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Race, Gender, the Media, and the Presidency

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Message Hargrove Jones

Before Barack Obama, if you were of African descent, your race could always be used to bring you down. A tone, a word, an attitude, could overrule your identity, and reduce you to a racial stereotype.

Racial branding is so effective until a Hillary Clinton surrogate, Geraldine Ferraro, attempted to define Barack Obama's success as the product of his race, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

Geraldine Ferraro said this, despite the fact that Barack had superior grades to Hillary in law school, graduated with greater distinction than she did, as president of the Harvard Law Review. Passed the bar when she failed. Developed the most superior campaign machine in the history of the country, while Hillary relied on the political machine built by her husband. Succeeded at every project he was ever responsible for, while Hillary failed at universal health care, the only major political project that she was responsible for. Obtained his jobs and elected office on his own, while Hillary has not obtained one significant position without her husband's influence and connections.

Finally, Barack, aided by the skills he acquired as a community organizer, developed a political and financial machine that is superior to Hillary's, even though she had the benefit of wealth, connections, and the fervent commitment of a former two-term president. Barack planned his campaign competently, and he managed his finances skilfully, while Hillary didn't plan beyond "Super Tuesday," and her campaign ran out of money and she had to loan her campaign money from her personal funds. The truth of their lives more easily translates to, Barack pulled himself up by his bootstraps, while Hillary was lifted up by her man.

Hillary's gender got her what no man could get - a shot at the world's top job, sponsored by a powerful man, who has given her everything he has to give, including his resume— She's the one who deserves Geraldine Ferraro's summation, "very lucky to be who (she) is."

Geraldine Ferraro's not mad at Barack Obama for getting a racial preference, she's mad at America for not being racist enough to give a white woman the presidency, before a black man, whether she deserves it or not. She as much as said it, "I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign." Translation: Why let a little thing like more votes, earned by a superior campaign, stand in the way of making a white woman president, before a black man—

Geraldine Ferraro's hard hearted attitude about Barack Obama's success might be softened if she recognized that far from valuing black men over white women, American society has always valued white women more. If she requires convincing, she need only consider Hillary's recent words to a campaign audience, telling them that if the health issues that affect black women, were similarly affecting white women, more would be done. Better yet, she could look to her own experience. When powerful white men had a choice to empower someone, they picked her. To this day, no black man has been selected as a vice presidential candidate on a major party's ticket. So, like she said, she was selected to be elevated because of her gender, but she was wrong to include Barack in that analysis since, he was not selected to be elevated, rather, he elevated himself, in spite of his race.

It's alright for Geraldine Ferraro to be shaken by the sight of a black man commanding judgement on the strength of his character, since she's probably seeing it for the first time, as we all are. But what we're also seeing is that a majority of white Americans would stand up for Barack, if American media would tell them the truth.


"Democratic Party divisions deepen as Obama parades military support," by Patrick Martin, is an example of the media's complicity, and even leadership, in the arena of racism. This article purports to explain the fall out from Geraldine Ferraro's statements about Barack Obama, without using one word spoken by Geraldine Ferraro. Perhaps because the writer knew that, Geraldine Ferraro's words, would indict her.

Geraldine Ferraro words, "if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is," might dissuade the reader from the writer's conclusion that, pointing out the repetitious nature of racial comments by the Clintons and their surrogates, Is "(resorting) to inciting racial polarization." Instead, they might find the perpetrator of racial polarization to be the person shielded by accolades, "former congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate and a prominent Clinton fundraiser."

Unlike the kid gloves the writer uses when applying words to the Clinton Campaign, when it comes to Barack, he gratuitously contributes inflammatory words like "resorting," which brings to mind improper conduct, of the worst kind; and "inciting," a word that generally accompanies "riot." These words were applied to Barack, the victim of identity politics, because he dared to demand that the Clintons stop defining him by his race.

The article goes on to say that it is an "obvious fact" that "Obama’s campaign owes much to his identity as the first African-American candidate with a real chance to win the presidency." like there's some being or entity called "first African-American candidate with a real chance to win the presidency." Missing the real fact that, Barack Obama achieved the status of first African-American candidate with a real chance to win the presidency.

Then the writer blithely accepts Geraldine Ferraro's comparison of Barack Obama's "success, to her own selection as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, due mainly to her gender, not her position as a relatively obscure congresswoman." This comparison negates two critical points. Barack Obama was not selected, as Geraldine Ferraro was. His success is the product of winning primaries, something Geraldine Ferraro never had to do. The only thing Barack Obama's candidacy has in common with Geraldine Ferraro's is, that the media attempted to reduce both of them, to racial and gender caricatures.

Geraldine Ferraro's words encouraged the idea that Barack Obama is nothing more than a black person who got lucky due to affirmative action. Likewise, images of Geraldine Ferraro in curlers, throwing pots and pans at her husband, were used to encourage voters to conclude, she's only a woman. How ironic that the one time victim, has become the voice, for the same identity politics, that derailed her candidacy —

The writer goes on to describe Hillary's reckless and disloyal endorsement of the Republican candidate for the presidency, over Barack Obama as, "effectively blackmailing super delegates with the prospect of a split, over national security issues, if Obama is nominated." But instead of holding her accountable for that, he implicates Barack's campaign as "making it's own none-too-subtle threat that black voters will stay home if Clinton is nominated," when Barack's campaign as made no such suggestion, and Barack has explicitly said, that he would support Hillary, even though, according to him, he can see no indication that she would do the same.

Finally, while the writer chose to leave out Geraldine Ferraro’s inflammatory words, even though they were the foundation of the story, he included the angry words of African-Americans, that were not germane to the story. "A virtual race war, politically," and "Blacks aren’t going to sit back while the winning candidate is told to sit at the back of the bus," are used to keep the racial fires roaring, while creating the false impression that Barack’s campaign is the only side at fault, even though the African Americans quoted, don't represent Barack’s campaign, and the only racially inflammatory words were spoken by Geraldine Ferraro, a representative of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

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Student of social dynamics, especially as it relates to issues of race and sex.
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