Steve has written about the push back from some black radicals over the decision to put Harriet Tubman’s image on the twenty dollar bill. The twenty, it seems, is a symbol of capitalist oppression. Tubman is demeaned by appearing on it. Or something.
There are a million ways to be unhappy, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a white feminist friend dislikes using Tubman’s image on the twenty for a completely different reason. Women, she says, get short shrift by receiving their due from the U.S. Treasury in conjunction with African-Americans. In effect, the White Patriarchy is getting off easy with a two-fer.
Not only that, the woman through whom the White Patriarchy pulls this off is honored for accomplishments on behalf of blacks. There is nothing distinctively female or feminist about what Harriet Tubman did. She’s a black hero who happens to have been female.
Who would my friend like to have seen on the twenty? Eleanor Roosevelt.
This choice surprised me. What little Eleanor Roosevelt achieved was mostly on the coattails of her husband. Harriet Tubman is vastly more praiseworthy. Looking at things from a feminist perspective, why not honor Susan B. Anthony?
Then I realized that my friend is an ardent supporter of another coattail rider, Hillary Clinton.
The critical reactions by precincts of the left to the Tubman decision are, I think, a sign of things to come. It’s possible to hold a diverse political coalition together for a long time. The Democrats proved this in the first half of the 20th century; the Republicans, to a lesser extent, in the second half.
But when the coalition is comprised of identity-based groups wallowing in a their sense of victimization and hyper-sensitive to symbols, holding it together may prove to be an immense challenge.