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February 14th, 2008
04:08 PM ET

Sexism, Racism and Classism – will they define the national ballot?

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Faye Wattleton, President, Center for the Advancement of Women

The diverse cast of characters in the 2008 presidential election will not alone transform our nation.  However, it has brought us to the intersection of sexism, racism and classism, which has taken underlying tensions, just beneath the surface, to the center of our national dialogue.  The question is whether the end result leaves us further separated or united as the “one-America” Sen. Barack Obama describes.

Such conversations about these touchstone sensitivities haven’t been heard in recent memory.  In newspapers, TV shows, at water coolers and dinner tables, Americans are discussing what role gender, race and class will play in the Democratic nomination and, increasingly likely, in electing our next president.  There are dangers and landmines.

Bill Clinton neatly packaged three centuries of racial tensions in his sentence, referring to Jesse Jackson’s victory in the 1994 South Caroline primary.  Switching with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama has emerged as the “establishment candidate.”  How the discussions unfold will determine whether Americans’ attitudes will evolve toward the diversity of a truly multicultural society.

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Hopefully, this historic moment, in our democracy, will not be squandered on the altar of political ambition, and that the day will dawn when gender, race and class will give way to clarity on issues to be addressed by the nation and the capability to fulfill those promises as defining characteristics in selecting our leaders.

- Faye Wattleton, President, Center for the Advancement of Women

Program note:  “Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics” airs Friday on 360° at 10p ET


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