One result of Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention has been another round of stories about her supporters who still harbor resentment over having to yet again watch a male grab the nomination. For awhile, the Angry White Woman voter will loom large, much like the Rural White Male who is such a problem for the Democrats except when giving Hillary her biggest primary victories. But if you look around the convention you can see another group of women who are having, if not the perfect day, a convention for the ages. I’m referring to the black women who are doubly benefiting from the Obama nomination.
You can see lots of images like this one in the slide shows or on the tube. From the look of things, these women realize that the Obama nomination is a truly historic moment, one that will empower many people, male and female, who have been waiting too long for their share of the American Dream. Equally important, they probably understand that Michelle Obama may be as important as her husband for redefining America’s image of itself.
No Hillary supporter should deride those who would expect to benefit from standing beside a president. To be fair, however, the anger many women feel is too deep to be taken lightly. Susan Faludi’s editorial yesterday provides an historical account of how little came of the passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago, and how much has been lost recently. She could have gone back to the passage of the 15th Amendment, when the suffrage movement was told, after working for the abolition of slavery, that the woman’s hour had not yet come. For educated white women who know they have been passed over before, this story must be getting old.
Faludi also reports that 25% of Clinton voters favored “the clear insanity of voicing their feminist protest by voting for John McCain.” If otherwise intelligent, politically engaged people feel pushed to that extreme, they must be hurting. More to the point, such deep anger reflects a genuine sense of injustice, one that should not be forgotten amidst the glare and good vibe of an Obama nomination. Nor should otherwise progressive commentators turn women against one another; that old trick will get enough play on the right this fall.
So, let’s give Hillary her moment in the sun, but let’s not forget who remains in the shadows. Obama’s nomination means many things, and one result is greater empowerment for those who have had to endured discrimination due to both race and gender. Indeed, as I’ve suggested before, Obama is where he is not because he is speaking about an ideal future, but because he is speaking to an America that is already changing for the better. The photograph above is one more example of how the future evoked by the Democratic candidate is already present among us.
Black women are an important part of that picture. Today, however, they are likely to be invisible–again. Let’s hope that doesn’t last. It shouldn’t: all we have to do is look around the room.
Photograph by Joe Amon/The Denver Post.
Update: I wrote this post before hearing Hillary Clinton’s speech last night, so I want to add that if the pro-Clinton resistance to Obama continues, you can’t blame her. Hillary reaffirmed her commitment to those who have been invisible to their government, and she drew her concluding inspiration from the African-American abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman. The reference apparently was lost on some. The television network I was watching seemed to think that Chelsey Clinton was the face of the speech, and news coverage today was back on the Angry White Woman. Different pictures from different media, all of them partial, but I’ll bet that photojournalism is providing the best account of the demographic reality of the convention.