Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Double-Edged Sword

People have gotten up in arms about the accusation that Obama has gotten this far in the election because he's black, and I just read a piece that I suppose was meant to be a clever critique of that point. However, I don't disagree with the statement, or automatically assume a white person is racist for saying it while a black person is some kind of sellout for saying it. Hell, I say it. And I'm not saying it to be upset about it, or because I think it's wrong, as this piece suggests. In fact, I partially say it because I somewhat agree with the piece.

You see, oftentimes being black or any kind of minority is a double-edged sword. The best example of how being black is both a blessing and a curse is seen by examining the black male. Black men are both the most accepted blacks and the most hated blacks at the same time. How could that be?

Well, despite Whitehead's claim in the piece that black guys can be invisible sometimes--and I suppose in certain kinds of environments, they can be--they are the blacks that white people think are cool, whom whites will date, whom white guys will talk about sports with and white females will befriend the quickest despite the fact that they essentialize women and sometimes claim to think we all are/should be united, whose music whites buy and mimic, whom whites will support on the football and basketball fields, whom whites have "positive" stereotypes about. Even Asians and Latinos get in on the act, especially Asians more and more. It's getting to the point where it's unbelievable how many Asian women I see dating black men.

Yet, they are also the ones who deal with white (and other) people locking car doors as they pass, clutching purses, crossing the streets, labeling them thugs, blaming all the crime in the US on them and claiming their rap music is the reason for all the problems with today's youth, falsely incarcerating them for crimes, stopping them for little or no reason as police officers.

With GLBTs, lesbians are the best example. Now, I know white gays never like to admit that gays have any privilege in the world whatsoever. However, you've got to admit that I'd probably have more women AND men chasing me if I were out. Even though in a guy's fantasy a lesbian might have to be hot, in reality all he has to do is be able to tell or learn that you're one, even if you look kind of manly or unattractive. You might not like that attention, but there are plenty of straight women dying for it. Basically, I'm saying you constantly get "sexy" points from the general population just for liking women--even from "straight" women who are curious or sexual--and my observation is that it's easier for out and/or obvious lesbians to get attention from women, too. Furthermore, so many people in the US think it's okay for women to like and have sex with women but think it's completely disgusting for men to do the same things.

At the same time, many people don't believe that any gay person--male or female--should get married or adopt kids, and some rights aren't even legally recognized as protecting GLBTs though they protect other groups. And people in the US are not yet to that point where PCness regarding gays has been shoved down their throats like it has for blacks, making them keep their bigotry about homosexuals inward for the most part like they do with blacks...except when they're on the internet.

Basically, Obama is in the process of benefitting from the double-edged sword, because the majority of people who support him do so at least in part because he's black. It's likely that he'll even win the Democratic nomination because of it. However, being black is also why he probably won't win the general election. The majority of Latinos, Asians and whites are not going to support this guy. Several of them would probably support Clinton if she got the nomination, though, but will swing to McCain or possibly an independent if she doesn't. Many gays are not going to support him, either, because, as I've written before, a black person who is not the perfect gay advocate is going to be criticized much more harshly by white gays than a white person who is the same way (and so it is with Obama and Clinton). Working class whites weren't supporting Obama before in many states, and now after he has "insulted" them, more of them will refuse to support him.

And even if he does manage to become President, being black will bite him in the @ss several times during his Presidency. This is probably the worst time for a black person to be trying to be President, with all the problems Bush has created for the next President to clean up. People will not soon forget or stop criticizing Bush, but the next President will also inevitably find him or herself the target of criticism for stuff relating to what Bush has done. Inevitably, Obama will find some white people criticizing him, yet finding some way to tie it to the fact that he's black and how a black person should never have been President, how incompetent blacks are for the position, etc. Sure, Clinton would get the same in relation to her sex, and some people will use it to make sweeping generalizations about women. However, most people do truly believe that blacks are incompetent and unintelligent, including many blacks.

In addition, being white can counteract criticisms commonly associated with sex more effectively than being a man can counteract criticisms associated with being black, partially because there are more white women in society than black men or even black people. There are a lot of more famous examples that [white] women are capable per societal standards than exist for blacks, and with blacks even when an example exists it's often dismissed as an exception. Hell, Obama is that example and exception. And yet, the first sign of a screw up, whites will throw him to the wolves. It doesn't work that way for women. Furthermore, all those white male superdelegates, mayors, senators, congressmen and governors who back him now will surely leave him hanging when he runs into a problem that results in criticism of him. Right now, many people are saying he's not qualified. Imagine what they'll be saying when he's in office and stuff goes wrong or he does something a huge group of people don't like, as happens for every President at some point. Only with him, it'll have something to do with race.

I don't think it's totally the case that Obama is being handed the nomination, though I'm sure some people do perceive that to be the case. The thing about blacks being handed anything, though, is that there's always tons more that is taken away to the point of the handout being worthless sometimes (this is one reason why he should have just let Clinton run for and win the Democratic nomination). Affirmative action can be like this, for example. You might be able to attend a better college, but that doesn't mean you'll get the same kind of job as white classmates, the same pay as white classmates, the same kind of treatment on the job as white classmates or even reach your full potential on the job in terms of promotion or the fast track like white classmates. You get just one thing that non-blacks can perceive as discrimination while you're still left to battle discrimination that they don't get, from all corners. This leads to your getting blamed when things don't work out for you as well as they do for others who don't battle the extra discrimination.

This is ahead for Obama whenever he becomes President.