An anti-Trump protest this weekend in New York City. Photo by Doug Turetsky (Creative Commons).
I am angry. I am tired. I am sad. But this is not really different from the state I am normally in.
This isn’t to play down the pain that so many are feeling right now. That is valid, it is real. But it’s not a pain that resonates with people of color and queer folks. We were already existing in a continuous loop of pain and frustration. We were already on the defense, gasping for air. I am confused by those who said they didn’t vote for Trump, who consider themselves liberal, as progressive. As educated and aware. I’m even more confused by the response of white women specifically. White women who so often blame white men for any of the chaos existing in the world, yet never take responsibility for contributing to that racist world. Yes, America and the rest of the world don’t really care about women, but when women do get a platform, it’s usually white women speaking. Black women, brown women, and immigrant women are still overlooked by those shouting “FEMINISM! FEMALE IS THE FUTURE!” Too often in our society, white women have value while women of color do not.
On Tuesday, the numbers were very clear: White women showed up more for Trump than they did for Hillary Clinton. Yet, so many white women pointed fingers at everyone but themselves when Trump was elected president. When the conversation started to slowly turn to blaming white women, I watched my white friends break down. I watched them become fragile, and the white tears made many appearances. I watched them complain, and blame, and refuse to recognize that there needs to be a change to what we call feminism. It was peak white feminism, doing what it does best, looking out for the white female while stepping over and on top of women of color. I watched as my Black and brown friends spoke of their fears and talked about the abuse they were already experiencing, and white women were too busy crying to reach out and hold them up. In the same way that Black and brown women have continually done.
So I’m done catering to the fragile white woman. To the ignorant comments: “We are all women, feminism is for all of us.” What are they playing at? It’s never been for all of us, no matter how hard women of color have tried to make it for them as well. They are still rejected from the narrative of womanhood. As a Black nonbinary person who is female bodied, I have raised two brown children in an America that has always been Trump America to me and my Black family. I’ve spent the last few years coming to terms with the fact that I have to fight for my space in this world. I do not get to hide behind pointing fingers at white men. I do not get to scream “Sexism!” to cover the fact that I contribute to racism. Black women do not get the luxury of still having white privilege, but having people make space for them because they are women. Often, requests for “diversity” are worded “Women and people of color.” This is exclusive to white women, keeping women of color from sharing space with men of color. After last week, we need to change that language.
I fear what white women will do while adjusting to this new America, the America that women of color have already known, have worked hard to be strong in. I wonder if they’ll repeat the same cycle as before. Using their gender when they see fit, but ultimately still choosing race over gender. I see them in the streets shouting about feminism, but where have they been when Black mothers were mourning the murders of their sons? Where were these feminists when mothers at Standing Rock were attacked with children in hand? Where are these feminists when immigrant mothers are threatened to be sent back to their countries? Why doesn’t their feminism extend that far? Is it because even fighting for equality comes with access and privilege? I suppose I should be happy that so many bubbles have been burst for white women, but I’m skeptical. In a month, will they still be taking to the streets and accompanying us? Will they still be organizing and demanding change? Will they finally have understood why their white feminism is dangerous and harmful to other women?
I had a conversation with many white women this week who attacked many organizers of color, activists who eat, live, and breath fighting for space in this white America, simply because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton nor Trump. Yet, it was people of color who showed up for Clinton, the candidate they had promised was here for us. They blamed women who have laid their bodies and lives down for their children. Women who, like me, do not have the comfort of whiteness to fall back into. I agree that white men hold a certain privilege that none of us will be able to experience—let’s always continue to dismantle that—but let’s also be real with ourselves. White feminism, white women who believe themselves to be just and “well-meaning,” are also contributing to white supremacy. By ignoring this, by not calling out white women, we are encouraging a cycle that will come to a head if it hasn’t already. Tuesday was a perfect example of how white women have coasted. The white woman is coddled, is praised for speaking up for herself, and is given space to be a feminist. That space and that voice, however, is not inclusive to those who have different pigments. And still the white woman would deny that she is racist. How could she be if she’s fighting for feminism, if she’s trying to destroy the white man, if she is being good? The spaces she fills, though, are often filled with other white bodies and have little regard to the plight of women of color. Enough is enough.
It is time for white women to take responsibility for having a hand in where our country has ended up. We, all of us, can do better. No one is going to get a pass in this situation. The America we are now experiencing was created by those who have privilege, have the comfort of moving through the world relatively safely. It’s time to get uncomfortable, though. It is time to practice those speeches of equality and justice. It’s time to go beyond “well-meaning,” beyond charging crystals and pulling tarot cards. It is time to speak up, own up, and actually act out what feminism supposedly means. For too long, the emotional labor that comes with talking about race has been put on people of color. It can no longer be this way. This past week has shown us that the idea we’ve held of what a racist person looks like, poor, uneducated, and unaware, isn’t actually the right profile. It is the middle class, college-educated, and “progressive” person who is more concerned with clinging to their privilege at the expense of hurting those who do not look like them. It is up to white Americans, in particular white women, to step into the gap. To change the conversation about gender, to include the conversation about race, about class. This is no longer about diversity. It’s about being inclusive.