Whenever I’m in predominantly white spaces with my Salvadoran grandparents, I’m on high alert because at any second, some racist bigot can harass them for speaking Spanish. I haven’t had to defend them yet, but given the recent rise in hate crimes and related incidents, it’s likely I will one day.
We’ve seen it happen at restaurants, retail stores, and schools, but a recent incident took place at a grocery store in Colorado, was captured on camera, and went viral. Unlike the other times, a white woman stepped up. Her name is Kamira Trent, and because she called the police, Linda Dwire was arrested and charged for bias-motivated harassment. I’m always ready to protect my grandparents, but if a white woman like Trent is fighting by my side, it will make a great difference.
We are two years into the resistance against Trump’s white supremacist agenda, and yet, not nearly enough white women stand up for women of color the way Trent did in everyday life and at the polls. Fifty-two percent of white women elected Trump in the first place, and 63 percent of white women voted for Roy Moore, an accused child molester from Alabama who said America was “great” during slavery.
“White women are constantly choosing their whiteness over their womanhood, and they’re choosing to vote for people who will help maintain their white supremacy as opposed to what will help maintain the safety of women overall,” activist, writer, and lecturer Rachel Cargle told Mashable.
“White women are constantly choosing their whiteness over their womanhood.”
The midterm elections are just a few days away, and white women need to vote for candidates who are not racist, which you can determine by researching voting records. They also need to elect progressive women of color, which is now more possible than ever because the number of women of color candidates for Congress has increased 75 percent since 2012. Also, follow the lead of black female voters, who as Cargle points out, have continuously made better choices by voting for progressive candidates that will help, not harm, marginalized communities.
While elections fuel partisanship, it’s important to note that the issue of racism goes beyond party lines. Conservative and liberal white women continue to perpetrate racism and anti-blackness.
Catrice Jackson, a racial justice educator, speaker, and author, says that when working with white women in her courses and workshops, they often other themselves and make themselves out to be the exceptional white woman, which in turn means they have not addressed their own racism.
It’s for this reason Jackson echoes Martin Luther King Jr.’s sentiment and says the “most dangerous and threatening” white people in the U.S. are white liberals. Take a moment to consider the white liberal woman who attends the Women’s March but won’t go to a Black Lives Matter rally, or the progressive white mom who puts her kid in a private school to access better resources, contributing to school segregation.
“They don’t see themselves as being part of the problem, and so, one of the first things that white women allies need to do is to accept and own their own racism and begin to do their own, personal inner work to continuously uproot those racist behaviors and those implicit biases,” Jackson said.
So while participating in the midterm elections — or any election — is a great step, it’s just the start to the life-long work required of white women to effectively support women of color in their fight to end racism and create equitable systems in the U.S. Jackson emphasizes that being an ally is not a noun or something you become.
“You don’t take three workshops, read seven books, and now you’re an ally,” she said. “It is a constant, deliberate, intentional way of being, every single day and every single moment, until you take your last breath.”
What’s distressing is heading to the hospital to give birth knowing your skin color alone puts you at 4x the risk of maternal mortality. What’s terrifying is that more than half of white women chose their whiteness over their womanhood & put someone like Trump in the White House.
— Rachel E. Cargle (@RachelCargle) November 2, 2018
Although it’s expected of white women to acknowledge their privilege, many feel defensive about the term. Jackson views that type of response as a signal that they are not doing their work.
“It is a clear, red flag that they do not understand that white supremacy and racism is not just a personal way of being in the world, but it is a systemic set of rules, beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, policies, and laws that are set in place to silence black and brown folks, to keep them marginalized, and to keep them further oppressed,” Jackson said.
Jackson recognizes that white women did not choose their whiteness, but instead of being paralyzed by fear, shame, or guilt, and causing more harm, she expects them to take daily actions to continue to dismantle racism and support women of color. Those actions could include sharing the work of women of color, buying from black and brown business owners, and connecting women of color to networks and resources.
“Just like they didn’t choose to be white, we didn’t choose to be black or brown. But every day, black and brown women have to get up and fight the system and deal with racism, whether we want to deal with it or not,” Jackson said.
“Just like they didn’t choose to be white, we didn’t choose to be black or brown.”
Jackson says that as long as racism exists, white women who want to behave as allies cannot opt out or take a break from fighting racism. She also explains that on a daily basis, black and brown women experience racial battle fatigue, and so it’s important that white women find ways to help nourish black and brown women. Cargle started a fundraiser to help give black women and girls access to therapy sessions and support their mental health, which people can donate to here.
When searching for education and ideas about how to be a part of the solution, Jackson says white women should turn to online articles, videos, and other resources. For a more in-depth education, she says white women must turn to women of color who are racial justice educators and buy their books, sign-up for their courses and workshops, and pay women of color for their labor. When learning and engaging with women of color, they need to listen more than they speak. However, white women so often fail to do that, and instead try to lead conversations about race.
📌 so many people respond to my posts with much more anger and outrage at the thought of being called out for their complacency in an oppressive system as opposed to having anger outrage at the system itself.
Via: @QuartneyChante pic.twitter.com/J7WBzzzN9B
— Rachel E. Cargle (@RachelCargle) August 5, 2018
“One of the biggest and most important actions of an ally is to follow the lead of black and brown people, and what we see happening is a lot of ‘so-called’ allies, possibly performative allies, taking up space, taking the platform, hosting the workshops, and leading the discussions,” Jackson said.
Cargle notes that it’s not enough for white women to want to learn about racism. They need to help end it. The 2017 Women’s March was deemed a setback for the intersectional feminist movement and an example of performative activism by many women of color because it did not address the issues facing women of color. The Women’s March organizers have addressed this criticism, but some women of color have yet to see changes at the leadership level trickle down to the movement itself.
Cargle attended the rally in Washington, D.C., and carried a poster that said, “If you don’t fight for all women, you fight for no women.” There, she says she witnessed a parade for white women, not a protest.
Although white women like Kamira Trent have stood up for women of color, they should not be hailed as heroes, according to Cargle. “You’re not a hero for being a basic human,” she said.
If a white woman comes to my aid personally, in the event that my grandparents are harassed for speaking Spanish, I also wouldn’t want her to play the hero. I would want her to intervene because she can and should, because it’s the right thing to do.
“I think that we need to stop celebrating the base level of humanity, and instead have that as an expectation of the baseline and not some heroic act,” Cargle continued. “We need to start implementing that type of action of protecting the most marginalized as a normalized way of existing in the world.”