Dear White Feminism-
In the hashtag heard ‘round the world, Women of Color aired out their grievances with white feminism under: #solidarityisforwhitefeminism, on August 12, 2013. The #solidarityisforwhitewomen was created by Mikki Kendall, @Karnythia after white supremacist and paternalist academic Hugo Schwyzer, lashed out at Women of Color claiming that he “was awful to [his colleagues @amaditalks and @Blackamazon who were Women of Color] because [they] were in the way.” As a self-proclaimed white male feminist, Schwyzer simply robed himself in the feminist movement to remain relevant in a digital era where relevancy and retweets are valued as commodities.
#solidarityisforwhitewomen stroked all the chords of discontent with white feminism that existed for so long. Throughout my life, white women played the role of silencing me from the time in kindergarten when a little white girl told me she would not play with me because I was Black. To the time in second grade when a white girl asked me, “what does it feel like to be the only Black girl here?” To the white woman during a Biden rally at Dartmouth last fall who asked me, “Which country are you from?” To the elderly white woman on the streets of Chinatown last December who ran up to me and yelled at me several times that I was a “Nigger bitch prostitute.” To the moments of watching my friends be silenced by the white feminism brigade at school when they challenged the status quo. To last night when I found out from a friend that a national white sorority called Tri-Delta held a party with the local white fraternity called AD on July 26, 2013 that was themed “Bloods&Crips” that made a mockery of the urban poor Black and Latino youth stuck in a system of poverty, police brutality, unemployment, poor education system.
The #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend yesterday for women of color marked an important moment in which we stood up against our white sisters who continuously silence and ignore us, even in allowing Hugo Schwyzer into the feminist circles as he suffocated input from the voices of Women of Color. Ironically, although Schwyzer called himself a male feminist, his efforts to silence Black women’s voices represented an older guard of white supremacy used by white feminism, women and men alike. For months, now I internally fumed at the ways in which white feminism has persistently dictated the terms of the female liberation project even into the present. My frustration lies within your active denial of my trauma and exploitation as a Black Poor Radical woman living in an imperialist patriarchal white supremacist capitalist society that exploits people of color around the globe. But for right now I am unleashing my Black Rage upon you in hopes that you could reform the misguided egotistical, racist, classist, cissist white feminism oh so familiar in white feminism and begin to recognize my humanity along with that with other women of color.
#solidarityisforwhitefeminism allowed WoC to critique white feminists as upholding unique brand of feminism that is exclusive, racist, classist, and transphobic. Women of Color from around the globe launched into a critical evaluation of white feminists as fundamentally regressive in the ways in which you all silence, erase, and ignore the needs of women of color. Schwyzer was able to enter the feminist space and become a leading voice in the mainstream media along with the academic realms indicates a gross inequity into, which voices are included and equally excluded from the official narrative. Mainstream feminism, controlled by white women, has spent its entire existence protecting a white status quo, even allowing Schwyzer to infiltrate feminism despite his paternalistic, white supremacist arrogance. For centuries, white women sought to speak on behalf of Women of Color, from the white savior movement through the Vagina Monologues, to the film ‘The Help,’ to ‘Freedom Writers’ to the outright absence of non-white voices in your projects, i.e. the HBO show ‘Girls.’
White women of the world, why do you continue to ignore the brave Black women before me who articulated the importance of fighting an intersectional struggle against all pillars of oppression? Why do you not allow women of color to speak for themselves and exercise agency? Why do persistently equate sexism with racism? Have you continuously refused to see my humanity, my agency, and my enduring trauma caused by the white supremacy deeply entrenched in the American fabric when you treat white supremacy and racism as an issue of the past? White women went as far to call marriage equality the new Civil Rights Movement rejoicing after the passage of DOMA by the Supreme Court. But women of color will never forget how you all remained rather silent the fact that someone Black women lost their civil rights when the courts ruled against the Voting Rights Act that disenfranchised people of color the very next day. My Black Rage is currently directed at you white feminism because you have refused to broadened your struggle beyond protecting only your own rights as white cisgender middle and upper class educated women. It is not that the conversation on race has not happened, white liberal and conservative men and women alike have placed their hands over your ears pretending as if the good old days of white supremacist are a bygone era .
As a Black woman living in America, I do not have the same luxury as you white women to simply ignore the violence projected on the bodies of my Black brothers as you have done. Black women cannot simply abandon our Black brothers when we face the same grain of anti-blackness used quite often our white sisters direct towards us. You refuse to stand up against the white supremacy in America where Black bodies are used for target practice. That there is a perpetual violence against the Black body by white ameriKKKa, the imperialist patriarchal white supremacist capitalist nation that follows the continuing Jim and Jane Crow script of the past in the domestic backyard as it drops drones on my Black and Brown brothers and sisters around the world.
Exactly one month ago, on July 13, 2013 Black women learned that white women still refuse to see our humanity as we hoped for justice for Trayvon Benjamin Martin from the same white women who undoubtedly would have crossed the street, clutching their purse if they saw Trayvon Martin walking alone late at night. White women of the world, I need for you to take accountability for how it was and continues to be your unwillingness to challenge white supremacy and classism within mainstream feminism that returned, George Zimmerman, a violent, sexual predator, dangerous child killer back into our society unpunished. Trayvon Martin, yet another victim of a racist ameriKKKa, where the bodies of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Aiyana Stanley Jones, Oscar Grant III, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Hayida Pendleton, and countless young Black victims of gun violence and police brutality rot under an unforgiving, unwelcoming soil.
For centuries, white feminism refuse to acknowledge how for as long as Black women marched as champions for the gender equality, Black women fought tirelessly against our white sisters, to simply acknowledge our struggles, our demands, and our existence to no avail. Us Black women cannot divorce our identities from our entire person. We occupy a space in society where all our identities demand simultaneous attention. White feminism demands that Black women like me place their gender oppression before that of their race, without acknowledging that it is not just our gender oppression but our entire existence, from race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, linguistic ties, and other identities, that is rejected. During the early 1970s, Black women departed from mainstream feminism to create Black feminism to address the needs of Black women, too often ignored by white feminism. Black feminism simultaneously challenged all tyrannical systems that plagued Black women including white supremacy, sexism, heterosexism, and capitalism.
When white women equate sexism with racism, I have a simple question: what happened to me? As a poor Black Womanist Radical woman struggling to survive, I inherited the Black skin and femininity that jointly placed on the lowest rung of the American caste system. The only moment that you even acknowledged the plight faced by my Black brothers occurred when Trayvon Martin was not given justice through the judicial system and many of you white women wrote social media statuses that conveyed how much “you are” or “are not” Trayvon Martin without acknowledging how you shared commonalities with the white jurists let his murderer free. In that moment, you confirm to me your white privilege as an upper class white feminist to simply turn on and off diluted concern about racism at your own convenience.
#solidarityisforwhitewomen represented an important moment for Women of Color to declare that we refuse to stand behind you as you ignore our needs, refuse to allow us to exercise our own agency as you attempted to speak for us instead of allow us to speak for ourselves. What happens to the voices of those like me who continuously battle for our survival within the feminist ranks? Stop inhaling heavy doses of historical amnesia as you collect awards as the white savior on behalf of your darker skinned “sistahs.” Allow us to speak for ourselves. Forever aware of our multiple journey and allies amongst men of color as we struggle for humanity in a white supremacist capitalist system that effectively dehumanizes us and treats us as less than human. Even within those ranks, women of color battle to gain agency as our white female counterparts oppress us similarly as men of color.
Annis (Rachel) Sands
An aggrieved Black Radical Womanist