Another Note on the Election

by Latoya Peterson

One of the most annoying memes I hear keep popping up in the media and on various threads and boards is that “blacks are voting for Obama – why is it racist to say whites vote for Clinton? It’s a fact that black people are voting for Obama because he’s black, just admit it.”

Here’s why that assumption pisses me off – because that is an oversimplification of what actually happened. Clinton and Obama started out more or less equal in the eyes of the black community. Yes, some people were determined to vote black, no matter what. And some people preferred to go with Clinton as we have seen her work. And some people had the idiotic mentality that a vote for Hill is another vote for Bill, so vote for her. So at the beginning of this race, Hillary was the assumed nominee. Many of us were intrigued by Barack Obama, but not sold. After all, who was he? Even after winning Oprah’s backing, people were still skeptical of Obama.

As I have said many times before, when this race started, I was happy with either candidate getting the nod. Both showed dedication and leadership, and while their tactics differed, they had grand plans for improvement. With Edwards in the mix, the conversation about poverty and class actually became a mainstay of the election stump speech which was a welcome addition. Things were tense, but cool. We were going to see who was the better contender and that person would become our nominee.

This was supposed to be a battle of ideals – not a rehashing of race and gender relations in the United States.

And yet, here we are.

A month or so ago, I was talking with one of my friends who happens to be white, female, and Jewish. She staunchly and proudly voted for HRC and campaigns for her to be president. Sipping on a beer, she turned to me and said, “See, you’re lucky. Black people stick together. Women, we don’t do that. Women suck. We can’t unite around our candidate the way black people can.”

I appraised her with some amusement. “Black people spend a lot of time talking about how we can’t come together to get things done. Even now, there are black people who are die-hard HRC supporters, a lot who aren’t voting anyway, and some Obama supporters. You generally only see the united black front after some high offense has happened.”

Like I said, that was over a month ago. We haven’t spoken since. But it is obvious that things changed. The fact that a split black populace suddenly decided to rally around a black candidate with numbers into 90% are telling.

So, when you read the headlines that we read, think about it from a black perspective. dnA reports:

Apparently not satisfied with her plummeting approval ratings among black voters, Hillary Clinton decided to remind us again that our votes don’t actually count:

    “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

    “There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.

Hard-working Americans = white Americans. Right. The rest of us sit on our porches eating watermelon and plucking banjos.

For some reason, despite this “broader base” Clinton still seems to be having trouble raising money, and you know, getting more votes than her opponent. But at this point any abstract metric besides votes or delegates that Clinton can use as a rationale for her candidacy becomes the only appropriate one to use.

This kind of comment is less a description than an agitator, it’s meant to give white voters the impression that they would be “disenfranchised” by an Obama win. It’s a not so subtle effort to evoke racial resentment over Obama’s success.

Now, I can understand the perspective of an HRC supporter. She’s worked hard. She’s come back from adversity time and time again. She has good policy. She is composed in the face of direct and blatant attacks on her womanhood, character, and appearance since 1992.

And for some people, they can see a lot of themselves in Hillary. They can see themselves striving for what some would say impossible. They cheerfully say “Pick Flick” referring to the movie Election, able to relate to working hard to have some one swoop in from the shadows and take it from you. For many women, Hillary is the hope they have in smashing the ultimate glass ceiling.

Fine. More power to you. If you want to support HRC, go ahead. As I mentioned in the last post, if you’re going to be a supporter represent.

But here’s where I’m coming from.

Young, black, female voter. Grew up poor, not dirt poor, but below the poverty line for 16 out of the first twenty years. I don’t need to play at poverty, I remember it well. I’ve been in the workforce since the age of twelve, illegally, age fourteen, legally, and working full time at age seventeen. And while many women have stories about how they were dealt with differently because of their gender, that was not one of my struggles.

I dealt with discrimination based on my blackness and based on my age. Being the youngest person in your office means that people look at your age first and your lack of experience rather than the results you produce. I thought this would get better the more I worked and the harder I worked, but that is not the case. I’ve had situations where I have met and exceeded every performance goal and not received a full raise. When pressed for an answer as to why I was not awarded the full amount, the responses always mentioned that “everyone has room for improvement” and included some kind of crack about happy hour being cheap at my age or how I didn’t have to pay for daycare or anything.

Apparently, the young and childless do not need proper compensation for our work. I’ve been passed over for promotions because I was the youngest person in my department even though I operated in the unofficial management capacity as I knew the most about what we were doing and how to do it. Apparently, older people have problems with younger bosses. It is better to have an older boss come and ask me how to do something, than to appoint someone young and competent to a management position.

So when the talk began about Barack “standing aside and waiting his turn” I wanted to spit blood. But I said nothing. (I should mention though that competence gets the last laugh, generally – I’m twenty four and self-employed. I have a day job of sorts, but that’s for financial stability more than anything else.) So, entitlement pisses me off quite a bit.

Just prove your worth through your work. That’s not so hard, is it?

And now, this comment arises to stick in my side thanks to all of the anti-black discrimination I have experienced. It doesn’t matter that Barack has more delegates and Clinton and Obama are neck and neck in the popular vote. No, fuck that. He still isn’t electable. The white vote is important, but it is not a monolith. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Obama will lose white votes (despite showing more than respectable numbers) and that alone should show us that he’s not electable.

I really wish Hillary hadn’t said that.

I wish she had stood up for herself. I wish she had argued about policy or having a better grasp on the issues or even fallen back on her oft-debated experience.

But no.

She decided to announce to America that white voters aren’t going to go for this black guy, so she should be the candidate.

When I read the quote, I immediately thought of that old adage “you have to work twice as hard to go half as far. You have to be twice as good to be considered good.” This was drilled into me from an early age. It doesn’t matter how well you do, no one will acknowledge it until you are fucking spectacular.

Obama has to suck this up. He has to continue to work twice as hard, which is why he had the state by state plan built into his campaign. We – and by that, I mean blacks – know we can assume nothing. He is still regarded as half as good, even though it is obvious that he is both capable and electable. Barack could never get on air and say that since he has the black vote and the “elitist” white vote, he’s more electable. Could never happen. This option isn’t even open to him. He knows the rules just as well as I do, and he’s been living them longer.

He’s going to keep going. He has to. There’s nothing else to do.

It is at this moment that I need to acknowledge that voting is a complicated thing. People base their votes on everything under the sun – the way they felt that day, policy, pundits, who their favorite celebrity is voting for, who their friends are voting for, what pet issue they like the best. That’s why elections are a potent mix of issues and emotion. Because a mix of the two is what resonates the most strongly.

Obama had me, from a policy standpoint on his ideas to solve longstanding problems. (See the highlights on the candidates and poverty post.)

But today, Hillary Clinton delivered Barack Obama the emotional side of my vote on a silver platter.

There are things that I have come to expect in life: hardships, adversities, challenges, based on all manner of things, from what I can control to what I cannot.

But there is nothing quite like all the subtle indignities that one is forced to endure with grace because we happen to be born brown.