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Thanks for Nothing: Black Women Don’t Owe White Feminism a Damn Thing7/25/2015
by Kesiena Boom White women’s mediocrity and propensity for wanting credit where none is due are the background noise of basic-ass feminis...
by Kesiena Boom
White women’s mediocrity and propensity for wanting credit where none is due are the background noise of basic-ass feminism. This low level buzzing of bullshit is annoying as hell, but I’ve mainly gotten used to it and can usually go about my business without paying it much mind. Sometimes, however, the buzz becomes so high pitched and ridiculous that I feel compelled to comment.
This week was one of those times.
A few days ago Twitter user and “journalist” Rebecca Griffin decided to use social media to come for Black women in the feminist movement whilst praising white women. What’s fucking new?
Griffin doesn’t identify white. According to her Twitter bio, she is “Jewish-Irish-Yemeni-Israeli” and identifies as mixed race. That doesn’t stop her from perpetuating toxic White Feminist™ discourse, which prioritises white women and criticises Black women for our valid concerns.
In Griffin’s frankly ludicrous, ignorant, and downright offensive opinion, “When black women attack ‘white feminism,’ they are forgetting who made it possible for them to have rights -- as women. And, they are racist.”
Oh, Lord. Where the fuck do I even begin?
Well, maybe I should start with something that clearly (and bafflingly) needs repeating: PEOPLE. OF. COLOUR. CANNOT. BE. RACIST. TOWARDS. WHITE. PEOPLE. White people are the beneficiaries of racism. The concept of separating human beings into racial categories with differing characteristics was created by white people to justify their exploitation, enslavement, murder, rape, and colonization of people of colour worldwide.
This isn’t opinion. This isn’t some “social justice bullshit.” This is the sober truth of Earth. Deal with it. We’ll never be able to heal from this reality if people can’t come to grips with this most basic truth.
Griffin tried tweeting the bloody dictionary definition of racism when Black feminists began to take her to task, like that was her “I know what I’m talking about” trump card. Try again please!
My fingers are cramping from having to write about this simple stuff over and over again. My brain hurts because I don’t understand how white women can continue to be so wilfully ignorant. We live in the golden age of information! You can discover pretty much anything at the touch of a screen! There is no excuse.
When Black women express discomfort and disappointment with the wider feminist movement (read: white feminist), we are not being racist. We are simply pointing out how we are continually left out, demonised, and dismissed in a movement that professes to be about ALL WOMEN. I don’t understand how folks can continue to think that speaking on an injustice is a replication of—and much more reprehensible than—the actual injustice.
Griffin believes that white women allowed Black women to have rights. Right, um, okay… BITCH, WHAT? Where exactly in feminist history should I be looking to see all the fearless white women who gave us our rights?
Should I turn to the North American Women’s Suffrage Association, who explicitly decided to throw Black women under the bus by advocating the importance of “educated suffrage,” which purposefully excluded Black women who had less access to schooling?
Should I turn to the white suffragists who argued that white women getting the vote was imperative because together their votes would outnumber those of Black people?
After the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 and “all” women could technically vote, white women sat back and relaxed. They had what they wanted. It was Black people who struggled for nearly half a century more to effectively give Black women voting rights in the South. (A white feminist didn’t lead at Selma!)
How about Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood? Should I appreciate all she did for women when she was a known eugenicist who once spoke at a KKK meeting? She wasn’t interested in helping Black women. She just wanted a “cleaner” world with less people of color.
Not that white women doing jack shit for Black women is relegated to the past. All you have to do is look at Taylor Swift’s recent clueless tweet to Nicki Minaj filled with, “Waaah, what about sisterhood?” bullshit when Nicki was trying to call out racism in the music industry. If Taylor really gave a damn about supporting her fellow women, she would have been like “Damn, Nicki you’re right.” Instead, she turned Nicki’s prurient point concerning racist double standards to be all about her porcelain white ass. I get it. She made a mistake, but that mistake came out of white fragility, a weak understanding and a lack of care about what Black women go through.
Caitlin Moran, a high-profile self-proclaimed white feminist “literally couldn’t give a shit” about women of colour. Lily Allen uses our bodies to prove a point about her superiority in her “feminist” music video. White women on Slut Walks throw the N-word around. Emma Watson delivers a sanitised speech lauded as a feminist “game-changing” triumph and doesn’t mention racial disparities once.
White women are not, and have never been, innocent bystanders to racism. They perpetuate it within and without feminism.
We really do not owe white women shit! If anything, white women owe Black women. Because it seems like all Black feminists do is write tirelessly about a whole spectrum of race-related issues to help educate white feminists. We expend so much energy on fighting with women who ought to be on our damn side.
The difference between white feminism and Black feminism is clear. White feminism hurts Black women, but Black feminism does not hurt white women—beyond their superficial, knee-jerk reactions to its mere existence.
Black feminism seeks liberation for all; white feminism remains reserved for the select few.
So, no, Rebecca Griffin, I will not stop “attacking” white feminism and I will not bow down cowed and grateful for whatever slithers of salvation white feminists procure. Through Black feminism, I will fight for true and universal emancipation from systems of oppression. I will do it loudly and without shame. I will do it because ALL women deserve better.
Kesiena Boom is a radical, Black feminist, lesbian writer who adores sisterhood, the sociology of sexuality and Audre Lorde. She is a regular contributor to ForHarriet and has also published work on BuzzFeed, Everyday Feminism, and Autostraddle. Her website is kesienaboom.com and you can tweet at her via @KesienaBoom.