Sunday, August 16, 2009

Black women are black or women first?

Steve Sailer has pointed out on multiple occasions that race trumps sex in the contemporary world of identification politics:
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:

Gender identification32.7%33.7%
Racial/ethnic identification10.2%29.8%

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.


Razib said...

"sisterhood" only matters if group X socializes with group Y. this transcends race, seeing as how feminists have a peculiar tendency to spend an inordinate time on the issues which might be relevant to upper middle class white women, and less with lower or lower middle class women.

Anonymous said...

How about a wise latina versus a white man? I don't know about the population in general, but the pundit class seemed pretty firmly in Sotomayor's camp.

Frankly, I think that liberal white women usually see white men as their worst enemies by far. They would side with anyone against a white man, unless it was a political situation and the white man was a leftist while the "other" was a staunch conservative.

I'd guess that conservative women probably put white men first or second in the hierarchy, although they might have a special contempt for white liberal weenies.

Jokah Macpherson said...

I wouldn't limit it to only contemporary identification politics. I would say that race has trumped sex in political identity throughout history for two reasons. First, as Steve Sailer puts it, your race is just your extended family. All people of German descent can be tied to my family tree without going back too far, but any given male is no more likely to be closely related to me than any given person. Secondly, there's too much "fraternizing with the enemy" between the sexes, so intra-sex solidarity is likely to be trumped by shared concerns within a person's family. The only counterexample I could think of is Lysistrata, but it's a work of fiction.

I further believe that racial culture (or ethnicity) trumps even biological race in identity politics. Michael Steele got stomped by Ben Cardin in the 2006 Maryland senate race. He only got 30% of the black vote...because blacks vote Democratic. As a further example, my college business law professor, a black woman, made some very crude comments about Condoleeza Rice in class. It seems like once the "R" sprouts next to your name, you are excommunicated from the black community.

Jack said...

It is true that white liberal urban women see white men as their biggest enemy of all. Whiskey has talked about this too. of course, conservative women have many more kids than these liberal bitches, so that may change...

Anonymous said...

Blacks are always going to line up by race, always. Your skin color is your uniform. Liberals, take note, you'll end up bleeding out if you don't get some racial awareness.

Audacious Epigone said...


To get a good reading, the contest would have to be in the primaries, not a general election, for the reasons Jokah mentions.


That seems like a bit of a stretch to me. What is our evidence for this?

David said...

Interesting post. I'm not really sure what to think.

Mark said...

It's all about the context.

We all saw that race trumps gender if there's a white person involved.

In the race card deck, the white male has the lowest value.

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