Shirley Chisholm, Cont.

SlutWalk-Sign.jpg


I just wanted to offer a quick follow-up to the post on Herman Cain and gender, and the greater issue of race/gender comparisons. Various commenters make the case--if half-heartedly--that a "which is worse?" comparison can be helpful, and/or defending "Woman is the nigger of the world" analogy.  I don't really reject these sorts of analogies out of desire to be sensitive or inclusive. Those are all good things, but they aren't my reasons. 


Frankly, I'm always suspicious of any thinker who leads with overly broad analogizing as opposed to specific issues. I guess The Civil War is America's World War II, abortion is like slavery, and I guess black people are the faggots of America, and Native Americans are the bitches of the country, and the Middle Passage kinda was a Black Holocaust, and only worse than the actual Holocaust, because racism is really much worse than anti-Semitism. 

But I kinda guess not.

An abstract thought-experiment unhindered by the need to read books and know things can make any analogy work. Pie is like steak. They're both food... 

I've being seeing this sort of stuff since my freshman year at Howard when Malik Zulu Shabazz and Khalid Muhammad would insist that 500 million people died in the Middle Passage. (You can guess who the primary villain for this "real" Holocaust was.)

Since that time, my question has always been the same: What issue are you actually trying to clarify when you make these comparisons? What aspect of history or social life are you really trying to illuminate? Are you really trying to talk to other people, or are you trying to shut them down? Did Yoko Ono and John Lennon really have a deep understanding of what it meant to a "nigger?" Were they even interested? Or were they just looking to wedge an entire people into their need for a symbol?

There is always a way to make yourself right, and win the argument. There's also a difference between curiosity and one-upmanship. I've yet to see a legitimately curious person begin their conversation with an overly broad analogy. But I've seen a lot of dogmatic ideologues wield them like clubs. 

MORE: To bring it back to my own field. Consider these highlighted passages from McPherson.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

From This Author

Just In