Coke or Pepsi?

Or, stupid choices that serve mostly to distract and divide disempowered people from the true source of their problems.

If forced at gunpoint to choose a more shat-upon demographic as a voting criteria for the presidential election, then I guess I would agree with Mike, but it’s pretty problematic to compare opressivity levels. I mean, sure, Black folk get less pay, bad social services (edu-related), and more bullets from shithead cops, while women get…less pay, bad social services (repro-related), and more rape from shithead men (including cops!).

Shorter me: it just sucks to be subaltern.

I don’t know how any more can be said in any type of reasonable way. We can (and sociologists do!) chart differences in income, literacy, incarceration, vaccination, etc. and come up with charts and graphs to describe what’s going on. But, assuming one group doesn’t ‘win’ every single category we can conceive, judging the severity of an experience of oppression involves subjective weighting.  There’s no real way to know.

And really, why would you want to? This seems to be in the same category of inquiries as Comparative IQ Studies; of academic interest (maybe), but of bad practical applications. And this is a case in point: the current use of this line is to distinguish to whom one should be able to say:

“Okay, cool, do whatever you think it’s going to take. Vote for your candidate based strictly on identification.”

But saying that to anyone is incredibly disrespectful, not to mention weird: “I won’t argue with you because your race give you a pass.” What? If a progressive black dude had told me in 2004 he was voting for Alan Keyes, I would have made my case for that being an utter disaster, not demurred out of respect for the black experience of America which now justifies any off the wall electoral strategy.

Being a white guy, I sometimes tone down the assertive/overbearing aspects of my advocacy in personal interactions because it’s easy to fall into traditional race/gender roles wherein my opinion shuts down other’s. But it’s significantly different to alter how one goes about discussion than to decline to even engage in one.

The reality is that there’s a strong tendency to vote for people ‘like you.’ So Clinton gets more woman, Obama gets more black folk, and Edwards did disproportionately well among white men. I know: not a surprise. But that doesn’t mean we need to sort out these demographically-based decisions as good or bad; legitimate or no.  Better just to agree that identity-voting is very bad when the white/male block does it (maintains an unrepresentative status quo) and problematic when disempowered groups do it (so often there is little reward other than the visceral pleasure of identifying with the winner).

What we really need is a ranked voting system that assigns points for second and third place so candidates are specifically encouraged to appeal outside their demographic in order to win…a task for next week.

3 comments to Coke or Pepsi?

  • A) Context, dude. I am not pleased about you doing this without reference to the context.

    B) You really don’t see a difference between telling a white woman how I think she should vote and telling a black man or woman? As far as I’m concerned, the idea of any equivalence at all is a fantasy.

  • Not trying to displease you Mike! I criticize because I’m interested. What’s the missing context?

    I’m not trying to say there’s an equivalence, just that there’s no way to compare or weigh the experience of being black and/or a woman, and that it’s a bad route to try to say which is ‘worst.’

  • I think the useful context here is that I didn’t just decide to write that out of the blue — it was in response to somebody’s question. It’s not like I seriously wake up in the morning and ask myself, “Who should be allowed to do what?” Atrios suggested there was an attitude, and I explained why I thought there was *some* reason to it. I also thought it was clear from the rest of the post that I was a bit more tentative on the point than your characterization would suggest — the strongest claim I made was that this kind of thinking “wasn’t entirely unreasonable.”

    You are right, though, that “worst” isn’t the best metric — although, again, I have very little patience for people who don’t intuitively recognize the right answer here, even if they couldn’t prove it.

    A better way to think of it might be mutual levels of intelligibility. I basically feel that I understand white women. I could be totally wrong, but I generally feel like I get them.

    I grew up in black neighborhoods, hardly avoided black people in my day to day life, and I don’t really understand black culture. Watching a movie or television show made by black Americans is like watching something from another country. I simply do not get what’s happening on even the most basic thematic level 90% of the time. In these circumstances, I think it would be absurd for me to tell them what I think they should do. I don’t even know what game they’re playing — let alone the rules.

    But I really do think I more or less get what’s going on with white women in general, and so I’ll have the sort of arguments with them that I do with white men.

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