Race, Gender and Religion

In a passionate online opinion piece, Kavita Nandini Ramdas asks when the Democratic aspirants for president use their outsider perspectives to address global problems.

“The next president needs the ability to demonstrate the inner courage and conviction that comes from owning his or her 'otherness.' As a woman and a mother Hilary Clinton could bring insights and perspectives no other President in US history could have brought to the negotiating table of war and peace. As the stepson of an Indonesian Muslim and the son of a Kenyan and a white woman from Kansas, Barak Obama manifests what it means to be a global citizen. What is at stake in this election is not merely the historic first that would be accomplished if either a black man or a woman became the next US president. What is at stake is the fragile future of our shared world.”

Ramdas uses race and gender to discuss how the two Democratic candidates could direct much-needed attention to underreported global problems. She cites, for example, “an epidemic in rape in conflicts from Nepal to Chiapas to the Democratic Republic of Congo,” “the widespread murder of educated women in Iraq by religious extremists, and the fact that women own 1% of the world's assets while providing two-thirds of its labor.”

I am frequently asked about the current coverage of religion and politics: Is there more or less? Is it better or worse?  There is more on religion this election cycle, but quantity is not the same as quality. Quality goes beyond gotchas, conflicts and testimonials to explore how, where and why ethical concerns and spiritual yearnings come into play. Ramdas' piece suggests there are religious threads that underlie pressing problems of race and gender, and that the willingness to be an agent for change can be an ethical and spiritual commitment.

The question for coverage is how to turn these elusive threads into concrete questions for the candidates. Both Clinton and Obama have made much of their religious convictions. But can they be pressed to explain how these convictions influence their perspectives, and hopefully their actions, on global problems of race and gender?

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