Throwing the Rock and Hiding Your Hand: White women and a revisiting of intersectionality

Terence Crutcher was killed by a white female cop- that matters

Another police shooting. Another innocent Black person killed by police. The “crime” this time? Apparent car trouble. 40- year old Terence Crutcher, father of four, was unarmed when he was killed by a shot to the stomach. (I am not linking videos, or articles because they all embed the video)

If we are ever going to take any major steps towards eradicating the racist social inequity that leads to the routine death of Black folks, we have to have a serious discussion about the glaring difference between this shooting and others in the recent past: Terence Crutcher was killed by a white female cop- Betty Shelby- that matters.

Let’s think about this in the context of a resurfacing of the term “intersectionality” in social justice conversations. Why does this matter? Because the “progressive” movement has been quick to trot out another oppressed identity when the conversation of white privilege comes up.

Intersectionality (an incredibly BRIEF review)

The term “intersectionality” was coined by scholarship powerhouse Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, who sought to document the complications women of color face in institutions of power, and to push for action to diversify the women’s movement. She continues work as a Professor at UCLA Law, and co founded a think tank for African American policy reform. Another scholar powerhouse is Patricia Hill Collins, whose infamous book, Black Feminist Thought, lays a solid foundation for Black feminist studies. Her recent book, Intersectionality, is a must read if you want to know the basics of the concept.

What does this mean?

An example of intersectionality IS:

“Black women have compounded barriers of race, gender, and class. This is incredibly hard for them to navigate. Let’s talk about intersectionality here!”

An example of intersectionality IS NOT:

“I know I’m white, but I’m also a woman. So there’s privilege, yes, but other are other things, too. Let’s talk about intersectionality here!”

Lets be clear: Intersections of identity most definitely matter, but “intersectionality” is not a “get out of white privilege free” card. To treat it as such is to co-opt the labor of the Black women who coined the term, and to make “intersectionality” a deflection that makes progressives feel less bad about being white.

“I'm white, but I'm also a woman” is NOT intersectionality. “I'm white, but I'm also poor.” is NOT intersectionality either. It’s a dangerous cop-out that needs to be addressed, particularly as white women are becoming the face of “diversity” in professions, including the police force.

To put it simply, Betty Shelby is what happens when our disdain for racism does not extend to the white women who perpetuate it. White women, in the discussion surrounding violence against Black bodies, are passively left out of the “oppressor” category, because of their status as women. “Its the MEN we should all be worried about” or “White male rage is SO dangerous”. All the while, white women maintain the same status quo, because it helps them, too. In fact, the status quo helps them more. How many times do we need to hear that it is white women who benefit most from “diversity” initiatives, or affirmative action (which everyone swears is just a way to let undeserving Black kids into school for free). If you have the strength to watch the horrific video of the shooting, notice how Betty, the shooter, is the one comforted. She is treated as the victim, worthy of protection, as Terence Crutcher lay dying.

So this time, the answer to “What can White “allies” do?” looks a bit different for me, especially since a white woman has risen as the Democratic nominee for President of the Unites States. Right now, I need white women, particularly white feminist spaces, to go beyond the idea that their racism is just a passive, residual effect of violent white men’s anger and control. I need white women to critically examine the history of violence perpetuated by white women. I also need white women at the diversity tables to question the lack of Black representation, if representation was the goal. Anything less than that is to continue to benefit from the privilege that makes white women endlessly deserving of protection, victimhood, and compassion- but makes Black people endlessly deserving of condemnation or death.

TO RECAP: White women need to stop hiding behind flawed definitions of intersectionality and feminism. White women need to come to grips with the very real, intentional damage they cause(d) to Black folks, and how their white privilege has shielded them from responsibility.

Talk to y'all, soon.

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