Question on Race in America

Just wanted to share a conversation I had with a white female co-worker the other day. She made a statement that kind of caught me off-guard. Please believe I didn't share too much of my opinion with her, but I did, in fact, disagree. It's still been on my mind, so I thought I'd ask you all the same question.

Do white women have it worse than black men in America? Or to restate this question in other terms, is sexism more of a problem in America than racism? Her opinion is simply "yes." Given this election, I'm sure a lot of white women are feeling this same way. And if Obama wins this election, will this prove her assumption? Now, for the record it amazes me that anyone, other than black women, can say that they have it harder than black men. But even I can't say that black women have it harder than black men. I know black men and women have different struggles, but I'm not sure who has it the "hardest." But that's just my opinion.

Maybe this is why black men are so drawn to white women (and vice versa) - due to their similar "struggles" and all? (*Please note the cynicism.)

Personally, I've always felt that my being "black" trumps being a woman. Sexism I can deal with. Everyone has a woman in their life in some form or fashion - at some point they are forced to confront that - right? However, I was born black which is a very unique circumstance that only other black people can begin to understand on so many different levels. However, a discussion on the impacts of race will take me several volumes of text explain, so I'll just stop now.

In her defense, she does admit that she feels that black women have it the worst. Also we work in a male dominated field of engineering & information technology, so I can slightly see her point. However, the black male representation is smallest of all in our office - so what's the basis? I agree sexism does exist, but to draw a parallel to what black men have gone through for hundreds of years is a bit much. I disagree when my gay friends do the same thing - not the same, I sympathize, but that's another post as well. So I guess I'm still a bit confused.

What do you think? Speak on it...


Keli September 17, 2008 at 9:22 PM  


if white women have it worse than black men...

where does that leave the black woman?

brightstarr September 17, 2008 at 9:46 PM  

Good question. I guess the answer is at the bottom of the totem pole.

Anonymous September 17, 2008 at 9:59 PM  

well isn't the white woman always the victim when it comes to black men? so i say "sure" why the hell not?

T September 18, 2008 at 7:33 AM  

I could write a whole post to reply to this post, in fact, I might.

You have what is mathematically factual, then what is actually happening.

Fundamentally, there are more women in the United States than there are black people, so you could say that sexism is mathematically a bigger problem than racism because it affects more people.

What's acutally happening though is that black men are being profiled on America's highways, white women are clutching their purses when they see them in elevators and government laws are targeting them specifically (marijuana laws, mob action laws, public indecency laws i.e. sagging pants are against the law in many places) AND even organizations that benefit from black men are targeting their innocence negatively (no touchdown dances in the NFL, no out of high school NBA players, no jogging suits or headbands on the way to the game)

So maybe women make less money than men for doing the same jobs, but black men are disproportionately targeted, jailed, mocked and used in all aspects of American life.

I would also argue that its not the system's fault that most women make less money than men. I'd say its their own fault 'cause they can't "MAN UP" and ask the company to pay them what they're worth. Women have been socialized to be polite and asking for more money isn't "polite."

Ok, I'm not done, but I'm stopping. Check out my blog in a couple of weeks for more on this.

Submariner September 18, 2008 at 8:57 AM  

That's as dumb as asking "Is cancer worse than AIDS?" That sort of reasoning makes my unique challenges subordinate to yours and reinforces a zero-sum approach to politics. How does the dazzling achievement of one black man result in tangible benefits to the entire colective? The fact is that if Barack Obama is the next POTUS there will be no black representation in the Senate. Currently, there are fourteen white women in the most privileged governing body. There are only five black CEOs on the Forune 500. The fact that only eight women, none black, occupy such positions is hardly reassuring. Why fight over whether a Jewish family fractured by Nazi terror is worse than an African family rendered by slavery? Tell your colleague that trying to find such ethical equilibrium lets evildoers off the hook and is a poor substitute for justice. Racism and sexism are both real and harmful to their victims. I should disclose that I'm a brother, by the way.

MP September 18, 2008 at 10:38 AM  

This is impossible questions to answer. I have the proverbial 2 strikes against me, black and woman, and when I look at life in through the lense of who has it the hardest I start to feel hopeless.

If we look back to the civil rights movement black women supported black me in efforts to be seen as contributing members of society. We support them expecting that they would turn back around and lift us up with them. That didn't happen. Happening simultaneously was the Women's Rights movement. White women reached out to us for a reciprocated support but we were taught that they were not be trusted. We also taught that race came before sex. In the end the hierarchy went something like this, white men, black men, white women, black women.

It doesn't matter how much we progress in terms of race men all throughout history have shown that they are intimidated by women in power and would much rather not see them there.

So who's life sucks most? Black women. In this argument the winners are the losers.

MP September 18, 2008 at 12:53 PM  

i just re-read what i wrote earlier and I HAVE GOT TO START PROOF READING!!!!!!!!

T September 18, 2008 at 2:38 PM  

"Tell your colleague that trying to find such ethical equilibrium lets evildoers off the hook and is a poor substitute for justice."

@ submarine, I love that quote. I wish I'd thought of it first. :)

reflection September 18, 2008 at 3:44 PM  

I agree, well said Submariner. I'm glad we can have such open and candid discussions about these topics of racism and sexism. One positive result of this election, regardless of the outcome, is that it's opening the door for these discussions to be a common day occurence. I personally think this is a great thing.

Shell September 18, 2008 at 5:55 PM  

When we start getting into who has it worst it gets murky. Let's just say that anyone who isn't a white privileged male is shafted in someway.

The Breaking Point September 21, 2008 at 1:31 AM  

It's no one's place to quantify the suffering of another, but what I will say is that if white women have it worse than black men, well, they should just about be on the verge of extinction.

charlese September 22, 2008 at 8:45 AM  

I don't think anyone wins when we play the my-pain-is-worse-than-your-pain game. I do, however, find it interesting that when there are discussions in the black community about sexism, it is seen largely as a white woman's problem and that problem is largely summed up as pay inequality. Pay inequality is only the tip of the iceberg. To me the relentless objectification of women is a problem that infests our everyday lives to the point that we don't even really recognize it for what it is. If you don't believe me check out the R Kelly post. Or better yet, click on BET. Unfortunately, as a black woman, I have experienced far more sexism from men, women, white AND black alike. Come to think of it, I get more overt discrimination from the people who can afford to dish it out the least -- black men and white women. But I digress...

This question is as old as this country. To some extent, it's irrelevant. Both sexism and racism are equally abhorrent and both serve their intended, mutual purpose -- to distract us from those who benefit from their existence.

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