Monday, August 01, 2016

A 100-year-old political sermon

I gave a concise (for me) version of an old-school (because 2006 is old-school) Chaliceblog rant over the weekend about political issues from the pulpit. 

In my defense, I was asked.  

I summarized my, admittedly very conservative, opinion as: If you are tempted to preach about an issue (probably ok), a person (not a good idea) or a bill (really not a good idea), ask yourself "if I am risking my tax-exempt status to preach this, is it worth it?" And proceed accordingly.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know this isn't a new set of standards.  

Anyway, thinking over this rule of mine yesterday, there is a political figure whom I'd very much like to hear a sermon about:

Susan B. Anthony. 

I don't necessarily want to hear that sermon before election day, because I don't want to raise the spectre of Hillary Clinton's fondness for the suffragettes.  I don't want to hear about Susan B. Anthony as a metaphor for Hillary. 

I want to hear about Anthony herself, her flaws and the proper way to look at her and the way she and the suffragettes achieved the just result using some terrible methods. 

Susan B. Anthony, beloved famous Unitarian, was not, in fact, as racist as some of her contemporaries.  But she said some pretty terrible things.  One thing she wrote to her BFF Elizabeth Cady Stanton* in 1884 sums up my issue with her nicely:

"“I have but one question, that of equality between the sexes—that of the races has no place on our platform."

Let that one sink in for a moment.  

This is, by far actually, not the worst thing a suffragette ever said.   Her fellow suffragettes were even more blatant about tossing around the idea that giving women the vote was an awesome way to maintain white supremacy.   Their willingness to throw people of color under the bus has made it very clear that they were really, truly, fighting for rights of women primarily like themselves. 

That said, I am an educated, upper-middle class woman like them I sure do appreciate that right to vote I've got.  Women haven't actually had it all that long.  My grandmother was born before women had the right to vote, though we'd admittedly attained it by the time she was old enough to actually vote.  

I realize, as the tumblr kids say, "All your faves are problematic," and I can't even say that Susan B. Anthony was one of my faves.  But two things bother me:

1.  I draw a distinction, reasonable or not, between "your rights/needs are on my agenda, they just aren't on the top" and "I will actively demonize you to make my position seem more reasonable."  Anthony did some of both, though she tended toward the first, that quote at the top of the page notwithstanding.  Lots of suffragettes picked option B and I haven't seen any indication that Anthony told them to cut it out.  

2. These women seem to have at best ignored the reality of the pre-voting-act black voting experience, and at worst straight up lied about it.  To hear Carrie Chapman Catt (founder of the League of Women Voters) talk, black folks were voting all over the place and white women needed to have the vote lest black men end up entirely in charge.  "“White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage,”  she said, in what I can only guess was a comforting tone?  cite 

History has a lot of casualties.  I know this.  A lot of buildings I'm fond of, from the Great Pyramids to the White House, were build by slaves and I don't really know how to value the buildings without devaluing the slaves.  Maybe they would have been built without it, just as I'm sure I would have the vote BY NOW even if the suffragettes hadn't resorted to such terrible tactics.  

But my grandmother deserved that vote too.  

I like to tie things up in a package.  "History is just like that" would be one way to do so, but I'm not there yet.

Still trying to figure this one out. 


Ps.  Lots more here   

*Who had "it sure is degrading that white women can't vote when all these lesser people totes can" as a favorite topic. Most memorably:  

"“…but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is slowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see “Sambo” walk into the kingdom first. . . .

“Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung who do not know the difference between a Monarchy and a Republic, who never read the Declaration of Independence . . . making laws for Lydia Maria Child, Lucretia Mott, or Fanny Kemble.”


Cady Stanton was, thank goodness, an Episcopalian.