Blacks v. Women

This is the best of times. We have an African American man running for president, with a real chance of winning, and we have a woman running for president, with a real chance herself. And we have more than one white man running with seriously progressive politics.

And this is the worst of times: we have to choose.

I’m saddened by the vitriol coming out in all corners — from the front pages of major newspapers to the listservs of feminist philosophical societies — pitting women against men, white women against black men, black men against white women. My kids are thrilled to pieces; they just wish, like many of us, that there was a black woman running for president.

Oh, we did have one of those — where’s Angela Davis when you need her? Angela Davis could give us the black creds of Obama, the feminist creds of Hilary, the progressive creds of Edwards and even Kucinich. But Angela Davis wouldn’t be a viable candidate for president now, for all these reasons.

This is the best of times and the worst of times. We have to choose. But let’s not choose on the basis of race, gender, or ideology, but on the basis of which of these progressive people seem to be right for the job — and the run for the job — right now.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.


  1. Good heavens, you’re the only other person I’ve found who, like me, is much more saddened by the tragic nature of our choice than invested in fighting about which one is better. In our lifetimes, the odds are excellent that we’ll not have the chance to vote for a non-white man ever again, so chalk me up as sad at the choice, rather than eager to debate the choices.

  2. Why do we need Angela Davis when we have you?Change begins with “gonepublic”. Let’s get to it!

  3. Enjoying your posts.

    Do have one question though, you refer to the two candidates thusly: “we have an African American man… and a woman running for President.” I have been struck by the use of this construction in many blogs. African American man (oppressed group + privileged group) and woman (oppressed group). I think it would seem more correct if one uses the construction “African American man” to use the accurately mirroring construction of “white woman” (privileged group + oppressed group). I think there is a general failure in many blogs to recognize that this type of construction assumes that the norm is whiteness, unless otherwise identified – part of another legacy of the pervasiveness of racism in our use of language.

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