This past week has been a smorgasbord of punditry, media speculation and just plain “gossip” regarding the leading political candidates running through the 2008 primaries. Particularly, the news highlights regarding Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. It has been very frustrating for me because the media and pundits have been making a lot of broad speculations regarding race and gender. Being a Hispanic semi-college-educated male, I found all of this speculation very offensive. Needless to say, I have a need to rant and so I apologize in advance for a very wordy blog entry this week. On my agenda are the following bullet points:
· Racial divisions: Blacks vs. Hispanics
· Hillary Cinton: Gender roles and race in politics
· Voting based on personality
On to the first bullet point, the media has been making this huge deal about there being a huge racial divide in this country. Yes, it’s true that racism still exists. And yes, it’s also true that because of racism and other forms of prejudices in our society, there have also been a lot of injustices. I’m not totally naïve or blind to these paradoxes. However, despite these guffaws in the fabric of American life, we’ve had progress since 1968. There have been more inter-racial marriages and more interaction in general between different ethnicities over the years. So with this progress, it is also very ignorant to assume that there is still this enormous unwavering “racial” rift in the U.S.
Unfortunately, some of the generalities made in the media are not completely unfounded. Gregory Rodriguez, the author of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans & Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race In America, was interviewed in a recent show of NPR’s Talk of the Nation and acknowledged, that especially, in Los Angeles, CA, a lot of Hispanic communities are afraid of the idea of a Black man in power. When an investigative reporter from NPR asked a Hispanic in L.A. what he knew about Obama, he ignorantly said that he was nervous about a Muslim becoming President because of what was going on with us in the Middle-East. The reporter then informed him that Obama was in fact a Christian. This completely took the Hispanic by surprise and he was left speechless.
Having a background in urban sociology, I know a good amount of facts and statistics about how blacks are portrayed in the media. I won’t bother you readers with all this information at the moment, but needless to say, we are constantly bombarded with negative stereotypes of Blacks in America. The irony that most Hispanics don’t realize is that they too are constantly portrayed in a negative light. Hispanics are generally viewed as illegal immigrants from Mexico or Central America. I can’t tell you how many times people assume I am Mexican just because of my name. When I tell them I was born in the U.S. and am of Colombian descent, they feel foolish and marvel at how “educated” I am. How many minorities can relate to that? Go on, raise your hands. Don’t you all hear how the pundits marvel at how “well-spoken” Obama is?
Now let’s move on to Senator Clinton. The media has been portraying her as robotic and being unfairly compared to her rivals because of her gender. Some female pundits state that Hillary Clinton is called calculating and manipulative but that no one says the same thing about McCain or Guiliani or others. When she had a barely noticeable low-cut shirt on, the media pounded on her for “exploiting” her sexuality. They mockingly called this “Breast Gate”. When she won in New Hampshire, the media kept raging that she was able to get “her tribe” to unite under her. The sisterhood rallied against the male oppression of our society.
The media also suggests that she is unfairly judged because of the already established gender roles. If she talks too strongly, she is considered bitchy by “men”; however, if she shows emotion, it’s because she is a women and therefore weak. Women, on the other hand, “need” her to show emotion and at the same time be strong and rally on. If she acts unfazed by criticism women will then see her as too robotic and “feel” disconnected to her.
The fact is, Senator Clinton is calculating. I’m not saying this because she is a woman. I’m saying this because of her recent actions. In the SC debates, she implied that Obama worked for a slum lord. The week before that, she twisted Obama’s appraisal of Reagan, and accused him of favoring the Reagan era over Democratic ideals. When the DNC pulled out of Michigan because it broke party rules and moved its primary date, she kept her name on the ballot and is now fighting to make these votes count to try and win the candidacy.
Hillary Clinton keeps stating that she is not trying to bring gender into politics or her campaign but she keeps saying that she’s fighting against the “glass ceiling”. With this feminist statement, she contradicts herself by having Bill go out “on his own” to do all the dirty work for her. If the media calls her on this, she merely claims unaccountability for his actions.
Both Clintons keeps accusing the Obama camp of pushing race into the primaries; yet, when a reporter asked Bill Clinton about Obama’s claim, that he was being attacked by “Team Clinton”, Bill compares Barack Obama’s campaign to Jesse Jackson’s campaign in South Carolina in 1984 and 1988 instead of actually answering the question.
You may be asking yourself if I am an Obama supporter based on the previous few paragraphs, but I’m just reacting to the recent events in the media. I’m an equal injustice protester. My favorite candidates are, actually, very nearly out of the running and I’m questioning what my voting plans may be after Super Tuesday.
Now the sad fact is that a lot of Americans do treat the electoral process as a personality contest. Even though some of this is true in our society, we have to rise above these narrow-minded points of views. This year’s upcoming presidential election will be the most defining moment of U.S. history in our lives. We shouldn’t be voting on personality. We should look at the issues, compare the pros and cons of each candidate, and see which one best represents our ideals. This is not a popularity contest. Look what that mindset has given us this past 8 years.
The great thing that’s happening right now is that our society has grown over the years. People are more restless and frustrated with our current system than they have been in decades. Not everyone fits these convenient monikers that the media and pundits want to compartmentalize us in. And that is why these polls keep getting it wrong. People are becoming more involved and invested with the mechanism of our electoral process and they want to see results for a change. They no longer care for “business as usual” politics.