Palin presents false choice

As a black woman, I refuse to accept the false choice the McCain campaign has presented me with its vice presidential candidate: Vote gender or vote the issues.

But Gov. Sarah Palin is not the kind of woman I, or many other black or Latino women, can readily identify with. We are not hockey moms. We don’t hunt moose. And when our unmarried teenage daughters get pregnant, society doesn’t see it as a blessing. Instead, we are viewed as perpetuating cultural pathologies.

So, when Palin speaks about herself as the average working mom and woman trying to juggle it all, I can’t relate. In her, I don’t see myself, my mother, my sister or even my next-door neighbor.

On the issues, she’s socially conservative, and her views and opinions run counter to many of my deeply held values and beliefs — not to mention those of my community.

I don’t hear her talking about poverty. Black women and Latinas are nearly twice as likely to be poor than white women.

I don’t hear her talking about HIV/AIDS. Black women and Latinas account for 79 percent of all reported HIV infections among 13- to 19-year-old women and 75 percent of HIV infections among 20- to 24-year-old women in the United States. They are also nearly twice as likely to be poor than white women.

When I talk to my friends about Palin, gender is hardly the point of consideration for them; it is her position on abortion, comprehensive sex education, the war, poverty, affirmative action and immigration that matters most.

Perhaps the McCain camp isn’t talking to black women and Latinas when they say Palin is the average American mom and woman, but if they are, they have a long way to go.

At this point, they not only aren’t talking to us. They aren’t even bothering to recognize us.

C. Nicole Mason, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU and senior research fellow at the National Council for Research on Women. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.