As feminist prosecutor Marcia Clark found out when she tried to pack the OJ jury with women and Johnnie Cochran tried to pack it with blacks, and they ended up in a compromise packing it with black women, race trumps sex in modern American identity politics.In the Democratic primaries last year, Hillary Clinton was confronted by the same reality. The insight needs some qualification, though, in that it applies much more strongly to non-whites, especially blacks, than it does to whites.
These high profile examples of the tendency are not the only thing to look to. The GSS provides a self-reported quantitative source of data on the question. Clark and Clinton were perhaps naive in their assumptions that gender identification would trump racial identification among black women, but based solely on what black women claim is most important in describing who they are, the two might be forgiven for thinking that the greater social acceptance of celebrating gender compared to celebrating racialism has been internalized by black women.
The following table shows the percentage of female respondents who included race or ethnicity and who included gender as one of the three most important methods of self-identification from a list of ten possible descriptors. Because the question was only posed in 2004, sample sizes are too small for members of other racial/ethnic groups like Hispanics and Asians. Consequently, only whites and blacks are included:
While they are three times as likely as white women to identify by race, slightly more black women claim that their gender is more central to who they are than race is. Come crunch time, though, black women will stand behind their brothers before they line up on behalf of their girlfriends.
A more interesting hypothetical question is which way white women will go when presented with the choice of a white man or a black woman. Had Condoleeza Rice fought for the presidential nomination on the Republican side, we would have had a high-profile case with which to suggest an answer. On the political front, it doesn't look like it's in the cards any time in the near future, and because white-on-black murder is so uncommon, there are no notorious white slayers of black women to create the OJ Simpson scenario in reverse.