When We March For Black Women, We March Towards True Equality
On Saturday, September 30, the March for Black Women will take place across Washington, D.C. Twenty years after the historic Million Women March, and at a time of alarming racial polarization and division in our nation’s politics and communities, this event is urgently needed.
As feminists we support the march because the oppression of one group — or a number of groups — halts progress for all. White supremacy pushes us all downward. The oppression of women, people of color, the Jewish community, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, and other marginalized individuals and communities are rooted in the same base primitive emotions: fear, prejudice and hatred.
NOW is a proud partner of the March for Black Women and the March for Racial Justice. We’ve partnered with these groups to show solidarity, not just with regards to racial inequality, but to the specific and horrific abuses faced by Black and Brown women and girls.
We can’t talk about racial justice without talking about the disproportionate ways that racism affects women of color. I recognize that different women from different communities experience challenges that go beyond gender. Even though I am a woman of Sicilian and Eastern European descent, there are privileges afforded to me because I was raised and identify as White. African American women experience sexism within a context not shared by their many of their sisters — resegregated and under-resourced schools; the school-to-prison pipeline; racial disparities in wealth and health outcomes to name some important disadvantages.
What’s more, many women of color experience race-based discrimination in the forms of unequal pay, racialized gender stereotyping, police brutality, and sexual violence. Intersectionality demands that we recognize each other’s unique struggles, working toward a shared vision of mutual respect and shared responsibilities.
Our movement for justice cannot be static. Charlottesville was the latest reminder of an urgent need for action, but we must keep showing up, demanding racial justice, and insisting these tragedies not be forgotten. It bears repeating that Charlottesville did not happen in isolation; it was the culmination of a long history of policies, practices, and cultural values that continue to uphold white supremacy. People of color–-particularly women–-lose their lives and sacrifice their dignity every day as a result of this toxic system.
As feminists and allies, it is our obligation to uplift and support the lives of all women. Real feminism demands action. Understanding that inequality exists including and beyond the confines of gender is just the first step. Feminism demands that we stand with our sisters in times of discomfort or danger. It demands that we acknowledge our own privilege, even when it is difficult and we may be reluctant to do so. The March for Black Women focuses on the treatment of African American women and girls and serves as a reminder that Black women’s issues are racial justice issues.
If we don’t make noise, and make sure these conversations around race continue, we can expect further horrific displays of white supremacy — and a deeper silence from politicians in Washington and around the country who prize holding onto power, with no intention of using it to advance change.
I’m proud to participate and speak at the March for Black Women, and to be leading the National Organization for Women at a time of such tremendous importance. I’m inviting activists to join me on that day–-in Washington or at sister marches across the country.
But more importantly: I’m inviting them to join me every day afterward, to keep taking action to dismantle white supremacy long after the March is over.