FROM phillynews.com

Posted on Fri, Mar. 7, 2008

Annette John-Hall: Black women’s Clinton problem
By Annette John-Hall

Inquirer Columnist

Well, well, maybe being in the kitchen is the place to be.
By throwing the kitchen sink – and then some – at Barack Obama the other night, solutions-not-speeches candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton rose from the dead in power red.

Adoring throngs of women chanting “Yes, she will” cheered their sister on as she vowed to win back the family home. You know, the big White one.

My house was quiet. The kids were sleeping safely. And then my phone rang. I picked it up, after the first ring.

“Every time I look at Hillary, I can’t shake the feeling that she reminds me of all the white women who have ever mistreated me in my life.”

That would be my 50-something friend, Tina, calling from Dallas.

Apparently flashing back to some of the white women bosses and coworkers who held the door open for each other – and slammed it on her.

Thirty years later, she is still getting training, working on that make-or-break experience. Like Hillary, 35 years could be her magic number.

Tina cut to the heart of why many black women haven’t overwhelmingly cast their votes in bra-burning solidarity for the “Lifetime of Experience” candidate.

I’ve heard that same resentful sentiment expressed by plenty of other older black women. I guess we’re not the ones they’re talking about when they refer to Hillary’s core base being older women.

Women’s liberation didn’t lift up black women. It helped keep them down.

Picking up the slack
“During the feminist movement of the ’60s, white women were saying they deserved to work outside of the home. But their men didn’t pick up the slack at home,” notes Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University.
“Black and brown women did.”

Truth be told, the blue-collar candidate is anything but.

“Hillary Clinton likes to cast herself as an outsider candidate, but the truth is, she is a woman of privilege who is connected at the hip to the [former] president of the United States,” Harris-Lacewell says.

Which means a woman in charge doesn’t necessarily mean women win. My friend Tina could testify to that. Well, me, too. “African American women recognize that as long as politics is old-school run, we will always lose,” she says. “The only way we can get a true hearing is to change the way politics is done.”

For all of Gloria Steinem’s gripes that gender is the most restrictive force in American life, black women know better.

Black and female come with their own challenges. And then there’s that “third burden,” argues economist Julianne Malveaux in the National Urban League’s recently released “The State of Black America 2008” – being connected at the hip to the all-too-demonized black man.

The report once again finds black women the poorest, sickest, least insured, least educated and most likely to get slapped with a foreclosure notice.

So who can fault a vote for hope? But it’s a nasty four-letter word, when Hillary gets on a mocking roll.

Faith in the choir
Yes, many of us did give her the “Oh, no, she didn’t” arched brow when she mocked the celestial-choirs kind of hope that Obama inspires.
“Celestial choirs is what got my grandmother through,” Harris-Lacewell says. “It’s what got all of our grandmothers through.”

But hope doesn’t necessarily come in a color or gender.

Campaign director Maggie Williams, an African American, answered Hillary’s call for help and righted her house just in time. That doesn’t make her any less black.

And just because Oprah’s an Obama supporter doesn’t mean she’s any less woman.

Comparable policies aside, maybe what it really comes down to is a gut feeling. A father who takes time off the campaign to take his daughters trick-or-treating, as Obama did, resonates as much as universal health care.

Or that he flies in just for an anniversary dinner with his wife, Michelle – herself an empowering image for all women.

“Here you’ve got this brilliant, Ivy League-educated, light-skinned black man who chooses as his wife an equally smart, dark-skinned black woman who is almost as tall as him,” Harris-Lacewell says. “That makes me feel he cares about who I am as a black woman.”

For a segment of the nation so long invisible, “You look at Michelle and you’re like, ‘Yes! He sees me.’ ”

While he holds open the door.


Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986 or ajohnhall@phillynews.com. Read her work at http:/go.philly.com/annette.

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  1. sjp08 Says:

    I hear you sister! You wrote this piece in March, how do you feel now? I invite you to read my latest post “Why Come?”. Just follow the link: http://sojournersplace.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-come.html


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