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Racism or Sexism? Which is worse?

The Democratic presidential race is bringing this age-old question up again.

The Associated Press reports:

Clinton's camp has perceived sexism in comments about her appearance and emotions. Supporters of Obama have complained about racial overtones in remarks about his Muslim-sounding middle name, Hussein, and his acknowledged drug use as a young man. Beyond the back-and-forth between a white woman and a black man seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, the situation has created a snapshot of the nation's sensitivity — or lack thereof — to certain kinds of comments.

It’s interesting to note this debate dates back to the late 1800s.
Freed slave Frederick Douglass and women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton sparked it. Stanton was outraged that black men were able to vote after the Civil War (even though the “privilege” didn’t last long) and women weren’t.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Frederick Douglass

Stanton declared it to be a “serious question whether we [women] had better stand aside and see Sambo walk into the kingdom [of civil rights] first.” Douglass fired back arguing the horrifying treatment black men endured as slaves entitled them the right to vote before women.

None of the scholars or intellectuals of that time or this have been able to definitively settle the debate. But political correctness has certainly shunned one more than the other leaving us with the question: Is it more acceptable to make a sexist remark than a racist remark?

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Comments (2)

Ojai Deva:

I'm sorry, but were you aware that black women were also slaves alongside black men? In fact black female slaves were often forced into sexual slavery (rape) as well as physical slavery. Men did not suffer more or less as slaves. It's just that we think men, of any race, are better, more rational, more deserving of respect than women of any race. I didn't make it up, just noticed along the way. What is most unfortunate about this is that we all loose and suffer because we're all connected and interdependent. Were the profits those tobacco and cotton farmers made off the enslavement of a people worth the suffering experienced by those slaves? Haven't we by now all suffered far more than any reparations could properly repay? The degradations of slavery and racism still haunt us, and rightfully so. Likewise with sexism and the oppression of 53% of the human species. I don't know one *single solitary* person who hasn't been affected by sexism and/or racism negatively. If your high school girlfriend screwed you over because her head wasn't straight after what her uncle did to her, it's not that all women are bitches, it's that you have become a secondary victim of sexual assault. Wake up people! We are only as strong as our weakest link and we are only as good as how we treat each other. And PS: My right to vote does not come at the expense of your right to vote. We're all human beings here, we all get to vote. Simple.

Pat:

At the time of the Douglas remark, it may have been accurate to suggest that horrifying treatment of black men required them greater courtesy than women in terms of human rights.

But civil rights has, for all practical purposes, resolved the human rights problem for blacks if not the civil rights problem.

Women, on the other hand, suffer much greater loss of human rights today because of domestic violence, prostitution and trafficking than do males, not to mention incest, and other abuses which have not abated. In fact, they may well be increased.

In the explanation of the human rights theory as defined by Douglas, it is women who deserve greater deference today to prevent the human rights abuses that have become their lot.

And do we not follow, in theory, this same public policy in foreign relations - rescuing those who cannot defend themselves abroad?

That question is settled by observation rather than scholarship. The most vulnerable deserve the greatest protection.

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