At a dinner party, two friends--both middle-class, white, male, left-leaning and Democratic--nursed scotch and got a jump on mourning the loss of the 2008 Presidential election. Certain Hilary’s going to be the DFLer, they've already turned over the election to the Republican. Who could be a farting goat (and probably is). And would still beat Hilary. All my guys want is a win—sorta hoping to save the country, so the stakes seem high.
And they’re certain the Republicans have the following on Hilary: she's divisive and strident. She’s limp enough to lose a single fidelity war, let alone wage a real battle against millions. She's got History. A record. There are the pant suits, the hair style, the polysyllabic words. Don't get them going on the laugh (cackle and that rhymes with witch) unless there's more scotch. They don’t (necessarily) hold these views, but here – the land of fleshy thighs and high-pitched voices—is where the Republicans will find their fuel.
My friends started getting on my nerves.
In a recent LA Times column Mariel Garza made the astute, if blindingly unoriginal and repetitious (and therefore, tremendously discouraging) observation that much of left-wing Ann Coulter critique has sunk to ridiculing hair, thighs, nose and voice. "It's her words" that are her "worst feature," Garza reminds us. But we're too busy chortling over a hem line to deconstruct Coulter's faulty logic. Who wins? Garza tossed out the "S" word: sexism. There’s a narrative we’re allowed to deconstruct female pundits or politicians and it has nothing to do with politics.
So my friends have a line on Hilary because it’s one we’ve heard before. It’s okay to demean a woman’s body. Sport, even. But what would the Republicans do with a Black man?
Ashraf Rushdy wrote a jaw-dropping essay for Transition that has been reprinted in more than one edition of The Best American Essays. In "Exquisite Corpse, " he tells the story of Maggie Till Bradley, an African American mother who in 1955 insisted that the decomposing, water-sodden, mottled, and partially dismembered body of her 13 year old son be displayed in an open casket. "Come see what they did to my baby," she cried. Tens of thousands did. Emmitt had been lynched by white boys, bored, in need of Activity. Rushdy has more grotesque bodies in store for his reader. His point? White people can't begin to imagine Black suffering in this country. We can't begin to fully grasp the underlying narratives of contempt and how that narrative plays out on Black bodies.
African American masculinity has long housed white fear, resentment and fascination. We’re still rolling through a national history where Black manhood was once so potent that African-American men could be killed for simply looking at white women.
As I told my friends, I’m scared too. If it's acceptable to use the trappings of femininity to trash a woman, what will those witty Republicans do with a black man? We haven’t yet seen their toy box and it could be every bit as fun as the one they’ve opened for Hilary.
Make mine a double.