Thursday, October 26, 2006

Harold Ford and the White Woman Thang

A disclaimer:

I am no fan of Harold Ford. Never have been, never will be. If there is one thing I cannot stand it's a Black political conservative. I like Black conservatives just fine, but the ones that tend to be in the political spotlight are pretty much whites in Black face, when it comes to dissing African-American political interests. Harold Ford has proven that he is conservative businessman, through and through. Black or no, he does not have grassroots sentiments or grassroots concern - his career has been about getting paid. In the House, he's been as much evidence of the Congressional Black Caucus sell-out mode as anything positive for Black folks. Ignoring the old advice that "You can't out-Republican Republicans" Harold Ford has often been one of the best friends of the right-wing establishment despite the (D) next to his name.

You then add his case of homophobic foot-in-mouth yesterday on the question of New Jersey's Solomon-like babysplitting on the issue of marriage rights for gays and lesbians and it makes perfect sense that I genuinely don't dig Harold Ford.

That being said, I can say that I feel for the brother, that he is doing so well in Tennessee in the Senate race that the GOP had to pull out the old South playbook to try and knock him down:

By trying to evoke the subliminal white male fear of Black men fucking white girls.

Anyone who can make any sense out of the bimbo's appearance in this GOP ad other than as a racist code piece is a better woman than I:

You have to admit: She's just skanky.

The NAACP is, of course, histrionic over it. Even Bob Corker is running from it, RNSC's refusal to pull the ad and closet-case Ken Mehlman's feigned helplessness notwithstanding. Ford's extremely measured response? “You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is, ‘My opponent likes girls.’ ”

A high-yellow man himself, it seems clear to me that he left out a word for media consumption and what he really meant to say -- but cannot in mainstream politics, even in Tennessee -- was:

"You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is "My opponent likes white girls."

Obviously, Corker and the Republican National Senatorial Committee know Tennessee a lot better than folks gave them credit for (not that this wouldn't play right here in California too, given that the Klan and John Birchers haven't gone anywhere really but underground out here). After all, it was only a couple of years ago when the Tennessee GOP ran good-old-boy James Hart (aka Son of Hitler, to the right of David Duke) for a Congressional seat out there. Trying to link Harold Ford (a young black bachelor no matter how many almost-decolorized photos Newsweek runs of him) to white women anywhere in the South (even a ho-case like the one in the GOP ad) is like trying to chain Ford to political kryptonite.

Ford already is in a statistical dead heat for the Senate race (which to me, a veteran of the Tom Bradley election, means he's almost guaranteed to lose), so IMO this last-minute advertisement is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to reach out to those voters who say all the right things but in the privacy of the voting booth would hesitate pulling the lever for a Black man..........for fear of what that would mean in terms of things like competing for white girl attention. It's not the old BS saw of "rape" anymore - here in 2006 we now can speak more honestly about what I believe is the true genesis of this problem: white male inferiority complex, vis a vis competing for white female attention with a perceived studly hunk (and I use the term loosely, in Harold Ford's case) of Black manhood.

But that's only 1/2 of the story, IMO. From where I sit, there is *another* group this ad has bonus potential to offend to the detriment of Ford's chances:

Black female voters in Tennessee.

The extremely tense feelings that many Black women have about Black men who "abandon sisters" in their dating choices is well-known - in the Black community, anyhow. Go to any space in which single heterosexual Black women congregate and you will likely, over time, hear examples of it. Many of whom are single -- in part because they would never consider marrying a white man (history ain't that old YET in the South) -- and deeply resent Black men who date across racial lines at a time when there are only 90.1 Black men alive for every 100 Black women. Deduct the ones that are gay, incarcerated or unemployable, and you've cut the available percentage of marriagable heterosexual Black men to around 60%. Nearly 50% of all sisters under the age of 35 have never been married, as opposed to only 10% of white women.

Add the bonus fact that Black men themselves often get on Black women's case when *they* date interracially, on race loyalty grounds even as they are hitting it with white (and Latina and Asian) girls and you quickly realize that it's often a good idea to wear flame retardant asking some Black women what they think of Black men who date white women. A full-out hazmat suit might be called for (especially after a few drinks.)

Folks can say what they want about this being "racist" of Black women. They'd be right, but by focusing on that they'd also completely lack empathy for the reasons many Black women -- the head of the Black family, often -- feel as they do, often perceiving themselves as doomed to loneliness, overtly rejected as lovable, desireable women by the entire world, starting with "their own" men.

Hell, I ultimately married a white man more than once out of love despite real misgivings about it and I still put political heat on my bi-racial son about the need to seek out and marry a good *Black* woman like his mother, despite the race of his father, when it is time to settle down. (I didn't say my own racial shit isn't occasionally hypocritical for political reasons; I'm nothing if not honest.)

Look at the video again. What is the first image we are shown? That of a visibly non-white (light skinned Black, as I see it) woman pointing out that Harold Ford is "cute" and that's all that matters.

Now think of what that might mean subliminally, the image of the white woman who claims to have met Harold Ford at a Playboy party (to which it is doubtful any sisters were invited) asking him to call her.

Now, there's likely not a Black woman in Tennessee who would vote *for* Bob Corker solely because of an accusation that Harold Ford is hitting it -- or trying to -- with white girls. Sisters are lots of things, but politically stupid generally isn't one of them. But that's not how the game is played with many African-American voters. Crossing party lines just ain't all that.

Instead, they just stay home. They don't vote at all.

An outcome just as beneficial to the GOP when numbers are so close as the closet racists who will vote for Corker (aka against Ford) because of the ad.

It's clear that Harold Ford and the Democratic Party are all over this racist ad and so far, reasonably successful at lambasting it where white voters are concerned. But I wonder if anyone has even thought of a separate need to say something to Black women voters in Tennessee about Harold Ford, at the same time?

Probably not.


At 5:49 PM, Blogger Paul said...

excellent post, shanikka. and thanks for pointing out that article by Alvin Poussaint... wow, 1993!

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous hamletta said...

To be fair to the TN GOP (I know, why bother?), they didn't run James Hart in that district. The Dem congressman there, John Tanner, is unbeatable, so the GOP didn't bother with a challenger, and Hart wound up winning the primary.

They were so embarassed by Hart (and rightly so), that they put up a write-in candidate/sacrificial lamb just to save face.

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Shanikka said...


You are correct that Hart won the primary in 2004, and you are correct that Hart came forward when the GOP decided that Tanner would win regardless and originally did not field a candidate. But IMO that's not sufficient to give the GOP a pass.

Hart won the primary as a Republican. He did not run under the label independent. He won his partisan primary in a *landslide* -- because folks voted for a self-identified Republican with overtly genocidal and eugencist views. That the GOP said all the rights things to the media to try and avoid that rational conclusion about what occurred is meaningless.

I am only as interested in the gamesmanship of what the "official party" says and does as what those who self-identify as voters of a party do. Obviously, the Tennessee GOP could not officially "run", i.e. endorse and financially support, a Hitleresque racist. At least not publicly. But they didn't cancel Hart's party registration, either. Nor did the Tennessee GOP go to court to have the (R) removed from the ballot after Hart's name. (The major parties have the legal right to prevent a candidate from utilizing their ID when on the ballot, right, because of the tendency to mislead the voter.) This is why folks like me lost much love for the Connecticut Democratic party when it would not go after Joe Lieberman and strip him of his right to use the party affiliation (D) when he came out and initially insisted that he was going to run as an "independent Democrat" rather than an Independent after losing the primary to Ned Lamont.

IMO political parties cannot have it both ways. If the Tennessee GOP really was opposed to Hart running as a Republican, it could have stopped him. It didn't. It could have been loud and public about advising the Tennessee voters that it was better to vote for the incumbent Democrat than an avowed white supremacist in 2004. It wasn't. They put up, as you rightfully point out, a "sacrificial lamb" just to save face. So they could try and have their cake and eat it too: keep the power associated with the voters who supported Hart while claiming that their shit didn't stink.

Of course, Hart knew the deal and how the game is played. Which is why he had the cojones to run again in 2006 *again as a Republican* (hell, 83% of the partisan vote in his district in 2004 would be motivation for any candidate to try again). And it was not until this March that the Tennessee Republican Party did what it had the power to do in 2004, but did not: strip him of the right to use the affiliation (R) on the ballot.

It will remain to be seen how many votes Hart gets in District 8 this year, as an Independent.

At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read. Just as an aside, Harold Ford, Jr., is known for having a new girl under his arm every weekend. Incidentally, almost always a white woman. I actually saw the man hitting on one of my classmates (rather crudely, I'll add) at a party in Memphis not too long ago. Blonde hair, blue eyes, of course.

Interesting reading this commentary regarding ethnic identities. Keep it up, sista.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Shanikka said...

Hi, Anonymous:

What you say doesn't surprise me. After all, it was not too long ago that Harold Ford was trying to disclaim his own Black grandmother's Blackness, a shame and a sin if ever there was one. High yellow (as it was once called) is no excuse for being just flat out a liar, about one's race. The days of passing are over, in anyone who doesn't live in a cloud of self-hatred, anyway. That some of his family members even tried to help him further the fiction - when his grandmother's birth certificate makes crystal that she was Black - rather than give him the slapping the taste out of his mouth that old school parenting would have laid on him back in the day -- even more shameful.

But power is an extremely seductive mistress. /sigh

I have to believe that at least some sisters in Tennessee know his dating proclivities too and aren't too fond of it. I wonder what he is saying in the community to combat it? Or if he's even trying?

If he isn't, it wouldn't surprise me. Ford, who admittdly is still better than his opponent, made clear long ago who he felt beholden to, and whose interests he was most protective of: Big business. Big Money. Both things largely associated with powerful whites.

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't black women give black men a break. Harold Ford Jr. has done well for himself. He's now engaged
to an attractive white woman. His future children will have a complexion pleasing to the eye.

What do you expect from an handsome an intelligent black man? To marry some ebonic speaking ghetto queen with a stupid name like Ta-kwi-na or Ka-jee-ka?

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At present, there are few black women. Women are created by the men who protect them. Black men in general do not have jobs or social status permitting any such protection to take place. Also they happen to have a marker on their heads showing what female abandonment really looks like. This is one legitimate reason why traditionally Black men have been hated for what their existence implies: turning their backs on every single woman in their gene pool of origin. Black wombs look at what you spawn.

Black men = "Black people" minus black women and no one should support their political agenda as the only rights they are interested in or remember having been denied are the right to bed white women.

A propos of "Anonymous":
What do you expect from an handsome an intelligent black man? To marry some ebonic speaking ghetto queen with a stupid name like Ta-kwi-na or Ka-jee-ka?

this comment is mean-spirited and historically ill-informed. Blacks had/have no literacy and were/are poor (why hate on poor people?) because the people in charge of employment, the schools and transmitting literacy hated them and still do. If you had been taken from Detroit or Liverpool or the backwoods of Belarus, enslaved in Japan and then "liberated" what would you sound like in their language and would you want to be called "Akihiko"?

"stupid names like Ta-kwi-na or Ka-jee-ka" were/are an inarticulate effort to assert the right to be black in a language environment that supposes that to speak correctly is the same as being white and accepting everything white people think about blacks. Such acceptance leaves not a single black person or their memories standing.

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