I’ll cut straight to the point for this one – calling out white supremacist behavior, no matter how subtle, is nothing new in the feminist movement. From Sojourner Truth to bell hooks to Audre Lorde to just about every Black feminist (or womanist – respectfully) I’ve talked to in recent months. We have all had our run ins with sudden White fear and angst in response to the new administration, and many of us have called out this sudden outrage with little to no positive reaction.
The new administration is insane, but it’s nothing new. Racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, and more have existed in such subtle, and not so subtle, micro-aggressions long before our new president was elected. And they have existed, and continue to exist – even in social justice movements. But it’s easier to call out blatant absurdity than it is to admit that maybe, just maybe mainstream feminism is just as much of the problem when it comes to racism in America.
“What? But I’m nothing like Donald Trump!” – maybe not as blunt, but subtle oppression is still oppression.
I think it’s egregious that many people are now outraged because all things racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. are visibly personified in Donald Trump; but these hateful attitudes have always existed, and many people of color have been speaking out against them. I suppose subtle hatred doesn’t warrant an urgent response. Now that Trump is in leadership, the moderate racist doesn’t look so bad.
The moderate racist, the person who didn’t vote for Trump, but perpetuates, and even benefits from, white supremacy on the daily is now outraged – years after slavery or the Chinese Exclusion Act or President Andrew Jackson (talk about blatant hatred!).
To my White feminists, your fear is real, but it’s over 200 years late.
Of all the spaces I expect to feel safe in, outside of the Church – which has its own similar issues – I’d expect to find refuge within a movement whose goal is to end violence, discrimination, and inequality rooted in sexism. Unfortunately, refuge is not what I have been met with in mainstream feminism.
Mainstream feminism labels my experience as “other”, secondary, or a struggle of “marginalized communities”. Women of color have fought tirelessly for generations to have our unique, intersectional experiences viewed as essential to this movement, only to be met with condescending rhetoric about how all women must stick together and overcome the patriarchy, not pitted against each other.
I’m often quiet. Aside from my introversion, I’ve fallen victim to respectability politics – from patriarchy and within the mainstream feminist movement. I don’t want to come off as “that Black girl” – the loud one; the feisty one; the nagging one. But in light of the recent administration, and newfound white outrage, I cannot help but speak. I cannot help but to call out the flaws I see in choosing to become outraged now. And in light of the toes I’ve stepped on already in the past week, I must ask: Mainstream feminists, in the midst of your recently hurt feelings, which will you choose, Judas or Peter?
I ask of you to choose between Judas or Peter, because of the contrast between the two men who notoriously betrayed Jesus. Judas chose to take matters into his own hands, attempt to “fix” the damage he’d done – to no avail – then proceeded to condemn himself to death. Peter also experienced grief, but the type of grief that leads to forgiveness, mobilizing closer to Jesus, and in the end, standing up for the very person he originally denied.
There’s also something refreshing about knowing that a Savior, pitied and hung high on a tree, sympathizes with me – a Black woman in America, which is why I chose to use this particular analogy.
When women of color call out the flaws in mainstream feminism, particularly with privilege and racism, it is not with the hopes that you will become like Judas. I do not want to see you attempt to do everything in your power to “fix” the situation, only to fail. I pray that attitudes are more like Peter. I pray that the anger, guilt, or fear that you feel will not isolate you, but bring you into closer proximity to the experiences of women of color. My hope is that your feelings of uncertainty for the next four years will be channeled into action – even if it means laying down your life for the sake of a people you once denied.
❤ LySaundra Janeé