Since the creation of feminism, white women have been excluding black and woman of color (consciously or unconsciously) thus creating womanism, a movement deeply rooted in the racial and gender-based oppression of black women. And I, a fellow black women, can attest to this claim.
Womanism has been around for as long as feminism but it is credited to poet Alice Walker for coining the term “womanist.” It centers around the the experiences of black and woman of color and help fight their problems may it be sexism, racism, misogyny, etc. . .however, contrary to popular belief, Feminism and Womanism are similar as they are different. Alice Walker once said, “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”
However, feminism is a movement based for women of all kinds but because of it’s vast members from different backgrounds it’s main focus and highlights are mostly the struggles of white women and disregards the racial characteristics and struggles of black and women of color.
Now in order to understand how black and women of color have been excluded we should first start with the history of feminism and it’s founders. You see, feminism was first created by white middle class women who were primarily concerned about the suffrage of (as you probably guessed) white middle class women. It was never first created with the ideology that all women should deserve equity no matter their religion, race, sexuality or background.
Not only did feminism first start off catering only to the suffrage of white women but it’s founders were racists too. Susan B. Anthony, Belle Kearney, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, etc. . these are all early feminists who have been caught saying not-so-nice things about African Americans. Heck, even Frances Willard, founder of the National Council of Women and anti-child abuse activist was documented saying, “Alien illiterates rule our cities today; the saloon is their palace, and the toddy stick their scepter. The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt.” Yikes.
By now some may be thinking “So what? A lot of people we’re racist then, we’re different now.” You’re right, times have changed but racism is still well and alive in the Feminist movement. Many black and women of color such as myself don’t feel connected to the movement because the goals of black women are different than those of white women and that’s the problem. The blueprint or the main framework, so to speak, of feminism is built to fight the injustices of white women. Sometimes the goals of white feminists does align with those of black and women of color but not all the time. While white feminists fight to earn more than just 78 cents to a white man’s dollar black women only make 63 cents of a white man’s wages and Latina’s suffer the most, making only 54 cents.
So here’s how we can start to resolve it. White feminists should first acknowledge their privileges and the exclusion of black and women of color and understand that it’s not ok and that it’s a problem. Second, understand that as women from different backgrounds and colors that we all are fighting for different needs and injustices. It is essential because in the end we’re all women who should try and fight for all causes. Not just one. Third, we all work to change the framework and work hard to not just appeal to white women and their needs but black and women of color too. Acknowledging when black and women of color are being excluded and trying to reach out and getting them involved is one of the many ways to stop the eraser of these women.
At the end stoping this should be one of the main goals for feminists women because this has been an ongoing problem in their movements. So I propose to you to try and take up this challenge and stop the exclusion of black and women of color when you see it because at the end of the day we are all women and we’re all in this together.