I often joke that when I die, I want to come back as a white woman. Yes, you read correctly, a white woman. Not Gandi. Not Martin Luther King Jr. Not Sojourner Truth. Not Tupac. I want to return as a white woman. Why? Well because white women have privileges that a black woman will never have. For example, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. I could never run for vice president of the United States of America with her resume, scandals and daughter. A daughter that is five months pregnant, an ethics scandal, obviously no vetting, a husband with a DUI and little to no experience on the national level of politics. No one would ever walk up to me or any of my black friends and offer me the second most powerful position in the free world. If it happened, I certainly would not receive a standing ovation and have the whole world come to my defense, even though my behavior has been suspect.
Initially when she announced her candidacy, she stated that her daughter was going into the military. She left out a little detail -- a growing fetus. Her attempts to hide it were reflected in the positioning of the girl behind her father in photo opportunities and in the Palin baby being sprawled out on her daughter's stomach. After hiding this fact from the public and the Republican National Convention -- no, I do not believe that they knew in advance -- she casually mentions it as if it does not matter. Your daughter's pregnancy does not, but your lack of integrity about it is a problem. No mention of the military has followed, so I will assume that this is no longer the case -- that and the fact that the military does not enlist women that are gestating. Has anyone called her out on this? Not so much.
This woman is allowed to say that her children are off-limits and that this pregnancy does not impact her potential vice presidency, but then she uses it to promote her commitment to family values. Which is it? Is it off limits, or can it only be discussed in an attempt to demonstrate how this major challenge is actually a good thing? Is it good for Bristol, who is being made to marry a 18-year-old boy when she is still obviously a child? Most thinking adults and teens actually know how to prevent unplanned pregnancies. For those of you that think I'm being judgmental, I am. I am judging a woman that promotes abstinence-only education for me but cannot seem to get that very idea across to her child. That's a problem.
It is also a problem when a young woman is made to marry another teenager -- who posted on his MySpace profile that he "never wants children" -- in order to save face so that mama can become vice president. What mother would knowingly throw her daughter under the bus for a position for which she is not qualified and does not have to pursue at this moment? Bristol is now ass-out, while mommy dearest gets to build a political career and public profile on her very private matter. If children are off-limits, why throw them into the spotlight to be judged, humiliated and exploited? An unplanned pregnancy is not all that Bristol is up against.
Palin is using this to promote herself as a typical hockey mom, when in fact she fired her ex-brother-in-law, and did not endorse her mother-in-law when the mother-in-law ran for mayor of her little town because her mother-in-law is pro-choice and a registered Democrat. With family like that, who needs enemies -- which brings me to my original point.
Only a white woman could get away with what Palin is doing -- painting herself as something completely contrary to who she really is as a politician and mother. If U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's children, Malia or Sasha, were pregnant, there would be calls for him to leave the presidential campaign, particularly from the religious right and conservative Republicans. If Palin were not white, there is no way that she would have been asked to be vice president. Hell, McCain skipped over the most obvious female candidate, Condoleezza Rice, a black woman.
I usually joke that if I come back as a white woman, I can benefit from my association with white men as a wife, daughter, sibling, and mother; have wars fought over the protection of my purity and piety; and have brothers fall completely head-over-heels in love with me for no reason other than the fact that I am white. In some instances, I'd have the world re-work all of my faults or flaws into perfect imperfections -- sort of like Palin.
Yes, I'm being facetious, but the way that race functions in society along with the complications that arise when gender, class and sexuality intersect with it, is playing out before our very eyes. Do I really want to be a white woman? No -- just when it is clear that there are benefits that I will never experience.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.