race before gender, gender before race

by the way, this blog endorses Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate - just thought I would get it out there.

Beyond policy, commitment to change, his anti-Iraq War stance, and the fact that Clinton will "fire up" the Republican base, I have decided to back Obama because he represents many first-generation Americans who are doing big things. I mean, what can be bigger than running for the presidency against the Clinton machine (note, I used to support the Clinton/Clinton ticket....how I changed, na long story....will explain another day).

And for many African Americans, the choice is sometimes based on the fact that they would like to see one of their own in the White House as well. I sort of assumed that this would be true for most who consider themselves Black (though let me add, that I have nothing against those who think otherwise...and I )

Anyway, this assumption was questioned when I caught some of the commentary of Ohioans during their primary last week. A black female (can't remember her name) said she was voting for Hilary because according to her, "she is a woman first and an African American second..."

My initial reactions to these comments were that this woman has imbibed the unpopular stance of "betraying the race." However, as i thought more over this woman's comments, I began to realize that she is not alone, that there are several black women - African and African American - who have often chosen gender over race. For example, one person that easily comes to mind is Alice Walker and her classic novel, The Color Purple. Many in the black community felt that she weakened the fight against racism in order to pursue a feminist agenda. I guess an African example would be women who fight against female circumcision at the risk of portraying their people in a bad light. Or, to bring it home, my post on misogyny in African music. Sometimes in the course of pursuing Africanism (if there is such a word), feminist issues can be sidelined.

I have not yet sat down to think of who I am first - a woman or a member of the African diaspora. I would think that I am first an African and then a woman therefore countering this woman's statement. And in regards to females that I admire that I mentioned in my first post on african feminism, I have a feeling that they would also take the same stance as well. I, admit, I have not read much on african feminist theory, but I wonder if that is the point of african feminism - to put the african back into feminism as opposed to putting infusing feminism into africa. Or rather, as I hope to do, find a balance between the two. Once again, thoughts on which you consider first - africanism or feminism - would be appreciated. If you have some recommended reading that would also be appreciated (Misan, I read A Thousand Splendid Suns - it was great...a post on Afghani feminism...akuko nke mbu...is forthcoming).

Oh, and Happy International Woman's Week!

22 comments:

  1. trae_z said...:

    uhm quite a tricky one, another version would be girlfriend before best friend or best friend before girlfriend...when it comes to who gets the passenger seat in the car.

    whatever sha, like thousands of black males in the cybereagles.com forum i stand "cluelessly" behind Obama. bros b4 hos :-)

  1. pamela said...:

    girl you need to let me know when you have updated. I was coming here to put my normal, "when are you going to update" and there was the post.

    LOL!! We are discussing the same issue but I guess from different view points.

  1. Uzezi said...:

    race before gender, or gender before race? truth is many people are just being sentimental. It has nothing to do with being a woman, or being black. Can't they just look at the intergrity of the person and experience? who really has the chance of beating the republicans?
    both of them, any who wins, will make history - first woman president of usa, first black president of usa. Questions the africans americans should ask themselves, are they really ready for a black president?

  1. SOLOMONSYDELLE said...:

    I had a nasty debate about this many years ago in college. At that time, I squarely believed that my nationality was paramount to my sex.

    Now, many years, laer and hopefully, many years wiser, I don't think I can posit that same response. Here's why. I wonder whether my Nigerianism/Africanism is even separate from my feminism. I don't think they are separate. The way I look at women's issue stems from my Africanism. I meet a lot of African men who feel the same way, and yes, male African feminists exist, though in a minority. lol! The issue is changing the way African culture looks at women and her role in the family and larger society. The bastardization of the woman's position is something that we must all be ashamed of. Anyway, not sure if I am making sense because I am distracted by my 11 month old son, who doesn't care about theory but wants me to carry him on my back. So, I'm off.

    (Do you get it?)

    NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
    IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

  1. nneoma said...:

    @trae_z - Yeah, I can see your real-world analogy. Umm, but I have always shuddered at the statement "bros before hos" during this campaign because I believe that Mrs. Clinton has done a significant amount throughout the course of her life that demands more than being labeled a ho. Also, I think that statement re-emphasizes sexist attitudes pervasive during the campaign. I think neither sexism nor racism have any place in our politics or society. Sorry to sound harsh, but just had to set the record straight.

    @pamela - i know. i came online thinking dat ur widow's post was still up, only 2 find dat great minds think alike...lol. wrote a HUGE response 2 ur post. will promise not to post a post in the comments section next time.

    @uzezi - as i mentioned, I am not only voting for Barack because he is black. I mentioned that *beyond* the relevant issues that "gosh, peeps, He's black, too!" I only used this as a spring board in to the conversation about race and gender and when one trumps the other in the examples that I mentioned (female circumcision and the like). I do not agree with the person that I quoted that one should use race or gender to pick a candidate. And in regards to who would best best the Republicans, national polls have shown that Obama is better in this regard. Additionally, Obama and McCain have high cross-over appeal, meaning they have to ability to attract members of the opposing party which is key in the election. Sadly, Clinton does not and her negativity towards Obama may split the Dems if she wins. Are African Americans ready for a black president....I dont think that question should matter in a national contest. The question is America ready to get Bush out of the White House? And I think the majority of Americans will agree.

    @solomonsydelle - i agree that it shouldn't be seperate but just to play the devil's advocate (oh i hate that term) what of in an issue like female circumcision. In that case it is definitely culture versus gender. For those who follow America's Next Top Model, there is a Somali contestant, Fatima, who talks about her experiences as a victim of this practice. I hear she is getting a lot of bad mouthing in the Somali community because they feel that she is presenting Somalis in a bad light by talking about this and the Somali war. This is the lot of many feminist who take up arms with feminist issues to the detriment of culture.
    Also, let me add that African male feminists are a *growing* minority...there's hope. Many just don't want to admit it....they're in the closet, so to speak...lol.
    I think I get it....I too, would choose to be on my mommy's back, rather than espouse theory, that may threaten to illegitimize my right to my mommy's back....

  1. Anonymous said...:

    In Nigeria , I am a woman first before i am my race or tribe. Out of Africa, I am black first before I am a woman. To think otherwise is delusional.When people see me, they see my color before my gender. I do not dispute that sexism is quite strong here, i find it more disturbing than back home,i don't know why. However like i said, I am black before I am a woman.

  1. nice read...i think i am with ssd...i am a woman based on my african/nigerian/black heritage [whatever black is-a whole other post abi?]...but i am also african/nigerian/black based on the fact that i am a woman...both color the way in which i show up in either...great question though...

  1. Waffarian said...:

    I have discussed this topic so many times...let me gather my thoughts....

    Okay, on the voting issue, I am with Uzezi that "may the best candidate win", as in, the person that is best suited, as in terms of experience and qualifications should win. It does not matter if the person is mexican or chinese.

    Now, on the second issue, gender vs race, I find that identiity is the key here. It depends on what you base your own identity as an individual, and I have to say it is very different for all of us.

    For example, some women, might put their "religion" before anything else. Their role as a christian might even come before their role as a woman or mother(think of the many examples of Jehovah witnesses denying their sick kids blood transfusion)

    Another example you can think of, is when sexual orientation becomes their basis for identity. I bet if there was a homosexual running for presidency, the whole gay community will back the person without even thinking twice. So, the most important question when we discuss these issues, should be, "who are you"?

    I am a human being. An individual, first and foremost.We all are, you may say. Well, from my own experience, I have met and bonded with the most unlikely people....CHARACTER for me, is a deal breaker. I am more likely to bond with a farmer's son from Poland than a minister's daughter from Nigeria. I have had more in common with a bisexual man from France than my own Nigerian brother.

    What I am trying to say, is that I do not allow gender or race play such a defining role in my identity. I know who I am and where I am going. Ofcourse, my own experiences as an African woman will always shape my life. But I try to get the best from everything. I take the practices that are best suited to my personality, and discard the rest.

    Do you get what I am trying to say? My principles in life, the core of my being, comes first, before my colour or my gender.

    I know who I am, I know what my beliefs are and my gender or race can not be a deal breaker.

  1. Morountodun said...:

    I had a conversation with a friend recently who sees herself as a Muslim first, Woman second and Nigerian third and I didn't get it. But I guess one's identity should be down to the individual to decide but irrespective of this aren't there more factors at play like social and economic?

  1. Obinwanne said...:

    i feel same about clinton, and right from day 1 i have backed obama and i stronger believer i what he has to offer...i just hope fate works in his favour...been outta blogville for a while...but im back fully...so feel free to check me anytime anyday ....hope you enjoying ur weekend....

  1. nneoma said...:

    @anonymous - I can see how this race before gender and vice versa can mean different things in different places. I can see how pursuing a feminist agenda in Nigeria could trump staying within ethnic lines. But then I could see how in the US, racial solidarity could trump a feminist agenda. But I guess it ultimately depends on context and the situation you see yourself in. And those people may find that each one is equally important but do not know what to do when one is at odds with the other.

    @guerreiranigeriana - who doesnt agree with solomonsydelle?lol. It's just that sometimes I find it difficult to strike that balance and sometimes one shows up stronger than the other and vice versa.

    @waffarian - i wish presidential races could be color blind and religion blind. look at the flack Romeny got for being a Mormon. Look at the flack Barack Obama got for having an Muslim name. And I am sure if a Mexican were in the race, anti-immigration peeps would race all sorts of hell and the same if it were a Chinese person. American society has not come that far yet. And if I may I will add another thing that a president needs - sound judgment.
    In regards to identity, many people base their identity a number of different identities. Some people are of mixed heritage. Some people are dual citizens of two very different nations, like myself. Some also, see Africanism and womanism as two very essentiall components of their identities.

    I do see your point about you, and it takes alot, well, I'm speaking for myself, to get to that point. For example, on campus I know allllll of the Nigerians and most African students even though most of us dont share anything in common. But I cannot say the same for those who do share my core values and beliefs. Its difficult and one day I do hope to get to that point in which I am more connected to people over those types of qualities rather than the more tangible ones. I think I am getting there, but I still have some ways to go.

    @Morountodun - I think many who hold on to a particular faith or religion probably value that more than any other aspect of their identity. I know I do, so I can see how your friend does too. However, it gets tricky when faith, or at least someone's intepretation of your faith, becomes incongruous with certain aspects of your identity. I know of several women, both in Islam and in Christianity, who are pursuing feminist agendas in the face of opposition from keepers of the religion.

    @obinwanne - nwa nna m, welcome back to the blogosphere. I feel you on the Clinton vs. Obama choice. I am an ardent supporter of Obama but that does not mean that I am anti-Hillary. I do hope Obama is able to overcome this season of negativity, attacks, and the kitchen sink strategy and prepare for the challenge ahead in the general election. Will be visiting your blog soon.

    @pink-satin - thanks! It is something that I have been thinking about but have not yet been able to articulate since I heard this quote. I agree with the many that said that our choice should not be based on identity but I find that this theme plays over in other aspects of society. hope you'll stop by again

  1. pamela said...:

    okay, girl when you going to tackle SEX.

  1. ewo!!!...see this pamela's mouth o!!!!...lol...

  1. SOLOMONSYDELLE said...:

    I came here to leave a serious comment and then saw what pammy said and I am cracking up. lol! Oh my!

    But, sista nneoma, your pointing out the example of that Somali girl is an extremely good one. It just reinforces that we have allowed our roles as women in society to become compartmentalized. Some think that a woman must cook but not eat the big piece of chicken. A woman should be seen and not heard. It makes no sense.

    Female circumcision is not just a female issue it is a cultural issue that has ramifications in almost every sector of society whether some of us admit it or not. Women's issues are everyone's issues because the Lord knows that when he made us women, he put the entire world on our shoulders and thanks be to God, i can have a discussion about feminism (from an educated vantage point i.e. feminism class - B. Emecheta...) with a baby wrapped on my back. We need to continue to show that we are multifaceted, to remind everyone that to be a woman does not mean that our needs/issues are secondary to those that are typically male. Nigerians, and Africans in general, must realize beyond a doubt that womens issues are national issues and not just 'our' problem.

    And to the commenter that pointed out that its all about how people see you. Well, I definitely see your point. But, I ask, when do we stop defining ourselves by how outsiders see us? I just started having computer issues, so let stop now before I lose material. Off to save.

    Thanks for an enlightening conversation.


    NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
    IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

  1. *I really love this post. Voting on the basis of gender or race truly bothers me, and it seems to be at the center of this election. I was pro-obama at first..now I am undecided. I am researching ALL the candidates and want to know as much as I can about their policies.
    *If you like books on women in the middle east, everything and anything by Jean Sasson is a MUST read

  1. Uzezi said...:

    its been an interesting post, wonderful comments that got me thinking and extremely educative. so girl, it's been one week and u need to update so I can educate myself further. really love ur blog u see? I learn a lot. U make readers pour out their brains into my brain

  1. nneoma said...:

    @pamela - hmmm, a sex post. I thought about it, but i have not yet come up with a topic that wouldn't require me to reveal alot of personal information....though, gnigeriana's recent post should fulfill that appetite. an interesting read.

    @gnigeriana - i'm used to it....lol

    @ssd - yes, i agree with a multifaceted approach to our identities rather than a compartmentalized view. And to be honest, I feel that African feminists moreso than western ones, have been able to integrate these two identities. I could be wrong here.

    @uzezi - yes, i am not the most up-to-date blogger...one day

    @oracle - thanks!

  1. I was talking with someone the other day; race before gender or gender before race?
    Like you, I'll put my race before my gender..i really dont know why, perhaps because I feel i share a more familiar ground with someone who shares my culture than one who has the same private parts as I do..I'll have more to talk about with a random nigerian I meet than a random white woman in the airport

  1. nneoma said...:

    @Zephi Fahrenheit - "perhaps because I feel i share a more familiar ground with someone who shares my culture than one who has the same private parts as I do.."

    my point exactly...

  1. nneoma said...:

    well correction to the above - yes, it is my point exactly, buuuuuut, I would like to get to a point in which I am at ease and conversant with both identities