Thursday, March 13, 2008


In 1984, when former Vice President and Presidential candidate named Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, I was proud to be a Democrat. I was proud that for the first time a major party had selected a woman to be on the ticket. It wasn’t just that she was a woman; she was a qualified woman. Too many qualified women had been overlooked because of their gender. Mondale and Ferraro were defeated in an electoral landslide by incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush, but that didn’t diminish the pride I felt in the Democratic ticket.

As a male, I can only imagine the sexist slights that she has doubtless encountered in her career. It was ironic that in 1988 she could say of Jesse Jackson’s victory in one of the Democratic primaries that it was because he was black. The people of New York did not forget those comments in her two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1998.

I was sad and angry when earlier this week Ferraro repeatedly made comments that Obama’s campaign was successful because he was black. She resigned from the finance committee of Hillary Clinton, she said, because "The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen." She said later that she was being attacked because she was white. I was disappointed in Clinton’s tepid response that she didn’t agree with Ferraro.

Today, when I read “A Brown Woman’s Open Letter to Geraldine Ferraro and the Clinton Campaign,” I knew I wanted to share it with you. It says what I feel about this incident.

Dear Geraldine Ferraro and Clinton Campaign,

Geraldine Ferraro, I would like you to know that I am someone who always gives people the benefit of the doubt, but it was through your arrogant responses to the backlash you have received that I am convinced that you meant exactly what you said. I don’t know much about you, I was only 1 year old when you were the Vice President nominee, but as a fellow Democrat, the last 48 hours have deeply troubled me.

I would like you to know that the combination of your statement(s) and the Clinton campaign’s response; I cried last night. Yes, I cried. Let’s start with this:

You said: "He happens to be very lucky to be who he is"

It reminded me of when I was 17 years old sitting in my AP Calculus class, and a "friend" in "congratulating" me for being accepted into a prestigious undergraduate institution told me how "you’re so lucky that you’re last name is ______." Because of course, to him, my higher test scores and higher GPA were nothing in balance to my Spanish surname. That was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life, yet I went home and cried to my father. I woke up the next morning with an e-mail from my dad saying, "Yes, you are lucky to be Mexican. Because Mexicans are some of the hardest working people in the world."

I received multiple comments like that as a teen, and admittedly they affected me. It took me a couple of years as an undergraduate to feel as though I was more than a charity case, that my spot was earned, even though I knew my qualifications and hard work better than anyone that made such comments.

Geraldine Ferraro you also said this: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

This reminded me of how after my success and confidence as an undergrad finally outgrew my "affirmative-action-baby-complex," (for lack of a better term) that little did I know, I would be confronted with it over and over again no matter how great and how successful my accomplishments were. I, as a woman of color, know what it feels like for someone to not find it conceivable for you to be where you are.

A clearly blatant example of this was my very first orientation event for my Ivy League law school. It was held at a local bar, and myself along with three other students of color walked to the door, at which point the security guard asked us to step to the side thinking we were just "locals" and we had to wait for the white students in line behind us who were obviously students for the private party in the back to enter before us. Because in that security guard’s eyes it was inconceivable for us to be ivy-league law students. It was a lovely way to start my law school career. Obviously, this was not an employee of the school, but it speaks to the basic prejudices that still exist widely.

Because what you fail to recognize Geraldine Ferraro, is that when you say "he would not be in this position," you are consequentially saying that you have no conceivable alternative (I don’t know maybe intelligence, dignity, at least equal if not better experience, hard work, and a smarter and better organized campaign to name a few) for his success.

Lastly, let’s talk about this: "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position."

The entirety of your statements inherently tells me that in your eyes: a woman of color is at the bottom of your expectations totem pole. That as a brown woman, no matter what future successes I may achieve, people like you will always have some other excuse or justification based on my gender and race for such accomplishments. In two months, I will be graduating from my second "elite" institution and entering into a workforce where last time I checked Latinas made up 1.2% of the working lawyer population. In other words, if you put 100 lawyers in a room, ONE will look like me. And because of statements like yours, the other 99 in the room might think I did not put in the same amount of work to be in that room that they did.

Geraldine Ferraro and the members of the Clinton Campaign, there are 3 main reasons why I am a Democrat:
1. compassion, 2. equality, 3. common sense

And there are three main reasons why I have issues with Republicans and their rhetoric:
1. greed, 2. inequality, 3. a lack of common sense

I am deeply discouraged and disappointed that within my own party I am beginning to have the same issues that I have with Republicans. Keep the greed, inequality, and lack of common sense to yourself. You are not our voice. You do not represent me. I reject and denounce your statements, and responses to your statements. And I will continue to focus on what I always have: that if you give me the opportunity, I will EXCEED your expectations, and if you don’t give me the opportunity, I’ll make one for myself.

I will not let one of the most amazing years of my life be tainted because of your flaws. Contrary to the media's belief, this Latino/Woman/Catholic/Californian does not buy into your rhetoric. Barack Obama has brought me closer to my friends, family, community and country. He has led me to believe in all that is good and possible through hard work and hope. He embodies compassion, equality, and common sense. So you may have gotten me down for one night, but it ends there. I have no chip on my shoulder, and I have no hatred in my heart. I am sticking to his message and consequentially, will no longer listen to yours.

Yes I can; therefore, Yes we can.

I would be interested in knowing what you think about the incident and this woman’s response.
- Milo

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