The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Monday, January 28, 2008

Creating a Pipeline

Without question there is a movement afoot and Barack Obama is inspiring and engaging the minds and hearts of Americans across generations and races and religions. In that there is something to celebrate for us all.

But I have to admit that my celebration of Obama's movement is not wholehearted. I searched myself and discovered that what's clouding the celebrating for me is the fact that while Obama and a few others are making headway and creating a pipeline for Black male political leadership, I don't see a woman of any color similarly situated. Mind you, this is NOT an argument akin to Gloria Steinem's stumbling and inaccurate portrayal of gender bias as more significant than racial bias. I am saying that women are going to have to be more intentional about finding and backing candidates up through the ranks so that there will be a similar female pipeline.

While I agree with those who lament Hillary's inextricable connection to the problematic Bill, I am also aware of the history of US politics in which the first woman governor took over for her husband and the first woman elected to the senate did so after completing her husband's unexpired term. Marriage has been the pipeline of political success (and sometimes ecclesiastical success, too)for women in the United States. As gifted and smart as Hillary is, we would not know about her were it not for her husband. That's a fact of sexist life.

I know I am feeling this concern particularly poignantly as a woman seeking a pastoral call. If you think about it, while Black men are at least as unlikely as white women to be called to the senior pastorate of a majority-white church, it is not likely that the reason they are rejected will be biblical. At this point no one credible is saying that it is God's plan that white men be in charge. Yet Black church women frequently remind one another that men are supposed to be the head.

I read AverageBro's blog this morning in which he talked about being able to say to his young son that he could grow up to be anything he wants to be. AverageBro views in Obama's candidacy the possibility that in America anyone can be president. I am not so sure that that's what an Obama presidency would mean for our daughters.

Note: For other reflections on the meaning of Saturday's South Carolina primary for Black women, check out Renita Weems's blog.


Johanna said...

You make some interesting points. I recall in black womens studies classes I took in college an interesting discussion we had on race and gender and the interesting dynamics that exist. Are black men or black women more disadvantaged? How do white women fall in the mix? Some say black men have been more disadvantaged because black women are less "threatening" or black women "kill two birds with one stone" when recruiting. Others say that black men have the advantage, as they are men. I think its a complicated issue and that the issue with churches is a very unique one. As you well know, Sunday mornings are the most segregated times of the week in the US. Add on top of the issues some churches have with women pastors.

I also agree a woman candidate for president, like women in business, has to tow a very thin line -- if they are as aggressive as their male counterparts...they are labelled often the "b" word. If they are too soft and feminine -- they are not "go getters" and ineffective. However, there are some interesting stats, I recently encountered:

1. a majority of US millionnaires are women and women now control more than 1/2 the wealth in the US.
2. Because women tend to live longer, they will end up in charge of much of $41 to $136 trillion expected to pass from generation to generation over the next 50 years.

The other point of note, just from my own experience both in the public and now the private sectors, I encounter far more women (both white and black) than black men. In the particular office that I work in (which is I grant small compared to the rest of the company), I believe there is only one black male and he's the diversity director, there are at least 10 black woman.

I point all of this out, not necessarily to draw any conclusions, but just to say that race and gender is complicated. I don't know if it's as simple as who's discriminated against more or who has more advantages in one way or another because, just as I know Hilary has to tow a line, I believe Obama has as well (to sell himself as more than "black" candidate, but at the same time not upsetting some in the black community who want him to talk more about "black" issues). I remember during one of the earlier democratic debates that one commentator noted that Obama had to ensure he did not unknowingly make the wrong body language towards hilary (e.g. walk over to her during the debate or appear to tower over her as her opponent did when she first ran for the Senate) because it appeared to be threatening or inappropriate because Hilary is a woman.

My two cents...

BTW - Condi could have had a serious run for Prez and she would not have had a husband or man that opened the door for her (unless you count Bush :) )

Leslie D. Callahan said...

Your point about Condi is well-taken. She would be a formidable contender. I don't think I could vote for her because she is soooooo ideologically opposite me. But I almost wish today that she would run.

Johanna said...

Unfortunately, people who probably would make the best candidates are sane enough to not want the job.

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