by Morgan Freeberg | March 29, 2009 12:28 pm
Call this one: On the Folly of Victimology
In reflecting on the different standards that are applied to women like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, versus persons of color such as the Obamas, I notice a consistent logical flaw in the way the big, amoebic, mythical “everybody” thinks. Like all logical flaws that are possible but difficult to detect, it begins with a glaring inconsistency. Palin was just now excoriated for her associations with people…so far as I can gather from the vaguely-stated charges. Like the Governor herself, this story has legs.
We needn’t speculate on whether a story about President Obama’s associations, has legs. We already know. Those stories die. You have to wait for the President to show some real incompetence at something, before you can call Him incompetent…and, all too often, even then you still can’t.
This doesn’t have that much to do with Republicans and democrats. It has to do with the victim-credentials of persons of color, versus the victim-credentials of women. These credentials do not have identical effect, or even similar effect. Don’t take my word for it. Ask any Hillary supporter.
The contradiction doesn’t begin with Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin or Barack Obama. It begins with us; it begins in elementary school.
Palin and Clinton, being women, never quite achieve adequacy in any of the things they do. Palin could have all the right friends like Hillary does, and Hillary could be more appealing and amicable, like Palin is. They would both then be attacked for not being truly thoughtful — like Margaret Thatcher. If they then both woke up one morning having been cloned from Margaret Thatcher, they’d both be attacked for being too gloomy, dour and boring. They could then both become cheerier, and they’d be attacked for not treating this-or-that situation with the serious level of attention it deserves. They could then start being more attentive and they’d be meddling…you get the picture. It just goes on, and on, and on.
This doesn’t apply to Barack Obama. As a representative of a different victim group, with a different history behind its victimology, He has a real standard to meet…as in, the criticism doesn’t exist for its own sake, the criticism exists for failing to meet the standard, and once He clears the standard the criticism turns into praise. Women can’t have that. And in Obama’s case the standard is comedically low. We’ve been hearing from His fans for over two years from now, “Oh there’s just something about Him!” — most recently from Lynda Carter. The litany never changes: He’s a special person, in a once-in-a-lifetime way, and I can’t, or won’t, specifically explain why this is.
There’s a reason nobody explains why this is. It’s rooted in bigotry against black people. As pure as has ever existed.
These people think “there’s just something about” Barack Obama because their vision of persons-of-color, is that they shouldn’t be doing any of these things. They are operating off a stereotype that was perpetuated, not during the 1950’s, but during the 1990’s during that onslaught of music videos with angry, surly, sulking, mono-browed, ethnically-rich hoodlums strutting around. That’s how the Obama fan looked at black people before Obama showed up…and now there’s something about Him. He stands up straight, says please and thank you, smiles if the occasion warrants it (and sometimes when it doesn’t), and most importantly of all knows proper grammar. “Those” people aren’t supposed to do any of those things!
So we go through this ritual where we pretend Obama’s handling of this-incident or that-episode, or His policies, are being honestly reviewed by anybody. Well, that’s not really the subject is it. To a majority among the electorate, it’s all about showcasing what a decent person you are, by approving of Him. It’s outcome-based.
And it doesn’t apply to women, because the heritage behind the victimology-that-is-women, has to do with belonging. Women belonged; blacks did not. You can certainly energize a revolution behind the argument that the womens’ position at the table was a different one, perhaps an inferior one in some ways. You can certainly complain that women were expected to set that table and clear it up afterward, while the men just burped & farted. But at least the women belonged.
And this gets back to the contradiction that germinated in our heads during elementary school days. The contradiction was: It is noble and glorious to close your eyes to a fellow student’s sex, or the color of that student’s skin, when you make the decision about whether to approve of them or not — BUT! — as these decisions you make culminate in another decision about you, whoever judges you will have their eyes wide open to these things.
That’s the contradiction. That’s where we become unmoored from reason and reality right there. Before the third grade.
We then go sailing through the years afterward, straddling this divide. Extoll the virtues of color- and gender-blindedness, but don’t actually practice it. Our mistake is to achieve a reconciliation by behaving differently toward people we actually know, versus people we don’t. We’re all so unbigoted and unsexist, because once we feel comfortable with a female, or with a black guy, we treat them just like anybody else. But then when we catch wind of some stranger who was laid off from his job, some politician somewhere we’ll never meet, mired in scandal, caught showcasing his or her own incompetence…the first thing we need to know is what group he or she belongs to. We inwardly understand this has everything to do with what ideas we’re supposed to form, and how they’ll be received by others.
So Sarah Palin’s staff, it seems, may not have kept some of her appointments straight. Perhaps. The prevailing sentiment that is aroused in response to this, whether it is given word-for-word acknowledgment or not, is: Isn’t that just like a c*t-b**t. Silly woman. Go back to raising your family and leave this to the big boys. And last summer, Hillary Clinton was treated very much the same way.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, shows all the signs of being a committed socialist whose hand has been placed on the tiller of the mightiest ship-of-state the world has ever seen. He really does “pal around with terrorists”…and yet…even when that idea is concretely substantiated and proven out, it never quite goes anywhere. It’s always dampered.
There is an urgency involved — a social urgency — in showing approval to Barack Obama’s victim-class. No matter what.
With women, the social urgency is the same, but it has to do with your potential for recognizing female competence…if & when it should ever pop up in front of you. The pressure to actually see it when it might be there, is missing. The history is different so the pressures placed on us, are similarly different. We always have that “out” with the females. We can say, when a woman who knows what she’s doing, comes our way, we’ll be ready, willing and able to acknowledge it. But this isn’t her, this is just a dumb stupid girl.
You could argue all day and night about which one of those mindsets is more reasonable. But the fact that they’re so different, and that each is practiced so consistently with regard to its associated victim-group, are persuasive arguments for ignoring the “prevailing sentiment” when one makes decisions about pressing, weighty matters, particularly the competence of people in whom such massive responsibility has been invested.
They also contribute toward a damning indictment against victimology in general. Deep down, we already know it doesn’t make any sense; therefore, it’s a mistake to think that it does. But it’s not a trivial mistake. It is, perhaps, one of the most harmful and costly mistakes we can ever make as a free society.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.
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