Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

My race, but not my gender

I — a black, 30-something woman — couldn't believe it. And that's part of the problem. I realized this the morning after the United States elected an African-American president.

I woke up with the biblical story of the Israelite spies playing in my head, the one where a dozen go to preview their competition before seizing the Promised Land. When they return, only two are willing to go forward with the mission. The others are afraid, perhaps recalling their past slavery in Egypt or their humble life in the wilderness. The Promised Land people are too mighty with cities large and fortified, they tell their fellow Israelites.

"We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes," the spies say, "and we looked the same to them."

I could see myself peering over the ramparts into America's realms of success, cringing at the giants of sexism and racism. But after observing the land, what would my report be?

Before Barack Obama's campaign, I would have likened myself to the fearless two spies, certain that the rights of the Constitution were not only promised to me as a citizen, but also attainable, with hard work and will. I'd like to say that I had no doubt a black person would someday live in the White House, but then Obama won. And I was shocked.

His election and his fight in the Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton force me and other black women to confront some of our doubts and fears. We know that black people are as capable as anyone else; that women are as smart as men. The issue is whether we really believe that we — the double minority — can overcome the giants in the land. Water cooler discussions during the primary race pondered whether America might best tolerate the first viable female or black candidate.

The topic intrigues and confounds me, like trying to separate skin from bone. I grew up in the inner city with the sense that skin color isolated me more than gender from my white classmates across the railroad tracks.

Yet I know that the race vs. gender debate is too complex perhaps to know for sure. Statistics and anecdotes vary. Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau say that median weekly earnings for white women in 2007 were $626, significantly more than black women at just $533 — but also more than black men, who earned $600. A recent St. Petersburg Times article showed that women are outpacing men in college enrollment and completion.

This came after I debated with a black man who partly blamed black women for the demise of African-American families. It's an old argument: The educated black woman is either too domineering or highfalutin. We have ditched our black brothers who don't have college degrees for men of other races or opted to stay single, or so the argument goes. The brother contended that black women have it easier than black men, that white people are less intimidated by us, enabling our rise up the ladder.

I wonder what he thinks now, days after Obama, an African-American man, has become the most powerful person on Earth.

My parents initially hesitated to support Obama. Like my girlfriends' parents, they remembered the past and feared he would be assassinated. My mother, for one, hasn't forgotten the KKK beating her father suffered in the 1950s after suing a white man. I tried to assure them that these were different times. Then came that night, and I watched Obama give his rousing "Yes we can" speech. I still couldn't fathom a black woman standing on the platform, but Obama was evidence of progress.

Yet there, despite the glory of the moment, I couldn't help worry that it wasn't safe for him to be in an open air park like that. I still feared the giants in the land.

Sharon Tubbs is an editor for regional sections of the St. Petersburg Times published in Hillsborough. She can be reached at (813) 226-3394 or tubbs@sptimes.com.

My race, but not my gender 11/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2008 2:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pasco tax roll shows increase, but so, too, are budget requests

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's tax roll grew by more than 5 percent in 2016, but it's a figure that likely would require local government budget writers to trim proposed spending requests.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
New construction accounted for $693.5 million in taxable property values being added to the Pasco County tax rolls in 2016, according to preliminary estimates released by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner. Overall, the property tax roll grew more than 5 percent, according to the preliminary numbers.

  2. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  3. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  4. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared

    World

    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  5. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.