Ferraro & Affirmative Action

Warning...this isn't going to be a well edited piece, so I hope you stay with me.

What Geraldine Ferraro said about Barack Obama is correct and insulting all at the same time. I am more insulted than anything. I'm sure this debate is happening at many other blogs and while I usually like to highlight non-A-listers, I'm going to point to the comments at Feministing.

So why am I insulted?

Because her comment that Obama is lucky to be a black man in this race sounds like the times I have heard comments directed at me and others that the only reason "you got into college/ that scholarship/ this job/ that promotion" was because they needed a woman or Latina in it. The scholarship I went to college on was directed at Black and Latin@ students. But we had to have a certain ACT score to qualify and had to continue to have a good GPA while at school. Thus, I feel like I earned my scholarship. I had other scholarship offers at other schools - one from a Michigan school just for being out of state. Huh? If you don't know Michigan suffers from a HUGE brain drain. Affirmative action policies address needs, not hand outs. So when I hear a white woman say that a black man has an upper hand because he's black, I'm insulted.

Then again, I've always known that sexism will win out in almost any race, including against race. When people have asked me if I thought we could see a woman President, I usually would say, "Right after a black man." I don't think that sexism is worse than racism...it's just that I think that given two choices (as we have now) people would rather vote for a man, any man, over a woman. And if you've been reading me, I do think that Obama and Clinton are even given both their pros and cons.

Ferraro's comment is also true...but in a very negative sense. Feministing commenter, kissmypineapple, asks:

I'm not sure what planet you're on that you think women and POC benefit when they enter a field dominated by white men. That doesn't happen here on earth, but hey, maybe you're one of those people that think affirmative action is unfair to poor, poor, white men. It certainly sounds like it.
Having been in a field dominated by white men, science, and actively working to get more women into science, I have to say that yes, it does help when you're one of the only women at a conference. You are noticed. The other white guys blend into the background. Being a Latina or any woman of color, you stuck out like a sore thumb. And that's just it. It can be a sore thing.

BUT...you have to make the most of that moment. You need to be confident in your abilities to go up to people and talk to them. To make that presentation solid, that all your conclusions are supported by fact, and that you nail the Q&A. If a woman has to do twice the work a man does to get half the recognition, people of color and women of color have to do about 10 times the work. This "benefit" cuts both ways. When you fail, you fail for an entire people. When I failed to get into graduate school in science, I felt like I let my people down. "Oh, the poor Latina didn't get into grad school...guess her work wasn't up to snuff."

So yes, I can see that the media's spotlight on Obama is one thing that none of the other candidates can claim...but he could have (and still can) trip up. Instead he's doing a decent job at maintaining his cool under this microscope. Yes, the media is fawning over him, but the "only" spotlight is harse either way.

Am I glad that Ferraro resigned? Yes. Was her comment inappropriate? Yes. Was it racist? It had a tinge. Is she racist? I don't think so.

Technorati tags: Barack Obama, Geraldine Ferraro, racism, affirmative action