As many of you were, I was heartbroken on election night. There were many reasons I was sad but I was saddest that I allowed myself to be hopeful – that we as a country would get it right. That sadness eventually turned to anger. How could we, as a country, get it so wrong? So I wrote a bunch of angry rants on what I thought led us to this place as a way to channel my anger into something constructive.
Since then, so much has happened – intelligence community confirming Russia helped Trump get elected, the nominations of seriously unqualified candidates to cabinet positions, a Muslim ban that stranded refugees, permanent residents and dual citizens at airports, and the list goes on. How is it possible not to be in a constant state of anger during this onslaught? I’ve come to embrace my anger because anger can be useful because it can help us find clarity, and push us to have conversations that we are afraid to have. Instead of hiding from this anger, I’m going to use this space to channel it into something constructive that will hopefully help us have productive conversations.
I am an immigrant, woman of color and the daughter of working-class parents. I was raised by a badass feminist mother who to this day doesn’t know what the word means or even cares and a father, despite his upbringing and the worldview taught to him, had the same expectations of me as he would have had for a son. I stumbled my way into feminism and social justice through the invaluable mentorship of some amazing black women professors in college. The words of black women writers like bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde shaped my worldview. All of these things helped me develop a unique perspective on politics. And this perspective will make some of you uncomfortable and may even make you angry in return. But I also think the anger is an opportunity for us to finally have some difficult and angry conversations. If you want to read more about anger as a tool for empowerment, I’d recommend Kirsten West Savall’s recent article.
We know from words and deeds to date that this new administration will mercilessly target certain communities of color. And for some it will be literally a fight of life or death. If the current nominee, Jeff Sessions, were to become the Attorney General, he will further perpetuate and protect the racism that will surely cause many more black deaths by the police. This weekend, we saw the cruelty that the administration can unleash on Muslim communities and upend the lives of people who dare worship differently. We can be certain families will be torn apart when this administration implements a mass deportation plan. Given the stakes, we need as many people to be angry at what is happening and take action but that also requires that people, ahem white friends, come to this with a certain level of awareness.
For example, I’m not moved by your story that the Women’s March was your first protest. Ummm… really? All that tells me is that you’ve lived a life of privilege and you’ve turned a blind eye to all the ways that people are suffering. I knew that I would participate the moment it was announced. I had a pleasant enough experience but it was also disheartening that white women could be mobilized in such large numbers only if their interests were threatened. If you want to learn more about why many women of color chose not to participate, there are plenty of articles but I’d recommend the piece by Jamilah Lemieux.
“I’m really tired of Black and Brown women routinely being tasked with fixing White folks’ messes. I’m tired of being the moral compass of the United States. Many of the White women who will attend the march are committed activists, sure. But for those new-to-it White women who just decided that they care about social issues? I’m not invested in sharing space with them at this point in history.”
Women accomplished something amazing and powerful on January 21. I was moved by it. Women, including prominent women of color, led this phenomenon that involved people from all seven continents, including Antarctica! After an election that was a slap in the face to every smart and hard-working woman around the world, it was gratifying. But white women, did you need to act so white after the march? Did you really need to share smug self-congratulation, absent of social context and privilege, that the march had no arrests? Did you think for a minute the police wasn’t out in full riot gear because they didn’t feel threatened by a bunch of white women?
Let’s be honest… the rise of Trump is not just a win for racism but also the failure of white feminism – movement that centered whiteness. (If you want to know what that means, I’d recommend this article by Jenee Desmond-Harris.) White women voted for Trump by a margin of 53 percent, while black women voted for Hillary by a margin of 94 percent. To me that is a significant betrayal. In the end, white women chose the promise the privileges of whiteness over an allegiance to sisterhood. Katie McDonough’s article does a good job of breaking this down. All the explanations in the world won’t matter, if you cannot hear that white women voted for Trump without saying “but I’m not…” or becoming defensive. And if you do that, you are part of the problem and falling into the same trap as your white feminist foremothers. If you are angry reading this paragraph, I’d say sit with that anger and figure out why it’s making you angry.
This is not to say that there aren’t constructive mobilization efforts underway or that I’m not thankful for everyone who is engaged now. Over the weekend, my anger turned to hope again that we can work across racial lines to resist the worst of what this administration will unleash. But we must acknowledge that is only a strategy for survival. What happens after that? Will this resistance movement continue with strength and mass beyond this administration to truly dismantle the ideology of white supremacy? We need to understand solidarity built on the centering of whiteness (and muting the anger and pain of women of color) will not last. If we are going to create an enduring and strong resistance movement, the ownership shifts to white allies to become more educated (and not put the responsibility of educating on women of color), hear the criticism from marginalized women who have been leading resistance movements for a long time, and continue to stay engaged and take action over the long haul.