I’ve gained so much from people’s comments on the “Graduating While Black!” post. The responses have been compelling and sophisticated. And I can’t help but think about how these issues of race/racism and sex/sexism in the academy translate into our larger sociopolitical present.
I just got through Geraldine Ferraro’s Boston Globe op-ed, and it made me ponder some of the many ways in which her reading of the election’s dynamics feeds directly into the conversations we’ve been having here.
During the central section of her piece, Ferraro tries to explain why she thinks that “Clinton Democrats” (white “Clinton Democrats”) are reeling from how identity politics get played these days. “If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist,” she writes. “They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment.”
Even though I think her belief that Obama is simply “playing the race card” seems inaccurate (he’d probably rather that “race” never, ever came up in the election), not to mention a little disingenuous (given her own previous reduction of his candidacy’s success to nothing but race, which strikes me as the epitome of what race cardology would be), I do think that her point about how some “Clinton Democrats” feel is actually dead-on. My genuine question for her (and anyone else who wants to weigh in), is about how to parse the difference between racial resentment and racism. Where does one end and the other begin? Is there an operational difference between the two?
(Of course, whites don’t corner the market on justified fears about race-based mistreatment.)
She finishes the op-ed with what seems like a list of all the reasons why nothing Obama can do will ever win these folks over. It is an amazingly depressing endnote. Indeed, if racial resentment is that intractable, what chance does our multiracial democracy actually have?