Presidential Politics and the Illusion of Inclusion
Rodney D. Coates
No matter which party wins in November, history has already been made. For the first time, ever, there is a 99.9% probability that either a black or a woman will occupy one of the highest elective offices of the land. Given this historical reality, it is unfortunate that many will not appreciate the significance. For these, I now pin this article.
After all the hoopla, and after all the miss-quotes and miss -read articles, far too many people will vote for McCain because of his choice of a woman as his vice presidential running mate and far too many will vote for Obama because he is black. Doing either, which may appear to be politically correct, will in reality only preserves the illusion of inclusion.
I define the illusion of inclusion as a naive attempt at fostering diversity, while in actuality it only serves to demonstrate our ignorance of what real diversity means. The illusion of inclusion is when we are so busy trying to determine the order of the seating, and who and what should be sitting next to whom -we fail to see the person. In the rush to make sure that all the spots are filled, all dots are colored –we fail to consider who it is that we are talking to. Thus, in this strange game of monopoly, or is it the flavor of the week –we only need concern ourselves with such mundane things as whether the person is wearing a dress, has dread-locks, or has access to the ramp. Such illusions, as with all bad dreams, evade reality and often prevent us from realizing any real change.
As we watch the insanity that has followed each of these candidates as they have been scrutinized by media, the electorate, and their respective parties –many of us have been saddened by just how ridiculous the accusations, innuendos, and the extent of posturing taking place. Both of their pictures have been plastered over the internet, many of these pictures have been obviously and crudely doctored to accentuate either racial or gendered biases. Totally inaccurate stories have circulated, along with these pictures, which have even been picked up by major news groups. All in all, what should be one of the most important and salient moments in our history, as we finally come to grips with our racial and gender biases, unfortunately appears to be one in which our biases are taking center stage.
The good that all this has accomplished is that past the illusion of inclusion, we have at least begun to have some serious and significant discussion regarding race and gender. These long, overdue conversations, might just allow us to look at Palin and Obama and judge them by the content of their character and not their gender or race. Palin, a fully competent politician, who has demonstrated her electability and conservative credentials, should be judged on the merit of her record, not on the length of her skirt. Obama, equally adept at political discourse, has also demonstrated that he can effectively garner votes, lead, and promote discussions should be judged by his capacity to become a vehicle of change rather than how dark his complexion. Neither would be well served by preserving the illusion of inclusion and to have their life’s work reduced to gender and race.
*Note: Rodney D. Coates is a professor of sociology and gerontology at Miami University. He can be reached at coatesrd@Muohio.edu.
Source: the black list