Conform versus Reform — Minorities and Women in High Office

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People of both American political parties are ecstatic over the ascendancy of Barack Obama, a black man, and Sarah Palin, a white woman, to the presidential/vice-presidential tickets of the mainstream American political parties. Does this reality mean that minorities and women in high office have changed American politics for the better? Do the needs and views of minorities and women now get higher priority?

Let’s take a look at some recent examples of high-placed minorities and women in high office, but just below the presidential/vice-presidential level. Colin Powell held several positions of high influence in the military and in the Bush Cabinet. Did Colin Powell reform the military away from imperial dominance of Third World nations? Did Colin Powell as Secretary of State change the perspective of U.S. policy towards Iraq or anywhere else. Did Colin Powell reform the system, or did he conform to it? The evidence is that Colin Powell not only conformed to the system, but he compromised his integrity in so doing; particularly in his disgraceful appearance before the United Nations as Chief Spokesman to the international community in favor of an illegal, immoral, unjustifiable war of aggression against an innocent Iraq.

Condoleeza Rice is both a woman and a black person, also holder of high office culminating in appointment as U.S. Secretary of State. Has Condoleeze Rice changed U.S. policy in line with the views of most African American women and women of all colors? Or has she taken a hard line against the oppressed people of Palestine, against Russia, against Iran, to the point of demonizing any and all who resist U.S. hegemony? Condoleeza Rice cannot even bring herself to tell the truth about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, preferring to refer to Mr. Chavez as a "dictator" and a "tyrant" when she knows full well the truth that Venezuela’s citizenry overwhelmingly elected Chavez in monitored elections that are far better indicators of the democratic will of the people there than American elections have been for the past few cycles.

On the other hand, look at Cynthia McKinney. Ms. McKinney is a black woman with integrity, with the willingness to speak loudly for justice and for her constituency. As a reward for her quality performance in these areas of social justice, international peace, fairness, and democracy, Cynthia McKinney had to leave her party, the Democrats, and has zero chance of being elected president, though her adherence to principle dramatically exceeds that of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin combined.

Both political parties in this day and age pretend to revere the late activist and agitator Martin Luther King. Both claim that America has made tremendous "progress" since Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. Yet, if Martin Luther King was alive today and speaking out on relevant issues of today as he did in his lifetime, would he be a viable candidate for the Presidency? Or would he be assassinated now as he was then?

Barack Obama claims to venerate Dr. King, but his entire political campaign hinges on his being unlike Dr. King. And it is fascinating that Barack Obama avoids black issues but tackles feminist issues, unlike Sarah Palin. Barack Obama has stated that he would fight so that his daughters could have equal pay for equal work when they come of age to enter the work force. Does Sarah Palin argue for such? Does she argue for minorities, for the environment? Sara Palin is proud of being nominated for the Presidency, but says nothing about the fact that female soldiers in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by male U.S. soldiers than killed in combat. Both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more eager to free Afghan women from oppression than to lift America’s dispossessed from poverty or perpetual imprisonment of black males in America.

The fact is that the ascendancy of blacks and women to positions or nominations for high office in America is a sign of the conformity of the individual rather than reform of the society. It is easier for the occasional women to reach executive positions in corporations or government than for the majority of women to get fair treatment in the workplace, even at WalMart. It is easier for an exceptionally talented black man to become a millionaire or a national hero in entertainment, sports, or politics than for a boy in the ghetto to get a job and avoid prison.

No one should be fooled. America has progressed in small areas, and retreated in others. More people are entrapped in poverty than ever before. The gap between rich and poor is increasing exponentially. The middle class is moving steadily backwards, not only for blacks and minorities, but for everyone. Barack Obama or Sarah Palin will not change this, nor do they desire to.

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