If you were on Twitter this week, you doubtlessly saw the realness that was unfolding in the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen tag originally started by Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia). The tag trended worldwide, and showed women of all colors, from all over, voicing their frustrations with the condescension, erasure and racism they’ve experienced at the hands of feminism.

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Understanding where this anger is coming from can be hard for people who haven’t lived it personally, so I’d like to share my experiences in hope of bridging that gap.

When I was a girl, I desperately hated the fact that I was black.

One of my first memories as a child was when I was around four, maybe five. I was looking into my reflection and wanting to cry, because I wanted to be pretty. Why couldn’t I be pretty, like the girls I saw on TV? Why couldn’t my hair flow in the breeze behind me when I played with my friends, or swirl around me in a pool like the mermaid from my favorite princess movie? What did I do wrong to be born so dark and ugly?

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I was a really cute kid, and it’s a shame I couldn’t see it.

I hated what I saw of black people whenever I would watch the news with my mother. I thought that we were all doomed to criminality or teenage pregnancy; naturally less bright than all those surrounding us and a burden to the society in which we lived.

My mother took me to a church that was populated entirely with upper-middle class black Americans, both to form a community for both of us as well as show me that black people were so much more than what we saw on the news. Most of the other children my age there relentlessly bullied me to the point of suicidal ideation. I took blackness to mean delinquency at its most typical, and cruelty at its best.

In what I’m now realizing was a deflection from confronting the issues I had with myself, I chose to strongly embrace another aspect of myself instead: my femininity. If it was impossible to be anything as a black person, I thought, I could at least be something as a girl.

Feminism became my lifeblood from those extremely early years onward. I voraciously read every young adult novel with female protagonists – all of which were white – and would critique my favorite television shows for their treatment of their female characters.

Even though it hurt to not see girls like me in my favorite shows or books, I would brush it off; why would they have girls that looked like me in them? Black people were unworthy of inclusion, because otherwise we would have already been included, right?

My extremely intuitive mother must have noticed how intensely I idolized Gloria Steinem, and how I acted as though the civil rights movement had no value because of its misogyny, where feminism was for all women. She took me to womanist conventions to show me what else feminism could be, which I scoffed at.

If white women weren’t involved, I thought, it had no worth. To my mind, white women created feminism. If women of color were involved, they’d have work to talk about, and since we never talked about the works of women of color, they were clearly nonexistent.

When I wouldn’t stop talking about how badly I wanted to go to Lillith Fair so that I could commune with other empowered women, my uncle took me to a Janet Jackson concert. It didn’t even occur to me to think that Janet Jackson could be an icon of female liberation – which she absolutely was – because my idea of female liberation looked like Madonna and Alanis Morissette. Black women, I’d come to believe, couldn’t be liberated without help or inspiration from white women.

My mother tried, my family tried, and God bless them for trying. They tried with the hope that they would be able to get through to the part of me that ached for an inclusion that they knew I wouldn’t find in the venues I dedicated my heart and mind to.

I remained a staunch feminist throughout elementary, middle and high school; through realizations of my beauty and how malformed my ideas of my racial identity were. I owe so much of what I learned then – and who I am now – to the writing of Alice Walker, and her work that showed how race and gender identities were blended, inseparable things that affect women of color in specific, unique ways.

It was around this time that huge issues with feminism began to reveal themselves to me where I’d been too self-loathing to recognize them.

I loved Alice Walker, and I loved how thoroughly her work spoke to my experiences. I loved that I didn’t have to put any part of me on the back burner when reading her work, and I loved how completely, thoroughlyfeminist it was while doing so.

Why, then, was her work never lauded as feminist? Why was she not a household name for women’s liberation in the same way that Gloria Steinem was? Why did only black women talk about her work and influence, when we were women that she liberated with prose and poetry?

…We were still women, right?

This niggling doubt in what had been the foundation of my morality as a child was like a chip in the wall of a dam: I kept noticing more and more examples of pointed erasure of women who looked like me from feminism, and my dissatisfaction became greater and greater. I had never heard of the work of black and brown feminists as a child not because we were unworthy, nonexistent, or only there to be saved; it was because they was being consciously disregarded.

I was being consciously disregarded.

It was during 2008 that the dam completely shattered. I saw the solidarity that I had hinged my self-esteem on during my youngest years laid bare for what it really was, and the sense of belated betrayal it instilled in me was beyond description.

I watched as Gloria Steinem wrote an op-ed that pitted race against gender, as though the two could never coexist, and I experienced people denigrating the civil rights movement’s misogyny without paying any mention to feminism’s racism. I heard the exact words that I had lived by as a child repeated back to me, and realized:

They were vile. They were racist.

Oppression in the guise of liberation for another group is still oppression. I had spent so much of my young life hating a part of me on a level that a Klan member would be impressed with, and I was seeing that same hatred coming from the mouths of women who I thought were my sisters in struggle.

It was that year, with the work of women of color being stolen by white feminists, with our experiences being both erased and appropriated at Slutwalks across the country, and with women who looked like me being called “nappy headed hoes” with nary a peep from feminism at large, that I decided that I was done.

Feminism had proven to me that it was for women, but their idea of womanhood didn’t include those who weren’t white. There was solidarity, but it was only for white women and those that refused to criticize them. The illusion had been shattered, and the reality was too alienating for me to continue supporting.

Solidarity was, and is, for white women.

Solidarity is for white women when the contributions of women of color to feminism’s founding are completely ignored.

Solidarity is for white women who call for inclusion of women into popular media, but say that it’s asking far too much that any of those included women be of color.

Solidarity is for white women when your very existence is considered a dividing force.

Solidarity is for white women when this discussion is still happening, centuries later.

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Lauren Walker on XOJane!

  • Kaeli

    Great article! I read this on XOJane and I would be lying if I said I was surprised by the comments made by the white feminist of that site. Derailing, defensiveness, deflecting and being downright racist. I just don’t get why it’s so hard for them to simply listen.

  • Lateef

    I have been thinking this for a very long time! This sister is absolutely on Target! These White women just trying to use us so they can gain control over our resource, skill level that we have bleed for, got lynched for, so we could have a half way decent life, while they continue to live in the life of luxury. This is the reason why they’re going out of their way to make sure no Black women will be picked for nothing, no movie role, no CEO, no top black women of Fashion and doing everything in their power to faze us out of existence. They know that God is a Black Women and they are afraid that we will find out our Power and Rule!

  • Tracy

    ASHE!!!

  • Anonin

    Yes! Omg if I was a member of that site I’d tell the author to not even bother but I know she’s probably doing it for the black members of that site so I applaud her resolve.

  • Marisa

    You know what’s funny about the hashtag is that if you know anything about quite a few white women, is that solidarity is a foreign concept to them. Black women are tagged this or that but, the tag on white women if you looked hard is that a lot of them can be extreme BACKSTABBERS of the highest order lol. Bottom line is the jig has been up on the white race, they are not or have they ever been the be all end all of civilization. They may convinced their diluted minds that their walking perfection above any other race but, history has shown otherwise, which is why they go full on to avoid talking about actual history either current or ancient. Despite the position in society they gained off the backs of others, they are really in no position to look down on anybody.

  • Ads

    You’re right – i’m white, grew up with mostly black friends and still have mostly poc friends today. And yet my first instinct as i read this was an internal dialogue defending while feminism IS for all of us – which of course is not at all the point. My homework is to absorb and reflect on this. I’d actually love to see a follow up article with thoughts on the solidarity black womanists would like to see from white feminist allies.

  • shawty

    “God is a Black Women” LMAO!

    Maybe next time Jesus comes back it will be in drag.

  • Marisa

    I forgot to add #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when basic plain average looking white chick they can find are propped up as Great Beauties/Sexiest Women God ever created, meanwhile if Black Women don’t resemble Halle, Beyonce, or Rihanna then they are tossed in the unattractive unwanted by society pile. Sidenote some of that crap comes from some of our own people but I digress.

  • CanV

    “GOD is a Black woman” I LOVE this!

  • RaiseTheBar

    “…God is a Black Women…”

    WHY not?

    Oprah certainly gets my vote as the 2nd coming of Christ.

  • RaiseTheBar

    “…some of that crap comes from some of our own people”

    Hmm, like when did this ever happen?

    Like Yesterday with the STUPID, negative remarks about RachelJ. and GabbyS.

    I would change the 1st “some” to MOST.

    FTR: jada s., Halle, Beyonce, Rihanna, do NOT represent the ME who is a part of US; so I get angry when Rachel or Gabby is expected to represent and the others aren’t.

  • Hepburn3

    Thanks ever so much for writing this!
    It needed to be said! : )

  • Serene

    Lets not act like Black women as a whole would relate to each other. There are still class differences among Black women and their still will be privileges based on class and skin color.

    Now, that I said that, how would there ever be true solidarity? Unless we all come together?

  • AnnT

    I’m not understanding the comments over there. The comments got derailed immediately, and then took an entirely different course that bared little to the main topic. What happened? Most of the comments are just a couple of people fighting over nothing that has to do with the article. Am I reading them correctly?

  • http://gravatar.com/geenababe geenababe

    @Raisethebar
    Thanks for your comment and that who Gabby S’s article has been bugging me because this is a feminist based site or I assumed it is. Feminist are about women standing together for a causes to make society better for them or having sisterhood if I am correct. I have seen people make excuses for women with unsavory qualities or life choices but when it came to Gabby the sisterhood went out the window. The names she was called could make anybody think there life is worthless. Maybe I am wrong about the whole idea of being a feminist but that post showed me one of the reasons why I am not interested in taking on that title.

  • LMO85

    Absolutely agree and AMEN to this comment. Or as the Legend himself, Prince, once sang—Your 1000 years are UP–WE TIRED OF Y’ALL!

  • RaiseTheBar

    “…showed me one of the reasons why I am not interested in taking on that title.”

    I recommend you don’t take on that title.

    While I am grateful for any benefits I’ve received as a result of the woman’s movement, I am not, have never been and don’t pretend to be a “feminist”.

    Coming to Clutch magazine online was the result of an article I found of interest; nothing to do with it being a woman’s site (feminist).

    You, me, We are INDIVIDUALS, so get to know and live your personal TRUTH as respectfully as possible.

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