Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Race, gender, etc.

We have seen how the race between Hillary and Obama has aroused major debates over race and gender (of course, a debate that never really ends in America). But I have got a major problem with what is happening and the way people approach these issues. First, for the record, if Hillary was not qualified, I would not vote for her just because she is a woman. I seriously believe that she is the most qualified out of all the candidates to get this job (although I have to be careful here and clarify that ultimately if Obama wins the nomination, I will 'endorse' him with both hands). I respect Hillary more because she is not using the 'gender' card as much as Obama is using the 'race' card. At the rally where I was, she was asked the question about whether she feels the pressure being the first 'woman' candidate for President. She spent literally two minutes on the issue and ended with a quick note that she is not running for President because she is a woman, but because she is qualified. I think, Obama on the other hand, is spending more time on race, which may seem a bit self-serving. On the other hand, given the deplorable situation with the civil rights in this country, this issue must be raised somehow.

Second, I think people look at race and gender formalistically. I think disadvantage is a substantive, qualitative issue and should never be viewed from a formalistic, categorical perspective. I always ask people, who is more disadvantaged-- a rich black woman or a white male who is homeless in the street? A white female who is an immigrant, learning to speak English, and has to overcome a host of barriers, or a black female who was born and raised in the US in a middle-class family?

Do I believe that there is still discrimination against blacks in this country? Oh yes. Just check the numbers of blacks holding white-collar jobs. Do I believe that there is still discrimination against women and other minorities in this country? Oh yes. But I still also believe that discrimination and disadvantage need substantive evaluation. That is why, I have some problems with Affirmative Action. Although I still do think, there should be some degree of it, quotas are ridiculous. I think that people should work hard to earn everything and should not use their class, race, gender or religion, or ethnicity to get ahead.

I can give you my example. My family moved to this country in 1996, when by the way Clinton was getting reelected. From the day I set my foot on this ground, I faced and had to fight many, many challenges. I was blessed because I have a supportive family. I was also blessed to have met some wonderful people, most of whom were my professors, who encouraged, supported, inspired me. I owe to these people for the rest of my life. But I worked hard, triple times more than most people of my age, and never asked for things that I thought I did not earn yet. I deprived myself of little pleasures of this life and sacrificed at every step of it. It took me a lot of nerve and patience. When I made mistakes, I was hard on myself and committed to never making them again. Even today, I have to be patient with those people who assume that just because I speak with an accent, my English is perhaps not good enough.

While I have compassion for those who do not put this much effort into it or those who are less lucky, who have less supportive families, I still think that people who are lazy do not deserve to stand up and shout that they are being discriminated on some basis or that they were disadvantaged. There is opportunity in America for virtually everyone if you only work hard to earn it.

Here is the problem though that we have in America. We have kids born in poor ghettos in uneducated families, with little or no choice of lifestyle. They end up joining gangs and turning into career criminals or simply into adults with no education, rendered into irremediable poverty. Regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, these kids are simply a group that we need to worry about the most and help. That is the job of the government which can create a strong social network that will guide these kids from K-12 onto the right path into a normal life. And the government today has basically failed on all counts of this mission. Why?!

Neither Hillary nor Obama have been personally disadvantaged in any way in their lives. But the whole question is who do you identify yourself with the most. Most women will identify with her, while most African-Americans will identify with Obama. Guess what, most white males will identify with John Edwards or John McCain. (This said in very general brush strokes, because we all have multiple identities that are very situational and influenced by many other variables. Also, keep in mind that sophisticated and informed voters may not vote for those they identify with the most. They vote not on their hearts, but on their minds).

No comments: