July 28, 2016

Why breaking the glass ceiling doesn’t work better

Sam Smith

It is part of the myth of America that breaking the glass ceiling is the best way for those suffering discrimination to get ahead. The problem with this metaphor is that you already have to have some elevation to even get near the glass ceiling. The vast majority of blacks and women, for example, need to break through innumerable locked doors before they can even think about the ceiling.

Now we have a black who has broken the glass ceiling and a woman on the cusp of it. And what do we find? In the case of Obama, there is no evidence that his election has helped blacks in any significant way. In fact, there is a general assumption that ethnic conflict has increased in recent years. With Hillary Clinton, despite her popularity with successful liberals, there is little evidence that her rise has had much positive impact on ordinary women.

In fact, in both cases, labor unions and the civil rights movement have been vastly more useful. As unionist Liz Shuler noted:
Women in unions are more likely than their nonunion peers to have access to paid sick leave and family leave. Collective bargaining through unions also narrows the pay gap between men and women significantly. A typical woman union member earns $222 a week more than a nonunion woman and is far more likely to have health and retirement security. This puts upward pressure on wages and benefits throughout industries that are predominately female, many of which traditionally pay low wages. Every worker deserves to have protections on the job, and it is the goal of the labor movement to ensure that happens.
This gets virtually no attention in the media which prefers to obsess over the significance of an Obama or Clinton being the first of their category to be president.

This is not to say that having a black or woman president is not a grossly delayed and highly desirable development. But it shouldn’t wipe out all public attention to movements, unions and other vastly more useful approaches to change.

Further, we live in a time when symbolism and semiotics constantly triumph over reality. Thus Barack Obama is hailed as our first black president when, in fact, he spent less time with a black parent than he did at the Harvard Law School. Much as we claim to despise racism, we still give more importance to our president’s skin color than we do to the culture in which he actually lived.

And thus a woman who had three close business partners go to prison, who was on the board of Walmart (hardly a role model for treatment of female workers), and who has found herself in more scandals than all but a few national politicians (such as her husband), gets away with accusing those who dare to criticize her as haters.

Among the main causes of this denial of reality - and it's hardly limited to a few politicians – are the media and the public relations industry that lives off of it.

The mere fact that this year’s conventions have been so obsessed with the personalities involved rather than the issues and policies that used to be central at such gatherings is another sign that the distortion is getting ever worse.

The media teaches us to put our time and hope in the first black or woman president rather than in the economic and social fate of millions of those of their ethnicity or gender. And the results, although you won’t hear it on TV, are not that surprising. We are drugged by symbols as reality continues to suffers.

1 comment:

Tom Puckett said...

I too have been thinking about the media - even Bill Maher - saying that Clinton has "broken the glass ceiling."

It seems to me that she didn't break it; I would reserve that description for someone who stood on their own and accomplished something against all odds and which was opposed to what was wanted by whatever they were striving against.

Seemingly, Obama and Clinton are more like "sparklies" to be set in that glass ceiling, as ornaments or trophies, take your pick. A sparklie was what the crow in The Secret Of NIMH was always looking for - a worthless object although a shiny one that caught his attention.

In this case, the "gravity" holding persons of color and women back from that ceiling, the combined corporate interests, installed Obama, who came from nowhere and did not very much to get there, and is doing the same thing with Clinton.

Those interests are hoping that the novelty of the candidate's color or sex will overshadow their eventual lack of action*. Hillary is "openly" opportunistic, she just "happens to be" a woman.

We already witnessed this inaction through the eight years of the Obama administration, and it will be too late to do anything about it but elect the next novelty come the end of their marking time terms.

Why shouldn't every pot smoker's sentence have been commuted on day one, for example? Bad for the prison business, that's why! We are what we do not what we say!

In Bernie Sander's speech he listed all the things Clinton "promised" so as to, in Ralph Nader's view, be the better able to hold Clinton accountable during her term.

In this I see another sideshow of bickering between members of the same fold to again send a ping through the accomplice media to suggest that the "struggle" is still active - and of course no one branch of government can do it alone.

It will be interesting to see what progress thwarting ruse is trotted out if the Senate and House turn democrat with a democrat in the White House, as they were eight years ago. Probably some manufactured crisis or another - no shortage of food for the wrong wolf.

Cheers, Tom
* George Carlin on Guilty White Liberal Racism

There are a couple of terms that are used in connection with minorities, usually by guilty white liberals.

First one is "happens to be". He happens to be Black. I have a friend who happens to be Black. Like it's an accident. He had two Black parents? Yes. So where does the surprise part come in? I should think it would be more unusual if he just "happened to be" Scandenavian.

And the other term is "openly". He's openly gay. But this is the only minority they use that for. You know you wouldn't say someone is openly Black. Well maybe James Brown. Or Lewis Farakhan! Lewis Farakhan is "openly" Black.

Collin Powell is not openly Black. Collin Powell is openly White. He just happens to be Black."