COMMENTARY: Can the Women’s March Survive Petulant White women?

Women’s March in Washington D.C., Photo Date: January 21, 2017
Women’s March in Washington D.C., Photo Date: January 21, 2017

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I have had about enough of some White women. First, 53 percent of them voted for an odious genital-grabber. Then, they organized a women’s march with momentum from the #MeToo movement, which was founded by Tarana Burke, but co-opted by White women like the wannabe activist and actress Alyssa Milano.

Then, bunches of them supported Roy Moore, an Alabama pedophile who ran a failed election to become a senator. A majority of them also voted against progressive candidates like Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and Florida’s Andrew Gillum.

Now Teresa Shook, the self-proclaimed founder of the Women’s March, is demanding the resignation of its four leaders and co-chairs — Bob Bland (aka Mari Lynn Bland), Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez — who are organizing for a January 19 march. Really?

Shook is a retired lawyer and grandmother in Hawaii who put an idea on Facebook in the wake of the 2016 elections. “We should march,” she posted and did little else. Activist Bland, however, picked up the baton and ran with it.

Bland recruited other women, seasoned activists in their own right. Mallory had led a march from New York to D.C. to stop gun violence. Perez has worked on criminal justice reform and has worked for Harry Belafonte’s Gathering for Justice organization where she serves as executive director.

Sarsour, a former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, has worked with Black Lives Matter and on police brutality issues. The four women, who are White, Black, Latina, and Palestinian, are the very picture of intersectionality and multicultural cooperation.

So where does Shook get off asking these women to step down from a movement they built? She and Milano have demanded that the women’s march leaders “denounce” Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. Why? They object to his anti-Semitic rhetoric. They object to the fact that Mallory attended his annual Savior’s Day this year. They say that anti-Semitism is hateful and dangerous, and they are right. But, it wasn’t the Nation of Islam that shot up the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

White people’s hatred for Farrakhan is irrational and, might I say, racist. He is the only person, the only human being that Congress has censured. Not David Duke, not the Charlottesville murderers, not one of the hatemongers that have caused the racial tensions in our nation. Just Farrakhan. But, then our society is consistent with its double standards and its demands that Black people bend over backward to prove that we, too, sing America.

White women, with their complicity in our rapes, and in the lynching of Black men, have no right to demand anything of Black women, let alone of leaders like Mallory to “denounce” Farrakhan.

For the record, Farrakhan, a man who has the unique power to galvanize Black people, especially Black men, really doesn’t care what people outside of the Nation of Islam think of him. He understands this nation so well that he would accept any “denouncement” and keep it moving.

But, anyone demanding a denouncement of Farrakhan has no knowledge of American history, of African American history, of context, or of the unequal treatment that African American people experience as a constant in our nation. And White women have consistently had little empathy for the way history has treated Black women.

Shook and Milano remind me of antebellum White women, hoop skirts and all, stomping their feet when they don’t get their way. Milano says she won’t speak if Mallory doesn’t denounce Farrakhan. So, stay home, Alyssa. We won’t miss you. Other White women say they won’t march. Hundreds of thousands of others will.

Black, White, Latina, Asian, Native, Palestinian and other women have starkly different experiences. We are joined by our gender, but separated by the status of the men in our race, and by the differential privilege that some women experience.

The proverbial “Miss Ann” knew that enslaved women were being raped. She didn’t care. Now the descendants of enslaved women are willing to work with them — not for them, but with them. And, the descendants of enslaved women have had enough foot-stomping White woman privilege. No more.

Shook and Milano are the antitheses of coalition building and intersectionality. In an intersectional world, we come together to work on issues we agree on — in this case, the treatment of women. We decide to disagree on other matters. And sometimes, we agree to walk a mile in another woman’s shoes.

There will be no women’s coalition if there is no mutual respect. Milano, Shook and the other White women making foot-stomping demands have shown the hard-working co-chairs of the Women’s March a corrosive disrespect. They set the notion of a women’s coalition back decades.

But, they have also moved us forward because they have reminded us how important it is to consider history and context before we attempt to build a movement. White women, after all, are the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of the White men who practice oppression. Those who consider themselves “woke” need to check their sisters who are not.

Meanwhile, Mallory, Sarsour, Perez, and Bland need to stand their ground. They built something powerful and beautiful, even though there were fissures beneath the surface. The struggle to dismantle patriarchy, racism, and predatory capitalism continues.

Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy is available at amazon.com. For more info, visit juliannemalveaux.com.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman – Recorder.

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