Saturday, September 6, 2008

Running Scared - Double Talk in Identity Politics

Kwame Kilpatrick held his support of Obama hostage, and it was the talk of the blog world that he was being coy about who he'd support at the heart of the Democratic Primary Season. Eventually, he finally supported Obama, as if he was testing his electability, cultural acceptance and leadership all at the same time. It was irritating. Now it may be costly. As Obama accepted his support to ensure the "Get Out the Vote" in metro-Detroit, he uttered a few phrases of support for Kwame that will live in attack ads for the next 2 months. The implication - birds of a feather. The reality, Obama and Kwame couldn't be further from each other in many many ways. They have three unfortunate things in common. So now being black and male, and in leadership will serve as fuel for fear politics and further distance those who were already scared of black men. The correlation - Obama will do to our nation what Kwame did to Detroit.

For starters, Kwame may be a lot of things, but responsible for the status of Detroit isn't one of them. He may have added to it, he may have taken advantage of it, he may have benefited from it - but Kwame didn't create the Detroit that exists today. Suburban flight started long before Kwame took office, as the riots and the race tensions further distanced people from each other. In the center of the city we have Greek Town, Mexican Town, cultural districts - but to have a black anything scares people. Well, it scares the kind of people who stop at first glance, and don't dig any further. Detroit is a mess for many reasons, poverty and socio-economic factors far outrank race. The public school system, coupled with the death of the automotive industry, has led to a less educated workforce with more unemployment, more foreclosure and more strife than other areas. Yet, there are marvelous things happening there as well - they just don't make the headlines. Economic development, community collaboration, the arts district - they're growing. The downtown corridors are starting to look like a thriving place to be, and it took the 10 years that I was there to realize that there was life being breathed into the city, however slowly.

It is easier to link Obama to Kwame for fear, than to have some view of the situation steeped in reality. Obama is a smart man at his core, I've come to believe this based on the last 2 years of a savvy and strategic campaign. He was as clear about Kwame's liability factors as anyone. Yet the fear of Black People will be enough to help some voters link the two together. Michelle is not Carlita, and Obama is not Kwame, but that's no different than people tearing Obama down because of his race and lifting him up because of his multicultural appeal. It makes no good sense, but it makes headlines.

Meanwhile, Palin is in a political bubble, and the McCain campaign is going through every hoop imaginable to ensure no interviews, no press access, no access to her education records, no access to the non-vetting process that took place in Alaska. The more sensational dirt that comes out about Palin, the more people defend her. The more moral mayhem that the party reveals (Giuliani, McCain and Palin combined are pathetic), the more people sign on as if they'd accept this mess in any other situation. The reality is that this election is based between those For Obama,and those Against Obama. It frankly is starting no to matter who's on the other side, its ABO - anyone but Obama. And, as long as the Republican party, hate groups and the 527's supporting him can paint Obama as everything he is not - they stand a great likelihood of winning. At the core of many people, they already think the worse. The ads are just confirming what they already believer.

We've come far as a country, but we believe in double talk still. Its okay for McCain to flip flop, neither of them to live the values they'll try to place on the Supreme Court, and be void of any responsibility for the worst war investment ever - but that's because they're not Obama. If he had Palin on his ticket, everyone on this side of the sun would question his political sense, judgement and management. If McCain had Obama's fundraising, grassroots organization, campaign infrastructure or a solid family life representative of the average middle class - he'd be the second coming. Obama's educational pedigree at face value speaks to his decision to play by the rules of the game that the majority culture created. The difference, at its core - race. McCain is patriotic and loyal, Obama - well, uppity. And the Right will use code words and linkages to further divide our nation and imply what we already know many believe - he's disqualified from leadership, not due to experience, or work history, or decisions, or judgment. In the views of many Americans, Obama won't make the grade, because he's black. (1/2 black, but that's all it takes.)

Now, we sing "We are the World" and ignore the role color plays in the minds of everyday people. And we forget, that hardworking everyday people, in every shade, color and hue - they're prone to believe false advertising and sick stereotyping too. It captures the interest of bloggers because we live it, and for our ancestors, they died because of it.

Thandie Plays Condelezza Rice

I'm admittedly skiddish about the discussion that has been front and center as of late, in regards to the role of women in politics. I was sickened by the Palin selection because I wondered who else might have more accurately filled in the Republican gap. I guess we'll know in a few months how savvy, savage or sanguine that pick really was - but it was the final nail in the coffin for me. The Religious Right, although I share a smattering of views with them, doesn't represent me. I have suggested more than once that maybe Dr. Condi could give dear beauty queen Palin a clue. Proximity to Russia will never define international prowess for me.

So I was just delighted to learn that Thandie Newton will play Condi in an upcoming portrayal of George W. Bush's life. I'm not interested in his story, but I've been waiting for hers. A British Cambridge graduate, Thandie doesn't immediately come to mind as the person to play Condi. The more that I thought about it though - she's a perfect fit. There's always been a question about Thandie's background, everyone wants to know her background, her race, her they question the depth and breath of her selected roles. Although race has been an assumed factor for Condi, people have loved and hated her for much different reasons. The role that she has taken as Secretary of State has been filled with more questions than answers and an admitted curiosity about her loyalty to Bush and her fierce decision to stay. We know that she is a survivor, but it seems as if Thandie is too.

Maybe I like Thandie because of her tendency to cuss like a sailor, she does it really well. I have tried to release my mouth from twisting phrases that need not be uttered, but I am still a work in progress. I first admired Thandie's portrayal in Beloved, when I fell in love with her quirkiness. Her role in Crash was just one step further in solidifying how much I admire her. She's a disciplined actress that selects projects based on her role as mother, not for hollywood fame. I imagine that both fame and fortune have both come with time. Like wine, I think they are both aging beautifully into the people they are - different, distinct, and defining.

Likewise, I admire Condi too - she's a survivor. If there was any woman that would have made me think about the Republican ticket, it would have been her. Even when I don't agree with all of her decisions, I respect her path and her resilience. I can't imagine how small her inner sanctum must be to maintain her sanity. Meanwhile, she follows her convictions and stands strong in the midst of storm. after storm. after storm. She commands attention even when you are on the other side of the position, something that Palin doesn't seem to get. These iconic figures continue to capture my attention, and during a week of Palin, Christine Beatty, and more - I'm surely glad they exist. In a culture that savages women daily though, through both word and image, I'm just happy to be talking about two I admire. The media spends way too much time on the sensational and the sad, but I think history will affirm lives well lived - in a time when so many seem to be barely living at all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin - Not the Republican Obama

The Blog World is filled with opinions and posts about Palin, some of which have crossed the line in personal attacks. Many people have taken a play from Palin and McCain on simply tearing people down as a way to avoid talking about what you offer. Other blogposts, like one at A Political Season, are just a glimpse into the misguided world of Republican dreaming. Palin is not the Republican Obama, and I shutter that someone might think that she is.

Identity Politics
Palin is using gender as her primary stump speech, looking to attract & excite like minded members of the Republican base. She understands her role clearly and has offered to play it well to politically advance. Many Republicans and Alaska natives tout her qualified success as timing and politically savvy decisions, approval that is linked directly to the individual gains resulting from the Oil Company benefits based on location.

Barack has never campaigned as a Black Man, although he recognizes that he is one. He has spent the last 2 years talking about everyday people and everyday issues, the ones that you see clearly as a community organizer - although most of us decide at some point we want to affect change in a different way. He has not excited and motivated the Democratic Base, so much as he has changed the Democratic base to include those who were not an active part of the process. He has reached out to people who's view, opinion, action and interest were never solicited seriously on a grassroots level.

Character Bashing
Palin took a play out of old politics, and walked in synch with McCain in working to market fear politics. They have not simply said we disagree with Obama's stances - they have told those who support him and endorse him - you're dillusioned and caught up in celebrity. You are a fanatic not based in reality. They have clearly articulated, " he has been nothing, has done nothing, has decided nothing, has mananaged nothing, and you are stupid for getting caught up in the hype."

On the flip side, Barack has talked about continuing the politics of what got us here in the first place. He has focused his attention on approaching the challenges within our society by the power of the people, not just his ideals. He has openly disagreed with McCain and said that McCain can't relate to everyday people. He has not said that McCain is a womanizer, Palin is a token, and anyone who supports them has lost their mind.

Motivation vs. Fear
Palin has implied that Barack didn't think her town was "cosmopolitan enough", ensuring that small town folks and even more important, small minded folks, get scared about race. She has not motivated and inspired, she has continued a message of fear. She could have easily said last night "be affraid, be very affraid. he is not like you at all. i represent you." With the diversity of a Starbucks experience, she will guarantee those who quietly fear differences and are uncomfortable about race - you'll never have to worry about that with me.

Meanwhile, Obama has given one of the most clear speeches about race in my lifetime. As a Black woman, it simply is what it is. I don't use it to dictate or justify who I am, nor do I avoid it or exploit. In our nation we have failed to mobilize a national dialog about race into anything more than scary definitions of Affirmative Action, piting people and interests against each other. The reality still stands clear, America has been built on the backs of a class of cultures, and we will not be healed overnight. Nor should we.

Proven and Tested
Palin has been asked to prove nothing. The media circuit of the right is touting McCain's judgement and selection. They are not educating people about her record, they are pitting her record against Barack's. People who said ready to lead on day 1, have now said she has ample time to learn and be taught at McCain's knees.

For 2 years Barack has been scrutinized, belittled, laughed at, reviewed, interviewed, rated, evaluated and more. This isn't an issue of "if Palin had been around for two years," the reality is that she will not have to prove herself in the same way. Any child born to a family of color within the last century has encountered one shared parental truth, "You MUST out perform racism, because it will always exist." From birth, we are taught that you must be better, work harder, dig deeper, be more resilient - not to win, but to even have the opportunity to compete.

In my house the debate will go something like this, "well his resume is weak, you have to admit that." My response will go something like this, "you have yet to review her resume, because the one liners about being a mayor and a govenor have been enough."

Meanwhile, she inherited half of her accomplishments in office, and hasn't been asked to account for not even knowing what the Vice President does - as expressed in her own words. She says, I'm a hard worker. Well, is that enough?

Following the Script
Palin is following McCain's Script and the desperation of the so called Religious Right.
Obama wrote his own script - and is paying dearly because of it.

When Obama gave one speech at a convention - he was paying his dues as a junior senator.
When Palin gave one speech at a convention - she became a national hero qualified for Vice President.

Collaboration across Party Lines
Palin has said that the do nothing legislature has failed America. These are the same people that any leader must work with and through to accomplish what needs to happen in our country. When she worked across party lines in her political career, it was an occassion not a signature style. She has argued herself that she will do whatever is necessary for what she believes is right. That gets her closer to her agenda, but it doesn't qualify as a life of working together for greater good.

Obama has demonstrated and stood on the basis of working across party lines. When he advocated and authored legislation about campaign finance reform, he didn't do it from the security of his party - he worked with other people to make it happen. He has been acknowledged time and time again for embracing this approach as the core of who he is, not just what he does. The Right has painted this as being naive, unseasoned, not ready. They'd rather go to war than have a conversation.

World View
The mis-steps will be countless on both sides when all is said and done. But for an advocate of War, proximity to Russia should not be a qualification for international affairs. What we know about Palin is not much in this area.

While you may disagree about the removal of troops, the approach to Israel, his tactics about Afghanistan, and the belief that the United States of America should be restored to a better standing with our world partners - you do know where he stands. And while he has created advisors, think tanks and running mates that have a longer track record in these areas - he does have a track record with his view - right or wrong.

McCain got caught - and as a result the same service provided as thousands of men and women - he has been touted as a National hero and the picture of patriotism. I respect his service, but that's it. His character is no more defined by that one act, than it should be defined by his angry rants, wife trade ups, or any other sole act. He selected ovaries who will learn at his side, but she has said little else, other than, "drill, baby drill" and "fight, baby fight."

Attack Politics
If she attacks - she's a self-described Pitbull.
If McCain attacks - he's a maverick.
If the Right attacks - they are rejuvenated.
If a Woman attacks - she's a feminist making history.
If a Black Republican attacks - they're on television as a scholar or party leader because there are so few.

If Obama attacks - he's an angry Black man.
If Biden attacks - he's belittling a woman.
If a Democrat attacks - they are misguided and part of the Obama cult.
If a Woman attacks - she's bitter that Hillary couldn't do it.
If a Black Democrat attacks - they are voting for Obama because he's Black. They don't know the issues, didn't make a choice, aren't using their voice. They're the non-hard working folks who always vote democratic.

Palin delivered a solid attack speech well. She's a pill and a pit, but Obama she is not. For the majority of Republican's that makes her amazing, exciting, and inspirational. For an independent, I wonder if it just increases the garabage you have to hear instead of real issues and real policies. But isn't that why McCain picked her after 8 years of Bush? Identity not issues, and the change that could give him the Whitehouse after all.

Palin's Failure for Everday People

I watched the speech last night. I argued with my Republican husband about the lack of substance in the McCain't Palin ticket. He promptly suggested I was not being strategic in thought, overly emotional and sited my response as evidence of why the "Democrats might not win because they don't understand the real issues at hand." I had openly avoided any blogging about this issue, swept into a focus on back to school and back to the routines that guide our family. However, after my true introduction to Pitbull Palin last night, my thoughts are incredibly clear. I have been Independent for the last decade in my voting, and last night I was clear that if I must pick a party affiliation - it will be to proclaim I am a Democrat.

No Solutions - Rhetoric
Palin offered no solutions about the issues that matter to me most. There was no mention of health care and a summary statement about "parents being able to choose" the education option for their child. The problem with that education theory, is that the only families that truly experience choice are those that are able to afford houses above $250,000 in value, so that they can buy a school district that offers a competitive education. Although I support Charter School options and applaud parents seeking immediate remedies to their local schools, I see what those options are everyday. I also know that most schools in the infancy of their development (Charter Schools included) are not able to provided the systems and tools that an above average Suburban school district provides.

My prescriptions with full health care for my children have been about $150 this month, including office co-pays. Palin and McCain don't have to address these issues, it doesn't even matter to them. The problem, however, is that more American people face my reality than Palin's Mr. Mom husband, and McCain's decision to marry up, wealthy and clueless.

A Moral Mess
We can talk about policy prescriptions and detailed plans, but at its core the Republican Party has been offering a moral solution to life for as long as I can remember. I myself use the term conservative to clarify that regardless of my political affiliation I have morals and standards that are clear for my family and our lives. The Right has taken faith and religion and stood on top of hills and mountains to proclaim the lack of moral compass in anyone who disagree with them. And what do we get from their example:

Giuliani was responsible for the build up last night. Someone who moved his mistress into the home with his wife, openly cheated, and does not have the respect and support of his children. The Giuliani sons are Obama supporters.

McCain returned from his POW experience which he openly pimps in what has become a disgraceful manner - to cheat on his wife, divorce her after she suffered terribly from a life altering accident, and then married the wealthy bimbo he cheated with.

Palin has the ability to reach out openly to parents of disabled children, white women, those who aspire to a "less cosmopolitan world", while Barack has to dance around his culture, all racial issues and any reference to what he might be an advocate for if he gets the nod. Her mother in law said she didn't know what Palin brings to the ticket. I would love to clarify what she brings - she's white. she's female. she's void of any documented position on race and equity issues. she's gender politics at its finest.

It remains more acceptable to be a white woman soliciting for female empathy, and asking women to vote with their ovaries, while gently flirting with the no family is perfect theme - than to be firmly rooted in family values and Black. If Barack had a teenage daughter that was pregnant, left a newborn child to return to work in 72 hours, and prioritized a speech over a pending birth - we'd be citing the problems with Black male leadership in the home. I am resisting the desire to fully editorialize what I feel about having Palin represent women as a whole - but what I'm clear about is the changing standards. It isn't about character if we can be beat on character, it isn't about experience if we can be beat back about experience, it isn't about issues if we can make it about personality.

We are on the eve of electing war mongers and our media dialog is about how inspiring Palin is. Well, she's clean, articulate and the first viable female candidate - but that doesn't mean we want her at all. Jesse Jackson didn't motivate my support because I didn't believe he was the best candidate. Lets be clear, I'd love to make history voting for a woman. I will grieve the day she was born if that woman is painted in Palin. Offer me someone who has worked hard, paid their dues, has something this Soccer Mom can relate to - and I'd be thinking long and hard. Hell, I don't want more taxes. But the thought that anyone believes Palin, the VICE Presidential candidate is that person- it is simply a false hope. The men who stayed up all night writing her speech should be proud. I'm more convinced of her drama and her acting ability than I am of her political prowess, and for a woman of color she offers nothing. I don't want my 8 year old daughter looking to her, Giuliani or McCain't for anything. ever.

No Perspective on Community Based Issues
The dig at being a community organizer shouldn't just be about Barack. The truth is, Barack Obama was a community organizer, but there are millions of us who are an active part of the community development industry. As professionals who work through community based organizations to affect change, we should be collectively asking the question - then what does Palin think about the real everyday work that we do?

You see, if Barack's experience is fluff to her and she doesn't believe that real decisions were being made - her implication is that government leadership is real work, and community based work is not. For everyone who has mobilized a group of people for collective action, worked to leverage investment for community and central city development, shifted the paradigm about affordable housing to an action about socio-economic integration for diverse communities - Palin thinks you don't make real decisions.

In the world of Palin, telling government officials and departments how to spend the budget and "drill, baby drill" is more important than change that is created from the ground up. In her world grassroots is as foreign as diversity, race and accountability. McCain doesn't have a lock on patriotism because he survived War - half of the men in my family served as well. The picture painted at the Republican convention doesn't capture the sacrifice and service of the men in my family - men who universally believe that the war was a MISTAKE. They - McCain/Palin believe leadership comes from the top down, not from the bottom up. And what will you tell your children when they have to interview more times for a minimum wage job, than she did for the 2nd highest position in the land - with a 72 year old with heart and anger management issues. Please. Let me assure you the same standards will not apply.

While she spent her 15 minutes of fame showing how clearly she can be a pit bull, what she didn't tell you is what she can offer for you. Did you get a sense of what is happening with Social Security, Healthcare and Education? Did you get a clear understanding of who she will put on the Supreme Court - or wasn't that pretty obvious ladies. Palin made HER CHOICE based on her personal circumstances, but do you trust her to make decisions for you.
She's advocating for her 17 year old to get married and we believe this to be a responsible choice for the sake of doing what's right. Angelina and Brad could introduce them to the concept of ADOPTION if her Right Wing Fanatics can't help her there.

Did you get misty eyed in thinking that we'd be at war for the next 100 years, with an economy as strong as McCain thinks it is today. I mean really, you all have $5 million to work with, right? We're watching the stage shift before our eyes and the dialog still remains hinged on identity politics.

I don't identify with Palin. With the escalating foreclosure rates that are crippling communities at their core - Palin had no words regarding housing. She didn't offer any solutions with her criticism of what celebrity brings. If 80,000 people in a stadium is celebrity - being lifted from obscurity for the Vice President selection because you have ovaries should be too.

Reality Check
Barack and Michelle offer for my children a substantive example of the beliefs we have tried to instill in them. At very young ages they have been introduced to racism in ways that grieve my heart and spirit. When they see people who are touchable in their eyes, people who have had to work hard for everything they have every gotten, people who played by the rules and leveraged education for success, people who got married - had children - and then had the audacity to stay together, people who have dared to dream bigger than anyone thought they should, people who gave back to their community and used the channels available to them to pay off student loans and credit cards that subsidized making ends meet, they see a future.

When they see McCain and Palin they see more of the nothing they see every day here. People who don't view race as an issue. People who don't view class as an issue. People who don't see neighborhood based work as real work. People who believe the proximity to Russia gives credit for foreign affairs experience. (Condi would you please help them with that fallacy.) People who support war at any cost and educational opportunity for a few, not the masses. People who throw the first stone, as they flip flop on immigration, tax cuts, and more. People who don't prioritize health care, and will never make a decision where to live on how much money they earn. People who get a pass for moral mayhem, but want to tell the world how to live their lives.

I was an Independent. In 2008, I cannot afford to be silent.
I am a Democrat by issues - because they live where I live. I am conservative and I am troubled by some of the views that Barack holds. Yet, I contrast that with my reality. I am concerned about each and every view held by McCain and Palin, grieved that they might one day represent me, horrified by the example they set for my children, and motivated to ensure that their closeted view of the world doesn't become my reality.

Palin may be a PitBull, by her own admission. My mother taught me that a female dog was nothing to aspire to. Palin is a failure for everyday people. She is not a case of the American Dream. Her reality only works if you offer to the Republican party more of the same. I will never be white. I will never inherit my wealth. I will never be the "in crowd" because of my ovaries, my race and my religion. I am not the voter she was trying to reach last night - and I am proud that I will never be that.

And for my Republican husband, my dear...I'm strategic enough.