Women of color vs. White Women

White women and women of color don’t share the same pain.

In Mapping the Margins; Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color, Kimberle Crenshaw defines structural intersectionality as,

“ The ways in which the location of women of color at the intersection of race and gender makes our actual experience of domestic violence, rape, and remedial reform qualitatively different than that of white women.”

As Crenshaw states, the location of a women of color can significantly impact the violence they face compared to that a white women faces.

Although white women do face domestic violence and rape, the violence and fear they face along with the resources they have access to can’t be compared to those of a women of color. Women of color often deal with many hardships such as unemployment, lack of skills required for a stable job, lack of education, and poverty., All of which have a long term affect on a women’s safety. For example, a women of color facing constant abuse from her partner will often times stay in the relationship due to not having the financial stability to leave, or the education knowledge of rights and resources. Whereas a white woman may be more aware of resources, have access to higher quality resources and may have been exposed to a higher education. Therefore making the violence women of color experiences far different than the violence of a white woman.

One important point that Crenshaw makes in regard to women of color and domestic violence is in regard to immigrant women. Women of color would often times immigrant to the U.S to seek a marriage with a citizen in order to apply for permanent residency. Those women would often face abusive partners and constant abuse but in many cases would stay quiet and take the abuse in order to avoid deportation back to their country. Therefore, women of color were faced with an unfair decision of abuse or deportation, something that white (“American”) women don’t have to deal with. Immigrant women become weak and more exposed to abuse not only because of fear but also because of resources. A white women has the access to file a police report and not risk loosing her legal status but in the case of an immigrant women in order to keep their legal status they had to be able to present many requirements, like police, medical and social service reports all of which they lack access to and run the risk of loosing their legal status.

Not only do women of color lack many resources but they are also in many cases limited to knowledge and education. Many women of color don’t receive the same kind of education that white women do. Therefore women of color tend to depend on their spouses knowledge, and rules. When women depend on one single source for information they miss out on the variety of resources and information that is out there, especially when their information is coming from the abuser. In the case of immigrant women they are many times neglected the knowledge of a new language, a language that may be the dominant language in a country. For example, an immigrant woman from Mexico who suffers from domestic abuse and depends on her spouse for information, she will most likely lack the knowledge of the english language. Language can act in many cases as a roadblock between battered women and the help they seek. In Crenshaw's article she states how in many shelters women have been turned away due to not speaking english and the shelter not having the personnel or resources to properly assist women of a different race, women of color. In the long run making shelters more accessible to white women.

Women of color are not only turned away or unknown to resources but often times they are no resources available to them. Resources in many cases have to be relocated and distributed between minority communities which limits the resources available and puts a limit on the number of battered women each center can help. Along with facing the limited resources, women of color are less likely to get legal help, and less likely that their cases will be pursued in the criminal justice system. Making them think, why speak out? Why risk it all when outside help may not be there.

Women of color hold a variety of cultural beliefs that play a role in the woman’s decision to file a report or seek help. Women of color already experience the lack of resources, education, language and on top of all that the face the pressure of their culture. If a woman of color is able to obtain access to resources and outside help she may be hesitant to pursue that help as she keeps her cultural beliefs in mind. One example of this is given by Sokoloff as she states that a Vietnamese woman who has been taught that saving face and family unity preempt individual safety will be reluctant to seek outside help for domestic violence. So what happens when women of color are exposed to outside help, and a new language, will their culture still hold them back?

Structural intersectionality can help explain the concept that violence between white women and women of color differ in many different ways when it comes to the location of the women. Intersectionality as a whole which may include structural, political, and representation can work in many ways between race and gender shaping the experiences of women of color. An important statement made by Anna Carastathis, intersectionality captures how oppressions are experienced simultaneously. Oppression that women of color face when it comes to help for abuse can be experienced at the same time throughout many women of color, like two minority women experiencing the same doubts to speak out and the lack of education, showing the unfairness and difference when compared to white women whom may be speaking out in their educated language, and taking advantage of the resources, not taking into consideration the question of culture. Stating once again that the experiences of women of color differeiantes than those of white women.