5 Things White Feminists Must Stop Doing Right Now
It’s been an intense couple of weeks. We’re all going through a lot as a community and many of us aren’t fully equipped with the know-how to properly apply ourselves to the spheres of influence we have, especially us white folks.
Although it may be hard for some of us to admit, we all have unconscious bias. But how can we begin to have conversations we need to have, if we can’t acknowledge the truth?
As a white feminist, I want to encourage us to do more and do better because this movement can’t be shouldered by black folks alone. In order to move forward together as a community, here are five things that white feminists must stop doing right now.
1. Thinking there’s no such things as “white feminism”
Sure, feminism isn’t truly feminism unless you take an intersectional approach to dismantling oppressive systems. But to deny the long history of racism within the feminist movement – which continues today – is to erase and dismiss black women’s experiences altogether.
This is an especially important year to get your facts straight, as we’re coming up on the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women (but really, just white women) the right to vote 100 years ago this August 18.
2. Getting defensive
With the recent protests and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, people are getting called out and called in left and right. As more folks speak out, more folks will also put their foot in their mouths. White allies are not going to get things right all the time – and no one expects us to! The most important thing to remember is to resist the temptation to get defensive. This sounds easy but trust me, it’s not.
I was recently critiqued for a job opening I shared in our Courage Community, where I said that we were especially looking to hire a woman of color. I thought I was being inclusive, but I completely missed the mark. I’m nearly a decade into working in this space and I didn’t realize how completely tokenizing that move was.
Women of color don’t want to feel like HR is just checking a box by hiring them, they want to know that all hiring processes are designed to mitigate bias. Thankfully, another member of our Courage Community brought my misstep to my attention, so I could learn and do better.
When you’re called out (which let’s face it: if you’re speaking out about sexism and racism you’re going to be at some point), resist the totally-understandable urge to defend yourself. Listen and learn instead. And if you have the chance, thank the person who went out of their way to show you the error in your ways.
3. Saying “tribe”
Can we please, please, PLEASE retire “tribe” right along with “girl boss?”
What seems like an empowering feminist phrase to describe your community is actually an offensive appropriation of the Native American term. Plus, with substitutes like squad, community, or my people, who needs it?
4. Fetishizing having “mixed babies”
I didn’t even realize this was a thing until recently, but adoration of mixed race babies or being a white woman who pines to have bi-racial babies is actually grounded in white supremacy.
If want to understand this further, check out this great video from Franchesca Ramsey below and learn more about colorism here.
5. Calling the police
The police are not our personal hall monitors, and yet far too many white women seem to think otherwise. We saw this the other week with the Amy Cooper fiasco in Central Park when a white woman threatened to – and then did – call the police “tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” in response to a very reasonable request to leash her dog.
This behavior goes way back to America’s long history of white supremacy that held up white women as victims to be protected and black men as presumed criminals and rapists. Back in 1876, 100 or more black people were massacred in Ellenton, S.C., when a single white woman, Lucy Foreman Harley, claimed she was attacked by two black men. Another white girl’s screams sparked the 1921 Tulsa massacre.
If we learn nothing from the senseless murder of George Floyd, it should be the immense danger we put black and brown folks in when calling the police. So making the choice to do so should not be one made lightly.
Let’s take this moment to educate ourselves and other white folks so we can have those big, necessary – and at times, uncomfortable, conversations to continue to move the needle of this movement forward, together.
Let’s use our spheres of influence to take these important messages of how to dismantle white supremacy to the people that need to hear it most.
Know we won’t always be perfect, but let’s be responsible enough to learn, grow, and apply those new lessons to our own lives, while continuing to share that knowledge with the people in our world.