White Before Black, Men Before Women

To get things out of the way: the way I feel right now is exactly the sensation — body and mind — I’ve only felt before when I got news that someone close to me died unexpectedly.  I’m basically paralyzed, and my brain is moving…not much, and not in any coherent sequence.

That said, I’ve only one thought to add to those I’ve been reading at Balloon Juice, the group blog to which I contribute.  I’m completely down with the core themes others have already written about there:  la lucha continua, the struggle continues, and in days like these the kindness we show each other is paramount.  And I agree with the hints at a post-mortem below.

My sole notion is that whatever her formidable strengths and her evident vulnerabilities, Hillary Clinton ran right into an absolutely familiar trap.  American politics is hostile to women.  We saw it in Massachusetts recently enough.  Martha Coakley was all kinds of not-great (read, terrible, especially her first time out) as a candidate for senator and governor.  But in both cases she started up with a sixty pound rock on her back male candidates don’t have to carry.  Massachusetts had, until Elizabeth Warren came along, never elected a woman to the top offices.  (And it’s notable that Warren also seems to face a woman tax as measured in approval ratings, at least as compared with her perfectly solid but unspectacular male colleague, Ed Markey.)  Several tried, but it’s clear that while women can aspire to state treasurer or AG or a House seat, gunning for the top slots engaged the fear/loathing-for-powerful-women, leading to the results we see.

That’s true nationwide, I believe.  The old line goes white men before everyone else (got the vote in 1783); then other males (black men got the vote in 1665); then women (who got the vote in 1920), with, of course, white women gaining access to power and agency ahead of women of color.

john_singer_sargent_001

Whatever else we may conclude about the Clinton campaign and this terrible outcome, one thing it reveals is that racism still powerfully motivates the revanchist white right, to a depth I certainly didn’t forsee.  It also reminds us that misogyny strikes deep within our body politic.  One more thing to deal with, as best we can.

One afterthought.  Typing that sentence about racism above, I’m reminded of the ways privilege so subtly seeps into one’s bones.  Y’all know my politics, I think, and I’ve come by them through life-long engagement from a childhood in Berkeley in the 60s.  But I’m white, male, working in the elite, pretty secure, still pretty damn white-and-male setting that is an R 1 university.  I’ve got a good friend , a Latino writer who has some of the same cocoon now, but certainly didn’t come up within those comforts and protections.  He’d been freaking out about Trump’s rise, especially after the Comey ratfucking, and I kept reassuring him with the polling internals and the early vote stuff and all that.

I emailed him this morning to tell him the obvious: he’d been right and I wrong.  He wrote back saying he’d known that disaster was looming — and that is was time to fight.  On that last, of course, he’s right.  It was the first half of that response that pulled me up, because I realized in that moment what should have been obvious: a nice liberal white guy like myself, whatever my politics and however deep my convictions doesn’t have the deep knowledge my friend does of just how much pure racial hate and resentment is out there.  I can get glimpses, and through my friends can get to empathy (I certainly hope), but the truth remains: I don’t live in daily direct confrontation with that hate.  And that, I think, as much as anything else, led me to miss whatever signs there might have been that our disaster was upon us.

As noted, that’s a penetrating glimpse of the obvious, of course.  But it’s also key.  I have no idea at this moment how to climb out of the deep hole we’re in.  I hope its not a grave.  But whatever else we do, we have to out work and out number the reserves of awful that have proved so potent this year.

And that’s all I got, rambling away, on this grim morning.   Good luck to us all.  We surely need it.

Image:  John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit  1882.

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3 Comments on “White Before Black, Men Before Women”


  1. Here I am speaking as a white woman who has become a member of the most disenfranchised group of all: women black, white, yellow and brown who are over 65. (Politics is the only haven for older women). We are the invisible, disregarded and unspoken of minority, rapidly becoming a majority destined to be shut away under the guise of “care”, and within twenty years time probably legislated to be simply done away with as an unecessary burden to society. My point of view is that throughout history, winds of change are always accompanied by what many proclaim as unspeakable and unconscienable. Men and women villified suffrogettes, men and women villified Churchill, men and women villified John Adams, villified Jefferson and so on and so forth. To me what matters is not who won the election but the sheer energy behind the antagonism and the conflict and the disruption: life is on the move again in this semi-demi moribund country. When was the last time that politics had more viewers than football?

    • Tom Says:

      Well, that’s a note of hope I couldn’t have struck myself, I guess. Yeah. The next test/task is to turn out for the midterms to the point we get some of what we’ve lost back at the state level.


      • Here’s the thing from the crone’s point of view: there is always going to be something. Nothing will ever be perfect, because “perfection” shifts as our perspective shifts from each new level. In any case this election created dissatisfaction with my political apathy. Start local and see what shenanigans the city council pulled last year.🙂


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