Black Women Conflicted Over Women’s March

Following the dispiriting entry into the Trump Era, more than 200,000 people are preparing for the Women’s March on Washington this weekend. Women from all over the nation are joining forces to send a bold message to the new administration of the crucial importance of protecting women’s rights.

Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour are prominent activist-leaders, co-chairs and women of color who have instantly become the face of the event. However, many women of color have expressed reluctance to sign up for the cause that originated with a group of White women who, in the beginning, named it the “Million Women’s March.” Many women of color have also shared their apprehension about joining forces because many White women feminists lack the understanding of a woman of colors’ plight. Things are even more complicated because many woman of color feel White women’s privilege—and how many choose to engage with the world—undermines the call for solidarity.

With 53 percent of White women voters casting their ballots for President Trump, it’s perplexing to see a hand in sisterhood offered. Even though Hillary Clinton failed to secure the vote of White women, those numbers confirm that the majority somehow favored the reality star-misogynist who boasted about sexual assault. Historically, racism has been a pertinent factor among White feminists. Women who are members of multiple minority groups—namely Black, Latino, Asian, single, and LGBTQ women—are more likely to have an “inclusive” gender-political consciousness, because they are more accustomed to other forms of discrimination, like racism or xenophobia

The failure to practice the concept of intersectionality in the oppression of women has been discussed for decades. Taylor Aldridge, co-founding Editor of Arts.Black, expresses her concern with the current call to action.

“I consider this reflective of a longer tension between Black civil rights movements and feminist movements primarily led by mostly White women. Members from the Suffrage movement in particular were explicit in prioritizing the rights of White women rather that for the greater human kind — and they were especially not interested in compromising their rights to protest for Black Americans,” she explains. “With this history, it’s challenging to be optimistic about this proposed intersection now.”

The idea for the March derived from Teresa Shook, a retired grandmother in Hawaii who invited 40 of her friends to come together in protest after Donald Trump was elected. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, fashion designer Bob Bland also called for a women’s protest on Facebook. The motion quickly sparked 10,000 interests and Bland—who’s credited for creating the “Nasty Women” T-shirts and donating the profits to Planned Parenthood—suggested combining their events. By the time 100,000 people expressed their passion to participate, they asked women of color to become involved. Initially, the Women’s March on Washington was named the “Million Women’s March” yet with very different focus and origin than the original demonstration 20 years ago. After a backlash, the event was rebranded to prevent confusion to the historical 1997 protest whose mission was to encourage self-improvement of African American women. The name change didn’t stop the criticism, though. Women’s March organizers have also received complaints from White Americans who suggested the demonstration should be called the “All Peoples March on Washington,” to encourage support from men.

Despite the controversy, busloads of women are expected to make their voices heard. DMV native, Victoria Fortune, is empowered to be involved for the betterment of women, though she is uncertain about how effective the protest will be.

“What are we demanding? What happens after the march? I support the act and want to help with this fight for women’s rights, but find it more plausible getting in the room to speak to the decision-makers,” she asks.

One can agree that in order for progress to transpire, unity must occur to make a greater impact. The reality is that the Trump administration, and everything he stands for, has officially moved into the White House. With an olive branch being extended, the march encourages all women to voice what they stand for rather than what they’re against.

“We have to respect each other’s justices,” says Tamika Mallory, co-chair and social justice activist. “White women want to be allies and even though they may not be affected the same way, they really want to understand Black women.”

The resistance for unification seems to lie in women of color questioning the White women’s loyalty. Historically, white women have failed to provide successful coalitions with women of other races unless it affected them (such fighting for their right to vote after Black men were granted this opportunity.) It’s unknown if the women protesting strongly feel like Black Lives Matter or if Black women should receive equal pay to White women, let alone men. There’s no guarantee that they care about the progression of the Black family, educational or health resources in low-income, predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

In return there isn’t a promise that women of color will throw on their pussyhats and kumbaya. However, the urgency for advancement is still wanted and will be cheered for in other systematic ways seen fit.

Malika Michaud is a writer and the co-founder of the Black Rapport. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.