Dear New York State NOW,
I am writing to express my extreme disappointment in your decision to criticize Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama in the presidential primary and election. As a Black liberal feminist/equalist, and a woman, I was mortified at the assumption made in your criticism that endorsing a male candidate is automatically “sexist,” especially considering the race of the candidate endorsed. This is far too simplistic a statement for an organization with such a rich history of educated activism for gender and racial equality.
Focusing on the goal of sex equality does not mean that your chapter should completely ignore other inequities in our society. Race, like gender, is clearly a great factor in the inequality we see in our country and our world. Whether you choose to focus primarily or exclusively on feminist issues is of course to be left to the governing body of your organization and your charter, however, to pretend as if other inequalities do not exist, as I believe you have done in issuing your statement, is short sighted to say the least. As far as I am concerned, having a Black president elected would be just as significant as having a woman president elected considering our nation’s history of race inequality – a history, I dare say, you have ignored in your criticism despite advocating race equality in other areas.
In a political race where two previously unrepresented minorities are being represented on the slate, it is not fair or appropriate to suggest that showing support for one over another is based exclusively on the minority status of the supported or unsupported candidate. I would even posit that supporting John Edwards in this election would not necessarily or exclusively be a rejection of Blacks, or women, or Black women for that matter. I have to wonder, had Senator Kennedy endorsed Hillary Clinton, as the NOW PAC has done, would your chapter have so openly accused him of betraying Blacks by not supporting Barack Obama? If your presumption is that not voting for Hillary Clinton indicates an anti-woman agenda, what do you propose a Black woman is to do? Choose between being anti-woman and being anti-Black? This is hardly a fair proposition.
I am not so na’ve to be unable to understand that having a woman president or a Black president has real potential for improving the lives of women and Blacks respectively, but I choose to put my faith in a candidate who I believe would, in spite of and regardless of his or her race or gender be able to represent and appropriately address the needs of women, Blacks, Latinos, Whites, Asians, homosexuals, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Mormons, Native Americans, children, the disabled, the elderly – and the list goes on – equally. None of these things requires that the person elected be of a specific race or gender- nor does wanting these things require that you vote for a person who is all of these things combined. I assure you that few eligible parties would fit the bill.
I commend the national NOW organization for issuing a statement respecting Senator Kennedy’s right to endorse and vote for his candidate of choice. I only wish your chapter had the same respect for one of our nation’s most integral and precious civil liberties- hard won in our Constitution for women and Blacks alike.
Bridgette L. Hylton ’09
January 29, 2008