This whole Sarah Palin business is getting out of control. First she’s walking onstage alongside The Maverick with her pack of five children, including her unwed, pregnant teenage daughter, and now she’s making appearances as a comedy spectacle on Saturday Night Live. What’s next? A strip tease for Gordon Brown? I wouldn’t put it past her, honestly. She has already had more than a handshake from Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who could hardly keep his salami in his sandwich upon their first meeting.
Sarah Palin as the attractive, young, white female has moved the conversation away from the business of being a vice-president to the glorification of the white woman. As much as people want to ignore the topic of race, I don’t think anyone can admit that as Americans, we have completely removed racism from our society. As far back as a few years ago, I remember a skit on a talk show where a man disguised himself as a white man, then as a black man, and went into a store in a shopping mall. The way he was treated during each experience was depressingly heart wrenching and showed that we’ve got a long way to go before we obliterate our long, embarassing history with racism. So why would this weakness conveniently not enter into a presidential campaign?
Race has been woven through the Obama campaign since the beginning. First, the most wealthy and famous American talk show host and black female, Oprah Winfrey, endorsed Obama and the media couldn’t stop talking about it. What did it all mean? Was it because they were both black? Did this mean that Oprah was going to pay good money to get this black man elected and maybe even give him some extra prime time coverage? Oh my! And now Colin Powell has rejected longtime friend and political party compatriot John McCain for the Obama camp. I’ve got it – it’s because they’re both black!
Not only the media, but the American people have run wild with the idea of race in this campaign. I remember early on, many African-Americans claimed that Obama wasn’t really African-American because his father was Kenyan, meaning he was a direct descendant of Africa and not generations beyond. His father or his father’s father’s father didn’t know slavery by the hands of a white American, meaning he could never know the everyday plight of the typical African-American – nevermind that many African-Americans don’t know their specific heritage or how long ago their relatives actually lived in Africa. And not only is Obama’s dad Kenyan, his mother is white, making him, once again, not “really” black. Right?
But then it seems that for the most part, Obama is considered a “true” black man by many people in America. Remember the Democratic National Convention when thousands of eyes lined with tears as the first black man was named a presidential nominee? The emotionally charged moment was felt by blacks, whites, Asians and otherwise in America because in that moment, Obama encapsulated his campaign slogan of hope, fully and completely.
And how about here in France, where most people don’t even believe Obama will win the election simply because he is a black man – for here, black people rarely hold office, much less distinguished ones. For a black man to be the next president is simply unfathomable for many French people. But like the Americans, Obama gives them hope.
So don’t tell me it’s not about race. If Sarah Palin were black, would all those pearl-laden, uber-coiffed, pin-striped suited white women in the audience at the Republican National Convention be cheering as loudly as they had been, seeing themselves in Palin’s reflection as “just a typical hockey mom?” Would they be laughing quite as hard about socialism jokes or flushing all their ideals about teen sex and contraception down the toilet? Would a professionally inexperienced – and corrupt – oil loving mother of five be doing as well in the polls if she were black?
This brings me to the now well-known forward circulating on the internet and through the email inboxes of me and my friends. It’s a letter published in a Colorado Springs newspaper entitled, “What if things were switched around?” Let’s take a look at a few of the points in the piece.
First, instead of Sarah Palin, what if it were Obama who had five children, including an unwed pregnant teenage daughter? In seconds, people would be calling this just another case of a black man’s irresponsibility. Whereas Palin as a black woman may have quieted the enthusiasm of McCain supporters, Obama in her shoes wouldn’t have even gotten to the plate, much less first base.
And what about education? What if Obama had gone to four or five different colleges, only to graduate with a B.A. like Palin, instead of getting his degree from a prestigious university with a law degree from Harvard to follow? On top of his already “low level of experience”, his lack of education would be a crushing blow.
The forward’s list doesn’t stop there, moving from Palin comparisons to those of Cindy McCain, Michelle Obama and of course, John McCain. Speaking of The Maverick, while Obama has had a strong, faithful, long-lasting marriage, John McCain is a divorcee who cheated on his first wife. Imagine the ultimate combination: Obama as the black man with a simple university degree, five children and an unwed pregnant teenage daughter, who had cheated on his wife before getting divorced and remarried, then gotten sued on corruption charges. I don’t care which side of the political fence you sit on – a black man with all these “credentials” would not be considered for a job as a high school teacher much less the president. So why are we revering two white candidates who embody all these qualities?
Americans should take a good hard look within themselves before going to the polls this November to decide what exactly they’ve based their choices on. I think we can all safely say that this presidential campaign has turned into a circus. But what I fear most, is that the biggest circus of all will turn out to be the McCain/Palin combination in the White House. Race issues not included.
If ever I have appreciated living in France, now is the time. I know we expats always say this before an election, but here it goes again: if John McCain becomes president, I’m staying in France forever.
Want to see more of the circus? Here’s some fun I’ve been having with the whole Palin craze. Enjoy… but responsibly.