I am a Hillary Clinton supporter.
There, I said it.
And I'm tired of the dirty looks I get when I out myself. Why is it so surprising that someone like me – a black, educated, progressive chick – would put my support behind Hillary Clinton?
Oh, I know. I'm black, so, of course, I should support Barack Obama for the number one position in the country.
My good friend recently rolled her eyes in exasperation because she'd been patient with me, waiting for me to come to my senses, but suspected that I'd still not yet hopped over into the Obama camp.
Just before Super Tuesday, as I broke bread with another friend, she sucked her teeth and shot me an incredulous look when I admitted to backing Hillary.
The other day I attended a candlelight banquet for Morehouse College, where actor and MC of the evening Hill Harper took a few minutes to remind the distinguished crowd of Atlanta's finest luminaries that he and Barack went to law school together and that he would be happy to accept money that anyone wanted to donate. He got laughter, resounding applause, and I imagine a few checks slipped into his open palm. Somehow, I suspected that if I got up on stage and offered to take checks for Hillary, I'd hear the crickets chirping in the background.
What's funny to me, though, is that before Barack entered the race, many friends and family were excited about Hillary, thrilled, actually; they believed that she was our beacon of hope, that she represented profound change. But now that Barack has entered the building, these same people have turned against Hillary and put her down, even though her positions and beliefs have not changed.
Quite frankly, I'm tired of dealing with friends, family and co-workers who cannot believe that I've fallen for the supposed race lies of the Clinton machine, that I can't see how they are manipulating this race and treating our brother – this bright light, this brilliant man – so poorly.
It's interesting that these outraged critics rarely reference the gender lines that have been crossed, the attacks Hillary has endured from opponents and the press for the past 16 years. She's been attacked for her hair, her clothes, her facial expressions, her mannerisms…John McCain even joked that she'd had sex with Janet Reno to produce Chelsea – what's up with that??? And most of us remained silent at these barbs.
I would even dare say that some of us most likely agreed with the assessments and snickered behind our hands. It's never okay to be racist in our world, but, unfortunately, it's still 'normal' to be sexist. I don't know how that level of unchallenged scrutiny and scathing criticism might develop into survival tactics when called to deal with the press and opponents now. Frankly, it amazes me that Hillary is still standing with her shoulders straight in the face of it all.
Now, in case you're questioning, I do have race pride. No question about it. I am absolutely connected to the beautiful, soulful energy of African-American culture. But I hate that I just had to say that. I hate that all black Clinton supporters are somehow expected to qualify their blackness, as if we are naïve at best and traitors to the race at worst. Hillary's national co-chair, Sheila Jackson Lee, had to do it, too. She said on the Tavis Smiley Show, "I did not leave my blackness at the door. I am still a sister. I shout in the church. I love the Lord. And I love my people."
I'm tired of race being the overriding defining piece of my identity, of black women's identities. Like Sojourner Truth said years ago, "Ain't I a woman?" Doesn't that side of me deserve attention too?
I've traveled this election's campaign trail on assignment – Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – and I've been moved, touched and inspired by the new fervor for politics everywhere, but I've also been saddened. I met two young gentlemen from George Washington University who'd volunteered for the Obama campaign in South Carolina. One, very eloquent and smart – the kind of guy you'd be proud to introduce to your parents, told me plainly that black women will always be seen as black before they are seen as women. He was a gender studies major with a concentration in black feminist theory; he shook his head and said gravely, "Race will always trumps gender."
But why? Why am I asked to always put one before the other?
A few days ago, I had the good fortune to sit in Gloria Steinem's living room. The small group included Spelman College VIPs Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Johnnetta Cole, television personality Judge Glenda Hatchett, actress Lisa Gay Hamilton, Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal and CosmoGIRL! Editor-in-Chief Susan Schulz. We had gathered to discuss strategies to raise money for Spelman's Women's Research & Resource Center.
Ironically enough, the center's research focuses on the intersections and tensions between race and gender.
I can't say that everyone there supported Hillary, but I can say there was some much-appreciated space and understanding for those of us who did. Here I was not considered naïve or misinformed, but rather I was acknowledged and applauded for taking into consideration the complex issues of gender that are still getting swept under the rug.
The truth is that the rape of, the violence against and the suppression of millions of beautiful souls just because they have ovaries is happening in every community all over the globe, and most people are not talking about it. Because my spirit swells with compassion for women's causes and concerns, I gave my heart to Hillary long ago. To me, Hillary Clinton represents revolution and radical change for the often unnoticed and forgotten 'other half' of the world's population.
If she inspires even a few of the millions of girls and women in this world to believe that they too could run for an impossible office and win, then she's the harbinger of the kind of change I think the world needs. Until we have a balanced world leadership – with men and plenty of women, especially women of color, at the table - encouraging countries to disarm, creating coalitions, focusing on the environment and supporting the least among them, change will remain a pipe dream.
I envision a new world order that works inside of compassion rather than force and that includes women at every step.
I compared the voting records and positions of Hillary and Barack. She's a bit more liberal on foreign policy and the war and he's slightly more liberal on affirmative action. She's more outspoken on women's reproductive rights, but his voting record indicates that he too is a supporter. And so on. They match or they compliment each other on the major issues. The bottom line is that these two reside in the same political orbit. I have no quarrel with those of you who support Barack – he's a fine choice – but I do get upset with those who begrudge me my choice and who dismiss Hillary because of these recent spats in the media (I know YOU know that CNN and Fox get higher ratings every time they fan the Clinton/ Obama race flames).
Hillary's politics and global intentions are dead-on. And I believe that having a woman in the most powerful position in this country is a step in the right direction of creating the world I dream of. So, again I say this loudly and proudly, I'm a Hillary supporter - through and through.
Tara Roberts is a former lifestyle editor for both Essence and Heart & Soul magazines. She is currently the managing editor of Sex, Etc