Joe Biden announced his run for President this morning. As much as I admire him as a leader—and as much as I think the whole touching foreheads/lack of personal space deal has been blown WAY out of proportion, given the transgressions of the one currently occupying that particular office at the moment—I just can’t get excited about having yet another white man in the White House in the near future.
I’m just going to say it, and let the trolls have at me. Our next President needs to be a woman. Or a person of color. Preferably, both.
I’m not just saying this because I adore Sen. Kamala Harris (which I do). It’s not even because I think it’s high time we exhibited more diversity in our upper echelons of leadership—which I also do. Representation is equality, and you can’t have one without the other. So that would be a valid enough reason. But it’s more than that. The reality is, a woman or a person of color—or someone who is both of those things—has likely weathered a maximum level of adversity in their career, and therefore they would bring some unique qualities and perspectives to their role as a leader. Those are qualities and perspectives we sorely need right now.
It’s not about identity politics. It’s an endurance test.
Let’s talk about the give-a-shit levels that it takes to be a woman minority person in a public role. A white man can run for office—any office at all—at zero cost. You can be Donald Trump, care nothing for your country or the people you represent, and rise all the way to the dang presidency. Because America is used to seeing people like you in positions of power.
Let’s say you are a woman, or a person of color. You have to work harder to get your foot in the door. You have to challenge long-held assumptions. You have to deal with some bullshit trolls and some bullshit patriarchy at every dang turn. Possibly there are threats to your safety, and that of your family. If you are going to walk into that battle, you have moderate to high give-a-shit levels about your country and its people. I mean, you HAVE to. Why would you put yourself up front to be a target otherwise?
Now. If you are a woman who is ALSO a person of color? You have to work harder, run faster, talk louder and wear your moral conviction like a suit of armor, every day. MAXIMUM GIVE-A-SHIT levels. Not to mention, once you achieve whatever authority position you are after, you have to absorb even more bullshit patriarchy while also doing your job. And you have to outperform your white male counterparts by a thousand miles in order to justify your seat at the table.
So when I say I want a woman of color to be the next president, I am not playing identity politics. It isn’t about what she looks like; it’s about what she represents; who she represents; and the qualities and skills she’s had to develop to get this far in the first place. That kind of strength, resilience and courage are sorely needed in our country’s leadership right now. Not to mention the communication skills that it takes to get elected as a non-traditional candidate. I mean, it takes more than a midnight word salad Tweet.
I know it’s early days in the primary field, and a lot can happen between now and election day. But in current field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sen. Harris gets a whole lot of dang bonus points for even showing up. If you can jump through the hoops we put in front of women AND people of color; if you can navigate the many public landmines that come with public office; and then speak with the kind of conviction we heard in Monday’s town hall appearance (she got to preaching about four minutes in, and it was something to see); then you have clearly got the guts, the stamina, and the moral courage to be the kind of leader that we so desperately need right now.
We talk a lot these days about being mindful of white privilege, and male privilege. Cultivating that awareness is not just about recognizing the societal deficits that often keep people of color from succeeding while simultaneously pushing white folks forward. It’s also about recognizing that minority people, and women, in high levels of authority have had to navigate a whole lot of garbage just to be here. While holding space for all the ridiculous challenges our culture has placed in front of them, we come to realize the truly extraordinary nature of their excellence. What could that kind of strength achieve as leader of the free world? I’d sure like to find out.
Before you folks on the right can ask: Does all this mean that I would vote for a woman of color at the top of the ticket if she happened to be a Republican?
You know what … I just might. Try me.