When I was growing up, to make sure people didn’t think I was racist, I’d repeat the same phrase I’d learned: “I don’t even notice if they’re Maori or Pakeha. I just see people.”
It was a phrase that I’d picked up from my white friends, which even as a kid I thought was bullshit. Not only did I noticed if you were Maori or Pakeha, I also tried to work out what percentage you were. 25%? 50%? 8.2? I’m “half-caste”, which is a phrase that’s perfectly acceptable in New Zealand but will earn you a punch in the mouth on a London street. For me, it meant I was too white to blend in with every person I went to school with but brown enough to excite diversity numbers. My child’s brain also innocently noticed if you were fat, tall, attractive, or prone to wearing the colour Fabulous but, discreetly, I learned to pretend not to.
I understand the sentiment behind the lie I told. It’s sweet. We’re telling people that we care about them no matter what. The thing I’ve learned as an adult? Just say “I care about you” and be done with it.
I’ve also learned as an adult to accept and love the things about me that make me different. That’s why I would never say to a black or African person that I didn’t notice the colour of their skin. Of course I noticed, and I took note. There’s a history in who you are and a mana – a power beyond ourselves that demands to be recognised and revered.
So when news sources started to ask if Hillary’s gender should play a role in the upcoming election, I was flummoxed that the question was even posed. I noticed she’s a woman and it tells me so much about her. Let me quote RuPaul because, in times like these, you have to:
If you’re a politician — not just in Washington but in business and industry, you have to be a politician — there are a lot of things that you have to do that you’re not proud of. There are a lot of compromises you have to make because it means that you can get this other thing over here. And if you think that you can go to fucking Washington and be rainbows and butterflies the whole time, you’re living in a fucking fantasy world. So now, having said that, think about what a female has to do with that: All of those compromises, all of that shit, double it by ten. And you get to understand who this woman is and how powerful, persuasive, brilliant, and resilient she is. Any female executive, anybody who has been put to the side — women, blacks, gays — for them to succeed in a white-male-dominated culture is an act of brilliance. Of resilience, of grit, of everything you can imagine. So, what do I think of Hillary? I think she’s fucking awesome. Is she in bed with Wall Street? Goddammit, I should hope so! You’ve got to dance with the devil. So which of the horrible people do you want? That’s more of the question. Do you want a pompous braggart who doesn’t know anything about diplomacy? Or do you want a badass bitch who knows how to get shit done? That’s really the question.
And the other question? Should we ignore the fact that Hillary is a woman? If you could, you might but you can’t so you won’t. It’s what you do with that fact that defines the world we have to live in.