Black Women Are Invisible This Election Season
Our national conversation is a messy collision of race and gender, with ageism and the questionable state of our media tossed in as collateral damage.
The 2008 presidential race is making us think hard on everything we thought we knew or felt about our country — and who we each are in it. But as an American woman of color, an African American, I don’t get the feeling too many others are giving much thought to my place.
For the record, women of color are in last place: at the bottom of the charts when it comes to wages (only 68 cents to the white male dollar); at the bottom of the charts in terms of political power (just 14 African American women in Congress, and that includes two non-voting members). We are more likely to die early from almost every disease. Finally, and disastrously for our interests, we remain the least seen and heard in this country, virtually non-existent in positions of power and visibility in media.
Last night on CNN, I participated in a discussion about the cross section of race and gender specifically — one precipitated by an OpEd written by one of the Women’s Media Center founders, Gloria Steinem. The piece, which ran in The New York Times on Monday, titled “Women are Never Front-Runners,” included one line that made some people in this country, including some of my friends (black and white), go nuts:
Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.
The OpEd rocketed through the country — indeed, the world — and our office was swamped with requests for statements, elaborations. That’s how I came to be in dialogue with Charles Ogletree, the esteemed Harvard Law professor who can claim credit for having taught both Barack Obama and Michele Obama a thing or two while they were his students.
The topic was, in the diluted form required by mass media: what’s worse — being black, or being a woman? My answer of course, was “Both. Imagine how I must feel.” The host, Rick Sanchez, said I couldn’t sit on the fence, I had to choose. Continue reading