On Marches and Intersectionality

The Women’s Marches around the world on January 21 were awe-inspiring. Beautiful resistance. I honor everyone who participated. We can build on this momentum.

At the same time, there are problematic elements to the marches that I would like to discuss, particularly the dynamics of the intersectionality of oppression.

While there is much to celebrate about the marches, white people can use some of the conversations around them as an opportunity to deepen our understandings of the perspectives of people of color. While I have a handful of Latinx and black friends who participated in the marches, I have many more who did not. The call to action did not resonate with them in the context of their life experiences. I believe it is critically important to examine why if we are to truly move towards collective liberation.

In the spirit of holding up the positive magnitude of the marches while looking at how we can do even better, here are some voices to listen to:

Jamilah Lemieux wrote an opinion piece for Colorlines, “Why I’m Skipping the Women’s March on Washington.” Excerpt: “I’ve never felt any thing remotely resembling sisterhood with White women. Friendship, affinity, fondness, love—sure. Sisterhood? Nah. That sense of loyalty, interconnectedness, accountability and shared struggle simply isn’t there….I’d like to see a million White women march to the grave of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth or Audre Lorde, or perhaps to the campus of Spelman College to offer a formal apology to Black women. It’s time for White women to come together and tell the world how their crimes against Black women, Black men and Black children have been no less devastating than the ones committed by their male counterparts. ”

voting-stats

Desiree Adaway posted the above graphic on her Facebook page with this comment, “I am gonna speak some truth today: I want more than Kumbaya to come from all the marches today. It is gonna take a lot more than that to make me forget this stat. I am glad to see white women stepping up and doing this work. So as y’all do this important work let’s not forget that a lot of women who are not marching helped make this stat true. So as you march and chant, ask the hard question of why white women said yes to him and no to her. Original data source: http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls/national/president

In her post, “I’ll Pass on ‘Unity’ and the Women’s March,” Barbara Sostaita asks some challenging questions and explains, “Women of color are entering this conversation from a place of anger and betrayal, hurt by the recurring violence we face at the hands of our white ‘sisters.’ We will be the ones who suffer most as a result of the choices a majority of white women made on November 8th. This is a painful process and before the topic of ‘unity’ can be broached, we need proof that white women have our backs. Unity cannot take place until that promise has been demonstrated.”

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Photo by Rudy Espinoza

My friend Stephen Smith made these thought-provoking all caps Facebook posts:

“LET US NOT BE FOOLED, WHITE WOMEN ARE STILL FAR AHEAD OF BLACK WOMEN WITH THE SAME DEGREE LEVEL WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO WEALTH. WE HAVE A LOT OF SOUL SEARCHING TO DO AND LET US NOT PUT ALL THE BLAME ON DONALD. THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT SHOULD ALSO ADDRESS HOW TO UPLIFT THEIR BLACK WOMEN AS WELL AND NOT CONTINUE TO TURN A BLIND EYE TO THEIR NEEDS.

I WONDER WHY NONE OF THE SO CALLED BLACK PEOPLE ALLIES (WHITES, LGBT, NATIVE AMERICANS, ETC) HAVE PROTESTED FOR BLACKS TO RECEIVE REPARATIONS? HAVE NOT PROTESTED THE INEQUALITY OF THE WEALTH GAP, EDUCATION, DISPARITY IN HEALTHCARE, UNEMPLOYMENT WHICH CONTINUES TO INCREASE AND OTHER ISSUES THAT AFFECT US IN THIS COUNTRY.

IF ALL OF THESE DISPARITIES EXISTED (ASHEVILLE AND AMERICA) BEFORE DONALD TRUMP WHAT THE HELL WERE WE DOING BEFORE THAT CONDITIONS DIDN’T IMPROVE FOR BLACK AMERICA? NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERYONE WANT TO UNITE AND WORK TOGETHER? I FAIL TO BE FOOLED BY THIS NONSENSE.”

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Janet Mock at the Women’s March on Washington. Photo from The New York Times.

In her speech at the Women’s March Washington, transgender activist Janet Mock spoke powerfully about intersectionality:

“Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves. I know with surpassing certainty that my liberation is directly linked to the liberation of the undocumented trans Latina yearning for refuge. The disabled student seeking unequivocal access. The sex worker fighting to make her living safely.

Collective liberation and solidarity is difficult work, it is work that will find us struggling together and struggling with one another. Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing. We must return to one another with greater accountability and commitment to the work today.”

To be continued.

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