Why Do Black Women Embrace A Feminist Vision That Does Not Include Them?
According to exit polls, 53% of white women voted for Trump. It does not take a mathematician to realize that is a significant amount of women; tens of millions. Despite the justifications in the provided, these women were not all simply old mid-westerners with antiquated ways of thinking. That 53% included a wide range of white women from various age groups, educational levels, and marital statuses. It can even be argued that white women were the most important demographic in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. It was all but predetermined who the majority of white men would vote for but white women voters were viewed as less of a certainty although the republican won the majority of white women in 2008 and 2012 as well.
Despite the statistic that the majority of white women supported Trump, you still see a majority of black women co-opting women’s issues related to feminism. This is not to say that black women are not affected by similar issues that white women are affected by such as sexism, inequitable pay, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. But a black women experiencing the former will still have a much different experience and quality of life than a white woman.
Woman such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Gina Loudon, Kellyanne Conway, and formerly Hope Hicks and the majority of women within the GOP including Haitian American congresswoman Mia Love are fighting to enact policy that harms black women. Many of these women who support Trump, fight for anti-birth control legislation and one might ask “how does this disproportionately affect black women”? Well black women are far more likely than white women, 3–4x, to die from complications due to pregnancy according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a New York Times article by Linda Villarosa titled “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis”, government data gathered on black children demonstrated that they are more than twice as likely to die during infancy than their white counterparts (Villarosa, 2018). This is not to say that birth control is not important to white women because it is but it highlights the more pressing need for attention on black women’s health issues. A skeptic might look at the data and say that this just highlights the lack of positive cultural in the black community. The problem with blaming the issue on cultural differences is that Villarosa’s New York Times article pointed out a finding by researchers even among educated black women, their infants still died at disproportionately higher rates. Restrictions on women’s health policy is only one of the issues for black women that could be exacerbated by the current administration; other issues include pay discrimination, sexual & racist harassment in the work place, and mass incarceration which also affects disproportionately affects black women.
Much has been made of the unnecessary random 911 calls made on African Americans which some say is a sign of the current administration condoning overt racism. Many of the victims in these incidents of racial profiling have not just been black men but black women also; including a Yale and Smith college student who were simply engaged in normal non-criminal activities. There is a prevailing “myth” that electing women into political office will somehow create a beneficial effect on all women. Women in the United States Senate such as Susan Collins, Shelley Capito, Lisa Murkowski, Joni Ernst, and Deb Fischer disprove this narrative. All of the aforementioned senators voted to confirm a conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and reluctant to part with the party line even on positions that hurt women from lower socioeconomic issues. These senators did not come to power off of exclusively male voters; they came to power off of conservative women as well.
The term “women’s issues” can be misleading as there is no uniformly agreed upon group of issues that women all agree to support. There is no united women’s coalition that supersedes race, class, or political ideology. Women have remarkably different viewpoints depending on what part of the country you are and this can not be understated. Feminism while it is typically adopted by more liberal demographics, it is still based on the ideology of white women. Conservative white women have benefited more from feminism than liberal black women and nowhere is this more apparent than when looking at the women occupying positions of power in the White House currently. Black women face an identity crisis in defining themselves politically as being more influenced by their race or gender. While many attempt to say both their gender and race play a role in defining them, statistically the latter has much larger implications on their lot in life.
Feminism has never been a fight for the rights of black women in any historical context whether in the early 20th century or in the 21st century. Feminism did not stop pregnant black women, Mary Turner, from being lynched and having her stomach cut open so her unborn child could be trampled to death in 1918. Feminism does not address police brutality committed upon black women and teenage girls. Despite all these areas where the contemporary women’s movement comes up short for African American women; you will still see large segments of women promoting feminist political groups. In many ways the phenomenon mirrors the African American support of the democratic party which statistically has resulted in very little progress for the demographic as a whole. This is not to say that African American women should be against feminism but that they should think critically about who their actual political allies are.