poem by Assata Shakur
This weekend, for the first time in a long time, I was able to fully breathe without the weight of a failing democracy on my shoulders. Like many of you, these past few months have been a blur of trying to keep my life together while simultaneously having daily existential crises. Going through the motions provided me with some level of stability as I experienced a level of despair that filled every nook and cranny of my being.
Most of us are absolutely exhausted, which saddens me to no end yet also makes me feel a profound sense of awe at the ways in which my fellow human beings have been able to make it through. Despite everything, we still (mostly) managed to wake up each morning and do what needed to be done to keep surviving. We looked for joy in small moments and continued to make plans for the future despite the uncertainties nestled within each coming day.
Along with many of my peers, I have felt so powerless in the face of so much injustice, bigotry, and downright cruelty. None of this is new to the United States. However, for those of us who have existed in comfortable bubbles, the past year(s) has brought to light what we have refused to listen to or understand. Those bubbles have been popped day after day. Not because our fellow citizens weren’t doing the work or screaming at us to hear – they have been for decades – but because we were blind to it, believing that our day-to-day existence was proof that times had changed.
Womxn in this country (and around the world) all have serious challenges that we face, but the limits of practising a feminism that isn’t intersectional have never been more apparent. Feminism is advocating for women’s rights and equality between the sexes; however, for too long, white womxn have ignored how womxn’s overlapping identities — race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation — affect the way they experience oppression and discrimination.
It doesn’t mean that we don’t have issues, or that we don’t face discrimination, or that our lives are without hardship. That couldn’t be further from the truth – but none of that results from the colour of our skin. While I may be penalized for my gender, I will never be for my race. On the other hand, my Black peer will find systems working against her due to her gender and her race and a Latina lesbian will face discrimination due to her ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.
As white feminists, it is up to us to recognize that gender isn’t one singular category. Many feminisms exist. Without this awareness and active consideration, our feminism is useless. Actually, scratch that, it is dangerous.
Preliminary results from exit polls show that 9 in 10 Black womxn and 7 in 10 Latina womxn voted for Biden/Harris. On the other hand, more than half of white womxn voted for Trump. This statistic breaks my heart and leaves me speechless – which says more about my naivety at the realities of this country than anything else. After all, this is the same country where just a few months ago Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her home while sleeping… and no justice was served.
I know now that it is my responsibility to do something about this. BIPOC womxn are too busy trying to survive and saving our democracy, our communities, and our planet to have the time, energy (or desire) to reach those who are willing to uphold white supremacy over everything else.
That job is for us, white womxn.
Here is the thing that I think a lot of us have got wrong for a long time – our anti-racism work is not about saving BIPOC women, they are entirely capable of (and incredibly effective at) doing that on their own. Instead, our anti-racism work has to be centred on saving our own communities. White people are the ones that need the help. We have to start all working together.
So, what do we do?
To be an ally, we each have to find what we are good at and then figure out how we can use it to help eradicate racism, sexism, and all forms of bigotry…forever. This looks different for each person, which is okay. There are plenty of roles and positions that need to be filled. Each of us has something to give, skills to lend, time to dedicate…I promise. Our first step is to find what that is and then work to weave it into our daily lives, to shoulder some of the burdens, to recognize what you can do within your world.
For me, at this point in my life, that looks like researching, writing, and interviewing and then bringing that learning journey to whomever I can reach. For over a decade, I have had websites and blogs as passion projects. At the beginning of the year, I started Something Conscious with the idea of creating a community of womxn who give a shit, who strive to take better care of ourselves, our neighbours, and the planet. Then 2020 got underway, and this website sat empty for reasons that are hopefully quite obvious. But, the election results gave me a sliver of hope which prompted a boost in energy that I intend to utilize once again on my passion projects…like this site.
This is what I can give: a place that celebrates and educates womxn about the topics and issues that we care about and that affect us. A safe space that serves as a place for us all to learn as we figure out what we can do and how we can do it. That signal boosts those who have been at this work for far too long and introduces you to others who have found their role in this work.
Womxn, I love us.
I love our strength, capabilities, empathy, beauty. Our ability to be so many things and to balance so many demands in a world that works tirelessly to stuff us in a box and keep us down. We aren’t each other’s enemies. The sooner we all deeply believe this, the better off you, me, and the planet will be.
With my utmost admiration,