Their spot-on interviews and first hand analyses of the roadblocks facing women of color in the pursuit of elective office give Hooper’s own observations startling life, ranging from the exorbitant amount of money required to run for office to the double edged sword any minority status can have – both as a “handicap” and a “selling point” — for those candidates, and most compellingly how those “identity benefits” as Patricia Williams puts it, only “accrue to those with the most direct access to wealth, power, and individuals who are determined to decide who can access it.” Begging the question: even though we have a black president, who, in fact, is still holding the keys to power? Aside from the razor-sharp commentary, Hooper’s effort to honor current African-American women serving in elective office and the history she outlines, paying homage to trailblazers who came before (think Shirley Chisholm), is at once deeply inspiring and educational – information that deserves wider circulation within our communities and beyond.
The overarching question posed in Conflict is whether African-American women as the Democratic Party’s most faithful voting bloc (97 percent of black woman voted for the democratic candidate in the 2008 election. Touting the highest turn out among any demographic in the United States) would ultimately, given the chance, vote for race over gender or gender over race. Despite the fact that the majority of black female voters voted for Obama in the 2008 primaries over Hilary Clinton, Hooper maintains, based more on qualitative data, that it is in fact the issues, not identity, that drive the black female vote. To that end, she argues that it is the candidate – black, white, male, or female - who addresses issues specific to the experience of the black woman, ranging from household income (for this largely single family household demographic), to healthcare (with a specific focus on the HIV/AIDS agenda, the black female population currently one of the most rapidly impacted groups) that informs the electoral choices of this powerful voting bloc.
Hooper’s Conflict is a timely, inspirational, and well plodded call to action to all voters to take greater advantage of our civic system, to pursue elective office despite the obstacles, to vote, and to think critically about the intersections of race, gender, and class in American politics. Hooper also contemplates the road ahead, and the importance of acknowledging that after the 2008 election, yes, a little black boy can, with certainty, aspire to be president, but that “the question remains, can a young black girl, or any girl for that matter, say the same?”
As we move toward the 2012 presidential election Hooper reminds us the importance of being informed, strategic, organized, and that, indeed, “there is power in numbers.” This is one to be taken seriously and passed along to friends and family, young and old. The book will be available on July 31st from Praeger publishing.