Identity and the minority woman voter

  • Share
  • Read Later

I feel I have a lot in common with Barack Obama. He’s half white and half other, like me. In fact, his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, interviewed here in the New York Times Magazine, is my own racial mix: half white and half Asian. He’s the closest to me in age among all the candidates. He and I both spent a lot of time in Asia and Hawaii growing up. I identify with him in many ways.

I feel I have a lot in common with Hillary Clinton. She’s a working mom and always was; I’m a working mom and always will be. She’s raised a lovely, grounded young woman, and I am striving valiantly toward that goal. Her husband, like mine, plays a wind instrument, although mine with somewhat greater proficiency. She and I both tend toward elephant ankles, though I’m hoping mine will subside after the pregnancy. I identify with her in many ways.

Herein lies a problem the media tells me I’ve been grappling with: in a presidential race now fraught with racial and gender politics, with whom does a minority woman identify?

Oprah’s involvement in Obama’s campaign could draw our votes his way, huffed swears “Clinton Faces Tough Scrutiny Among Women Voters.”

There’s little data as of yet. Among the teeny tiny sample of minority women living in New Hampshire, the Zogby poll found

minority women say they feel more compelled to support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman candidate than they are to vote for Barack Obama because he is a minority candidate.

But we all know pollsters in N.H. turned out to be about as accurate as Jayson Blair.

With my state’s primary closing in, I find the issue of identity is not foremost on my mind. The sniping about who meant what about Martin Luther King Jr. or fairy tales or whatever is a steaming pile of distraction. I want it to go away. I want to focus instead on what each of them will do if and when they reach the White House. Who will do what in Iraq? Who will mandate national health care? Who will help right the economy? Who will pass laws that best aid the working middle class—not just advocate them but get them passed?

As a minority woman, I’m pretty damn proud to see a roster of folks who look more like me vying for the ultimate boss’s job. But I won’t vote based on race or gender, just like I wouldn’t take a job just because my boss would be a woman or a minority. I want to work for the guy or gal who’ll be the best captain of my ship. Whether or not he or she looks like me.