News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Friday, November 7, 2008

A barrier to equality we've yet to cross

In January, the U.S. will cross a barrier that many felt would never be breached—in our lifetimes at least. We will inaugurate an African-American president. Yet, this morning I remembered a prediction made back in the sixties. The feminists of that day claimed the U.S. would elect a black male as president before a woman of any color. That prediction has come true.

But just barely.

In 2008, the U.S. came the closest it ever has to electing a female president. But Hillary Clinton, a Washington insider with powerful connections and a copious war chest, could not win the Democratic nomination. Many will argue that Senator Clinton brought along a lot of baggage. She was especially renowned for raising  the hackles of conservatives. There was only one other candidate in 2008 who was loved and hated with equal ferocity: Sarah Palin. Just a coincidence? I think not.

Let’s not forget: black males were given the right to vote long before women of any color. Judging by the historical record, the U.S. bias against women appears to supersede racial prejudice. In this respect, the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world. Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi immediately come to mind as examples of female national leaders. Even in uber-macho Latin America, Michelle Bachelet was elected president of Chile in 2006.Could it be that Americans—of both genders—cannot bring themselves to accept a woman as the nation’s ultimate authority? It’s hard to argue otherwise.

So while we should take pride in the nation’s progress toward equality, let’s not forget the other barriers we’ve yet to cross.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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