What's the REAL Issue? : Tell Me More I like the fact that we get to enjoy elections without, for the most part, fear of violence and retaliation...
NPR logo What's the REAL Issue?

What's the REAL Issue?

"Are you black, first, or a journalist, first?"

"What plays a bigger role in your life, being black or being female?"

"Why did you wait so long to have kids? You must have been pretty busy with your career, huh?"

"Wow! You can cook? You seem like such a career gal."

"You're taking time off for Thanksgiving? Isn't that what bakeries are for?"

Now, how are you reacting to these questions? They are actual remarks that have been made to me, some of them very recently. It's a little sampler of insensitivity for you.

Are these worst things I've ever heard? Of course, not.

Any permanent scarring? By all means no, and frankly I'm at the age where it really rolls off my back, and I have so many standard comebacks, I don't even think about it. (What exactly SHOULD I have been doing before I met my husband? Bakeries, yes. But they're for people who can't bake).

But my real issue is that only some of us have to answer these questions and, if you are a white man, I can almost guarantee they have never been said to you.

... Which leads me to the whole Obama-Clinton thing. Elections are ABOUT choice, and I appreciate having a choice. I know some people are annoyed by the size of the field on both the Democratic and Republican sides. They long for the days until the race gets narrower. But I don't. I like hearing what many of our best and brightest have to say about the state of our nation and world -- at least those with the means and ambition to see a job that way. And, I like the fact that we get to enjoy elections without, for the most part, fear of violence and retaliation. This is a luxury much of the world would dearly love to have.

But what about the whole race and gender thing? How does that play out?

One of our most prominent social critics engaged this question recently, and we thought you might like to hear more of what she had to say. Also, read her recent Op-ed in the New York Times, and one of her earlier ones.

We also thought you'd enjoy hearing from a panel of distinguished commentators who have also faced some of the questions I described earlier -- Gwen Ifill, host of PBS' "Washington Week," New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson, and Linda Chavez, a commentator for FOX News. Come to think of it, we might need to have this conversation again.

Who else would you like to hear from on this?

Addendum: Today, I was washing my dishes in the kitchen (it's my afternoon ritual ... we get in so early in the morning I usually have my cereal at my desk, and we are so busy that I usually heat-up some soup or leftovers from home for lunch) when a man I've never seen before actually stopped to ask me (jokingly, I assume, he thought) if he could bring his dishes so I could wash them. I asked him if his arm was broken.

Now, I ask YOU. Would he have said that to Robert Siegel?