Sunday, March 16, 2008

What she said

Filed under 'Shut up and listen for one goddam minute, would you?' comes this from Susan Estrich - The White Elephant in the Room:

Walter Mondale picked her [Geraldine Ferraro] over Michael Dukakis (yes, he was the other choice) in 1984, because he wanted to shuffle the deck, change the dynamic, bring excitement and a sense of making history to what was already seen as a long-shot effort to unseat the very popular incumbent, Ronald Reagan.

In other words, he picked her because she was a woman. Gerald wouldn't have gotten it. Is there something wrong with that?

That doesn't mean she didn't deserve it. It doesn't mean she wasn't qualified. It just means gender matters. In her case, unlike every election before or since, it mattered in a way that resulted in a qualified woman getting the nod instead of a qualified man. And I don't think it's sexist to say that.

Geraldine Ferraro is many things -- outspoken, spontaneous, sometimes outrageous, but always courageous, loyal and loving. I adore her. But that's not my point. One thing she isn't -- I know this, and I think Barack Obama does, as well -- is racist.

I don't think she in any way meant to put Obama down by pointing to his race as an essential element of his appeal. It is an essential element of his appeal. That doesn't mean he's the affirmative action candidate. It doesn't mean he's unqualified or undeserving. Recognizing that race matters is exactly what critical race theorists have been arguing for years to those who have claimed that we can or should be colorblind. Impossible, they've said all along. Is it now racist to recognize that they're right?

We need to be able to talk about race without forcing whoever brings it up to resign from whatever honorary position they may hold. It's the white elephant in the room that you're not supposed to acknowledge, but at which everyone stares, as it grows larger due to the forced silence. Guess what? There's a white elephant in the room. Or, to be politically correct, an elephant of some color, which we will not mention. A large, colorless elephant. Is it better if we leave it at that?

And at the rate the left-est part of the blogosphere is going, it will be a red elephant in November.


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