With the 2012 presidential election just around the corner, signifying the 57th quadrennial election – with incumbent President Barack Obama bidding for his second and final term, Cindy Hooper’s new publication, Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics couldn’t come at a better time.
Divided into 12 well organized chapters, Conflict explores the emerging voting bloc of African-American women relative to the national political landscape, negotiating dual identities of race and gender and the glaring under-representation of African-American women in elective office proportionally. In addition to the difficult task of analyzing this voting bloc’s prioritization of race over gender or vice a versa in selecting representatives (as in the 2008 Democratic primary, which historically pitted a white female candidate, Hilary Clinton, and a black male candidate, Barack Obama against one another for the democratic nomination) Conflict also offers a clear and succinct refresher course on the electoral process, an assessment of the history of the civil rights movement and the struggle for the black vote, placing Hooper’s subject into an important historical context, and provides a thorough examination of the issues impacting and informing the votes of black women and the impediments to black women in seeking elective office.
While Conflict isn’t your colorful beach-read variety piece of writing (really how dynamic – however important – can anyone make paragraphs fat with statistical data?), Hooper’s accompanying analysis is engaging, accessible, and deeply significant. Her prose is injected with an underlying current of energy and optimism that makes this an important and empowering read. It should also be said that while some of the numbers do wash over you, others stand out with striking effect. For instance, did you know that even though this country elected its first black president in 2008, we have yet to elect an African-American woman as governor to any of the 50 states? How about the fact that to date we have only known six black senators to occupy seats in the Senate, and only one has been an African-American woman (!)?
Perhaps the most engaging chapter in Conflict is chapter 13 in which Hooper digs deeper into recent efforts and experiences of black women who do hold elective office, and the obstacles they face within that sphere (and that any black woman would face in seeking elective office), and from their perspectives, how race and gender influence American politics. In that chapter, Hooper introduces names like Cynthia McKinney (the Green Party candidate in the 2008 Presidential election and the first black woman to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives), Julia Williams (candidate for the Register of Wills in the September 2012 election in Prince Georges County Maryland), and Patricia Washington (2012 candidate for the California General Assembly and current commissioner with the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission).