It’s Time to Follow Black and Indigenous Womxn to End Racist Patriarchy
There’s been a shit ton of shock, and disbelief swirling about lately. As the American mid-term elections drew to a close the data became clear that once again, white folx overwhelmingly voted in favour of racist, misogynistic candidates. Despite 2 years of continuous violence from a presidency seeking to eradicate women’s rights, White womxn still chose race over gender.
But this should come as no surprise. Not. At. All. White womxn’s dismay is simply a consequence of their White privilege. What I’m hearing amidst all the “heartbreak” and “hopelessness” is an expectation. An earnest belief that if they just roll up their sleeves to canvas for a cause, have a few hard conversations and work solely within a racist patriarchal system, then shit will change. And that expectation is White supremacy at play. Because Black + Indigenous womxn have been rallying, kicking and screaming for centuries and our voices have been actively suppressed by whiteness — including Wwomxn. We know that the anti-racist efforts led by white folx within White supremacist systems do no damn good. We know voting is just one way to fight injustice but not the only way. Because the system as a whole is a racist and misogynist mess. I mean, hello! It’s 2018. Black men are getting lynchedand a sexist bigot is the American President. Clearly, shit ain’t working.
“The most disrespected person in America is the Black wom[x]n. The most unprotected person in America is the Black wom[x]n. The most neglected person in America is the Black wom[x]n.” — Malcolm X
Follow Black + Indigenous Women
As a black Canadian woman living in Sweden I can confidently argue that the most disrespected person in the world is the Black womxn. And Indigenous womxn don’t fall far behind. This is precisely why if we are ever to have a chance at dismantling racist patriarchy, Black and Indigenous womxn must lead the way. Racial justice is coming and it will be led by womxn. What I’m telling you, without a shadow of a doubt, is that those womxn will not be White.
I recently spoke at Catrice Jackson’s Follow Black Women conference and I had the pleasure of hearing Nekima Levy-Pounds share her story of being arrested, while pregnant, for participating in a highway blockade in response to the Minnesota police’s murder of Jamar Clark. When she finished, Catrice posed a question to the crowd — could anyone think of a White womxn who would continuously put her life and liberty on the line to stand up for racial justice as Nekima had? The answer from Black, Brown + White womxn alike was a resounding “no”!
White womxn need to learn how to fall the fuck in line. To follow. To be quiet and let Black and Indigenous womxn who have and will continue to do whatever is necessary to pave the way toward liberation for us all. When we look at the data from the American midterm elections, for example, we see that Black womxn voted in favour of progress — 92% versus 49% of White womxn.
White womxn need to collect their people. But collecting their people does not and cannot look like leading anti-racist education or efforts because — newsflash — they don’t actually know or understand racism! I would never take up space as a leader or educator in fighting ableism because as an able-bodied person I cannot comprehend the depth of the experience of those with disabilities and could never speak to what is best to end a form of oppression I participate in. It is not my place. And believing that it is only further harms folx with disabilities who are fighting to have their voices heard over able-bodied assholes like me. Same goes for race. White folx need to know their limit and play within it.
Gleanings from Glennon
Last week Glennon Doyle, a famous, outspoken author, posted about a webinar for White women to discuss race that she and another White woman were leading. This, my loves, is a stunning example of White womxn getting way the hell out their lane. Why? Say it with me! Because White people have no place leading anti-racism education. There are lots of important and informative tidbits that came out of Glennongate, so let’s unpack and learn shall we? We shall!
Let me make it clear that I’m not here to rip Glennon a new one, so all her warriors for White womxnhood can lay down their arms (also do not try me because I am not the one). I think she’s done a lot of good in many ways. She put her neck out and she fucked it up. That’s just part of doing the work and for better or worse she is in no way exceptional. So let’s start right there — reiterating that she, like every other White womxn, celebrity or otherwise, is not exceptional. White womxn are all included in the hot mess that is Whiteness. Together. They all benefit from White supremacy, they all belong to it and nearly all of them perpetuate it (even if they’re trans, gender non-conforming, intersex, LGBTQIA+, poor, immigrant, have a disability or the like). But white womxn keep feeling like they’ve transcended to some exceptional place whereby they can and should educate other White womxn on race.
It’s a no for me dawg. And in this case, I wasn’t alone. Hundreds if not thousands of other womxn of colour - along with White womxn authentically engaged in anti-racism — pointed out how problematic Glennon’s proposition was. I want to acknowledge that it is my understanding that she was led to host this webinar by a council of womxn of colour but I’m also informed that the council in question is comprised of very few Black or Indigenous womxn. Another no!
Firstly, White womxn do not need “safe” space, as was promoted, to discuss race. This infers that spaces with people of colour are somehow unsafe and that’s a racist proposition. Further, womxn of colour don’t get “safe spaces” away from White supremacy. Not even a room filled solely with womxn of colour is free from Whiteness because White supremacy ensures we internalize our oppression.
Then there’s the notion that Glennon or the White woman from Showing Up For Racial Justice, a group that’s been highly criticized for some time, were qualified to lead a conversation on race and that a discussion amongst White womxn led by white womxn was a helpful occasion. Wrong again! Let me repeat: White people, aka those who intentionally and unintentionally oppress people of colour to maintain power and privilege to the exclusion of all others, cannot lead a revolution against the very thing they most benefit from. Any anti-racist dialogue led by White folx occurs through the lens of white supremacy and is thus inherently flawed and harmful. In other words — they’ll fuck it up and cause people of colour more harm.
Lastly there’s the fact that the webinar was offered for free/by donation, which undermines and depreciates the tireless work of anti-racism educators of colour like myself and so many others
All in all — it was a fail. What happened next was even worse. Glennon ultimately decided to call off the webinar — no applause there as the webinar never should have existed. She also tagged myself and 2 other Black anti-racism educators (since removed) sharing what she had learned from the perspectives we had offered in response to her webinar. Then came the violent comments from White womxn attacking womxn of colour and displaying White womxn’s omnipresent allegiance to White supremacy. These comments went unaddressed and uncensored for days. And this is yet another reason why White womxn can’t lead conversations about race — they can’t or won’t rein in their own people. Allowing White womxn to viciously attack womxn of colour in any space is straight-up racist. White silence is indeed violent, and anyone who would allow that to take place is not authentically anti-racist. Impact over intention. Period.
So, what then?
So, if it ain’t just voting or talking amidst themselves — how should White womxn collect their people and help dismantle racist patriarchy? Great question! I’ve shared a few of my hot tips below.
1) White Folx Ain’t The Ones
White folx, who have never experienced systemic or institutionalized oppression as a result of race, should not and cannot educate on the topic. Their work is to follow, support, uplift, learn from and pay Black and Indigenous womxn of colour who are the most versed and educated on dismantling racist patriarchy because we live at the most marginalized intersection of race and gender. To collect other White womxn is to point them in the direction of the melinated ladies rightfully leading this work, explaining to the other White womxn what they’ve personally learned from those educators and why they personally find anti-racism important for everyone.
2) Hold Others Accountable
There’s a difference between White womxn presenting themselves as educators, which is a no no, and holding other White womxn accountable, which they need to do. When White womxn see their people– friends, family, coworkers, strangers, whatever — acting out of turn, they should be calling those womxn out. Racist comments, oppressive perspective, discriminatory actions etc. need to be condemned and wherever possible tangible consequences need to be established. Like, losing a job or friend or customer. White womxn need to make it clear that racism will not be tolerated and take action when it appears.
3) Do The Inner Work
Lastly, but most importantly, White womxn need to commit to doing their inner, personal, daily anti-racism work. White folx cannot love, donate vote, volunteer, post or read their way out of racism. Performative allyship ain’t it.
Authentic anti-racism takes intentional, internal, lifelong work and the majority of White folx aren’t coming close.
It requires a tolerance for discomfort, processing the plethora of emotions including grief, guilt, shame and anger, and learning to stop centering Whiteness and White comfort all day every day. It’s not something that lives “out there” it lives in the hearts and minds of all White people. All the time. White folks need to get honest with themselves about who they are and why they undertake an action — even if it’s one they believe to be anti-racist. The more White folx do the honest, inner work, the easier it will be to stand up, speak out and collect their people.
I firmly believe change is coming. But it can only come if all womxn work every single day, inside and out, to dismantle racist patriarchy (not just come election time); and accept that Black and Indigenous womxn must lead the way.