I never dared call myself a feminist until college.
Before then, I always believed feminism was reserved for white women.
The way I saw it, I had way too many other issues to be concerned about. And because these issues weren't addressed in the feminist movement, I disassociated myself entirely.
Black or intersectional women, must constantly fight the battle to win equality for both identities (black issues + women's issues) that do not fall in line with the typical white male agenda.
Black women have looked to the feminist movement as a support group and ally in this fight, but many times our issues regarding race fall short. Historically, this has always been the case.
Feminism in history.
The National American Women's Suffrage Association, formed in 1869, sparked from an everlasting divide when group leaders excluded black women in order to maintain white supremacy in the south.
This exclusion amongst white feminism persists today in subtle ways.
White feminists often preach of "color blindness" that affords them the opportunity to act as though racial inequalities aren't relevant to the movement. It's as if women's movements can only maintain enough leverage to skim the surface of equality, without diving under the surface of race and class issues.
Latina, Muslim, Native American, Asian American and LGBTI women share similar experiences in the underrepresentation of the mainstream feminist movement.
The lack of inclusion amongst white feminism often encourages us to step back and switch our focus to other causes.
Although you shouldn't have to choose, I've come to know many women who tend to be more passionate about feminism and others who are more concerned with racial equality, gay rights, etc.
I tend to fall into the latter.
The intersectionality of being a woman and being black can be quite puzzling at times. The stereotypes created for black women, specifically, are very contradictory.
As women, we're generally viewed as weak, but our blackness also tells the world that we're too masculine. We are belittled and feared. For hundreds of years we've been forced into a losing battle in the never ending comparison to white women.
White women are shorted over $400,000 over the course of their careers in comparison to men. Concurrently, black and Native American women lose over $870,000 and Latinas lose out on over a million.
Aside from a difference in earnings, cultural appropriation has played a pivotal role in an already strained relationship between white and black women.
Countless black hairstyles and fashion have been shunned by society only to be stolen, repackaged and credited to and by white women. Even when we bask in our natural beauty and recognize our brilliance, our confidence threatens society, and we are once again condemned.
Our necks are strained from constantly being forced to look up at white women on pedestals built by society.
Many white women claim to want equality, yet fail to acknowledge that there is a hierarchy amongst women alone that they sit on top of. You can be well-intentioned and still be detrimental to the growth of a movement if your intent is clouded by ignorance.
Cis, white feminists often reference the many struggles they face: misogyny, sexism and reproductive rights. White women have one force they are up against, and they aren't shy in calling him out.
This force, of course, is the cis white man: the one group that supersedes their hierarchy.
I hope I am wrong in my suspicion, but many times I've felt that cis white women sometimes point the finger at cis white men in hopes that having a common enemy will clear them of any wrongdoing of their own.
White women tend to take "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach when it comes to opening their arms to black feminists. Many think it's enough to simply point the finger at cis white men, but fail to acknowledge the detriment of ignoring other minority struggles that do not apply to them.
then how are we supposed to be able to separate the two from each other?
Historically, white women have contributed to racism. The vicious lie that led to Emmett Till's murder still haunts us and has resurrected itself in many false claims landing innocent black men in prison.
Today, white women have played a majority key role in the disempowerment of not only minorities, but of themselves. By now we should all be aware of the 53 percent of white women who voted for Donald Trump.
These are the facts that fuel our hesitation to unite as one. Not just because of the women who voted for Trump, but because of those who don't hold this group of women accountable.
We do not blame all white women for the 53 percent who turned their backs on us, but we cannot sweep this fact under the rug as if it did not happen.
Any reluctance in calling out your white female counterparts in being on the wrong side of history just assures us that the overall image of white feminism is more important than actual equality for all women.
How do we fix this?
We cannot simply grant immunity of white privilege to white women off the strength that they come second to white men. We black women recognize your struggles because they are our own, but the disconnect begins when you fail to acknowledge the levels of inequalities we face that you are not subjected to. Even worse, inequalities that white women often benefit from.
Our stories are not the same. While we share some experiences of being marginalized for simply being women, many intersectional feminists have endured immeasurably more suffering.
Women of all races have been victim of hyper sexualization. In the past, white sexuality was used to lynch black men based of of false claims of rape. Meanwhile, black women were over sexualized and dehumanized to be used as tools for rape and reproduction. See the difference?
Many highly praised and well known feminists have set the tone that the feminist movement revolves around white women. From Susan B. Anthony, whose documented racist comments are often hushed, to the likes of Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham, who often fight for one type of feminist cause.
Their perpetual ignorance toward minorities is regularly excused or overlooked, leaving intersectional feminists to be the ones to call them out.
We need to be solidified so we can become a greater force in fighting inequality for women.
This will never happen if minorities continue to be excluded. We will not sacrifice our needs to serve yours under the misconception that it is for all women.
In order to solidify feminists of all backgrounds, white feminists need to recognize their privilege over ours and fight against it. We need them to hold each other accountable for the ways in which they contribute to the divide, instead of turning a blind eye.
We must have full representation and be treated as though we are equals rather than pawns in an agenda against the patriarchy. Our burdens need to be understood and taken seriously.
The day "all women" actually means all women, we will be a force to be reckoned with.