A House Divided
March 4, 2008—
I am tired of trying to explain this to my husband, so I’ll explain it to you instead. I have been an advocate for the civil rights of African Americans since back when we were called Negroes. Growing up during the 50s and 60s in Chicago, I was well aware of the fault lines of bigotry that blocked me from entering certain neighborhoods, classrooms or stores.
As an adult, I have championed and joined every black cause. To my mother’s disdain, I gravitated toward anything that had black in it. Nothing could be black enough for me. In more recent years, I even found myself following my hip-hop intellectual husband to a Source Magazine Awards show (let me tell you, that was more than black enough for me!)
So given my personal track record, I astounded myself when I realized that the person that I would travel the country campaigning for — the person I trusted to work on behalf of African American children in need of Head Start programs, for people of color whose uninsured illnesses were left untreated, for single moms and working women who are treated as second class citizens with less pay for equal work than all my brothers of varied hue, and for minorities whose communities are targets of environmental racism — was NOT black! Not a Negro!
Yes, this phenomenal black woman is standing beside the phenomenal white woman – Hillary Clinton. For this moment in HERSTORY, I will let this capable, more than qualified, compassionate and intellectual white woman clean up a white man’s mess.
Luckily we have the Republicans to rally around. We both agree they MUST go.
But when Michael presses me on my support of Hillary, I tell him what I’ll tell anybody – especially as we head into the March 4th primaries. This is, after all, Women’s History Month. After 150 years, it’s time to change the punctuation mark of Sojourner Truth’s famed line, “Ain’t I a Woman?” from a question mark to an exclamation point: “Ain’t I a Woman!!!”
Yes, Hillary, you are! The WOMAN for the job of president of these here United States. What Obama has us hoping for, Hillary is ready to deliver. And for the first time in American HISTORY “ladies first.”
Marcia Dyson is the author of the forthcoming “Awakening Eve: Arousing the Political and Social Consciousness of Women,” and the wife of the professor and writer, Michael Eric Dyson.
Michael Eric Dyson
I know my brilliant and fiercely dedicated wife is riding the Hillary Clinton bandwagon, but between you and me, we know black folk have to hitch their stars to Barack Obama!
No disrespect to Senator Clinton, but haven’t we black folk shown just about all the love we can to the Clintons? I’m not suggesting that they’re a Brobdingnagian, hydra-headed political monster hungry to eat up black votes! (wink, wink). I know Hillary is different from Bill in a lot of great ways, but come, come, there is a time when blind loyalty becomes sycophancy! Janet Jackson may have a new album, but her old song will do just fine when it comes to politics: “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”
Hillary Clinton is policy-wonkish, whip-smart about the details of government and — after Barack is done, — she’ll make a great president. But after my man is done. You see, Obama has mastered (yeah, ain’t it nice to be able to flip that word for a brotha?) both the nuts and bolts of politics, but he’s also got a lion’s grasp of that intangible something we call vision. Bush 41 was right, that vision thing is extremely important. Barack has that in abundance. He gets the big picture. Americans are tired of business as usual, because what that usually means is that a bunch of ordinary citizens are left out in the cold holding the bag of hot air that politicians exhale when they’re courting your vote. Soon as they have it, poof, they disappear quicker than David Blaine! (A Hillary supporter would have said Houdini. That’s just SO yesterday’s magic).
Barack gets that we need universal heath care (helps a lot of black folk); he gets that we need to remove the dismal disparity between sentences for powder and crack cocaine (helps a lot of young black men who make mistakes none of us want to see them make in the first place); he gets that we need to get out of Iraq (and you know a lot of us are on the front line); he gets that we need educational reform (which will help millions of black children who’ve been left behind by the Republicans); he gets that we need to stop giving all those tax cuts to the rich and start giving the middle class a break (that includes a lot of black professionals); and he gets that we need many more jobs to pull working poor and working class people out of the economic pits to which Republican slash and burn policies have sent them.
Barack is a great presidential candidate who happens to be black – and that happens to be just great for those of us who want to leverage the authority of our racial wisdom for the advantage of the country. That’s all we’ve ever wanted to do. That’s why my choice is Barack. Hillary’s status quo; Barack’s change incorporated. Hillary’s neoliberal triangulation; Barack’s liberal straight-shooting. Hillary’s the past; Barack’s the future. And let’s get black to the future!
Sorry baby, but like you always told your son – “bring home a girl who looks like your mother.” We need to get with a president who looks like your son!
Michael Eric Dyson is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University. His next book, “April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America” will be published next month. He is confident President Obama will offer Rev. Marcia Dyson a role in his administration.