisement for African-Americans in this country, and do her part to make the dream of a black person in the White House come true? Is it even possible, as one CNN reader wrote, to "close your eyes and look at who can fulfill the best to their promises"?
Gender Or race: Black Women Voters Face Tough Choices In S.C. [CNN]
CNN Readers Respond Angrily To 'Race Or Gender' Story [CNN]
New Poll: U.S. More Ready For Black Prez Than Female One [LA Times]
Rights vs. Rights: An Improbable Collision Course [NY Times]