Ken Connor

"...The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:17 NIV)

Americans should be duly proud of the fact that a woman and an African-American are candidates for the office of President of the United States. Both women and blacks have come a long way, baby.

At the beginning of the republic neither women nor blacks were regarded as full fledged citizens of this country. The lofty language of the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" was not enough to secure equal rights for women or blacks. "Men" apparently did not include those of the female persuasion, and it most certainly did not include those of a darker hue. In early America, the law largely treated women as the property of their husbands. It took a lot of agitating and a constitutional amendment just to secure women the right to vote. And, of course, it took a civil war, several constitutional amendments, and lots of civil rights legislation to put African-Americans on a par with whites in the U.S.A.

So it should come as no surprise that there is a lot of enthusiasm for the fact that the two top Democratic contenders for the top political office in the country are a woman and an African-American. After all, leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, together with many other unsung heroes, paid dearly to assure that women and blacks are treated equally in this country. Their goal was to ensure that members of the body politic were blind to color and oblivious to gender. Dr. King cast the vision for the future in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, when he urged his fellow Americans to judge one another on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

It is, therefore, ironic that the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama have brought both race and sex to the forefront of the current presidential election. Obama supporters have criticized Mrs. Clinton of denigrating the contributions of Dr. King and accuse the New York Senator of "racism." Firing back, Clinton supporters argue that her critics in the Obama camp are guilty of "sexism." Blatant appeals have been made to the voters on the basis of race and sex. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright has gone so far as to declare that "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Some Obama proponents have suggested that the black community should support the Illinois senator's candidacy precisely because of his race. Others have asked whether the Senator is "black enough."

Appeals for preferential treatment on the basis of race or sex undercut the progress made by the civil rights movement. America has made substantial progress toward the creation of a color blind society. The advances in the area of women's rights have been dramatic. While we have not altogether eliminated discrimination on the basis of race or sex, Americans have made great strides. We will not end discrimination by advocating reverse discrimination. Imagine the howls of indignation that would rightly arise if a candidate advocated that he be elected because he was white and male.

Americans have done well in paving the way for a woman and an African-American to run for president. They will do better by ignoring the race and gender of the candidates and judging all of the presidential hopefuls on the basis of the content of their character and their qualifications to serve.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.