TweetThis essay aged a few months, but it came at a time when a borrage of requests landed in on my doorstep to “help” White feminists become more aware of their racism. In my own work to combat internalized oppression, internalized inferiority and superiority, I have found an invaluble community of Radical WOC to challenge and support me. Many thanks to BFP, Blackamazon, Lex, Fabulosa, Sylvia and the fierce supporters both on and offline.
For every human, fear is a natural component of life. In every situation, fear plays a part of our decisions in whom we choose to love, leave, vocation, direction, and faith. Fear, without discernment, can have a paralyzing, sometimes permanent cage in one’s life.
When I counseled individuals struggling with addiction, this quote hung on my corkboard, “The possibility of change is so fearful that most will stay with what is familiar to them, even if it is hell. The unknown is that daunting.”
For a feminist of color, fear encapsulates much of the process of self-actualization, or as I call it, tapping into the often frozen fountain of love and potential. Feminism, the multi-defined movement that centers justice on issues relating to women and gender, is hardly the warm home where a woman finds herself. Feminism, for women of color, depends largely on the level of ready availability of community, resources, support, and education.* (Education, not the formal academia style, but the roots of educating. A means of broadening one’s knowledge to lead a richer, fuller life.)
Mainstream feminism, theory and political action that receives primary attention and recognition, will often directly clash with the culture and experience of women of color. Mainstream feminism, while boasting strides that women of color are in fact included; transgender folks, individuals with disability, and non-heterosexual identified women continue to remain unwelcomed. In other words, mainstream feminism has fallen short of creating a place of friction. You want easier winds. The objectivity of mainstream feminism is often mildly fought negotiation and radical sisterhood, overlooking the basic premise that most non-white women were born with in their blood: Difference is inevitable, necessary, and good. Compromise is not always necessary or even needed. The simple existence of difference is needed. Compromise is not.
When discussing mainstream feminism, One radical feminist of color wrote,“ I normally do not participate. I want woc feminism to be so much more than just anger. I want it to be so much more than just reacting to stupid white people.” (Ahh, Fabulosa Mujer…)
The empowerment of WOC, a force that history has yet to fully document, strikes fear into the heart of mainstream feminism. After all the careful thoughts, studying, language acquisition, and open panel discussions, many White feminists have asked me is it possible that I have been participating in oppressive behavior? Toward other women? These questions prompt pause and, in that pause, fear.
This fear often yields two reactions. One White and or mainstream feminists to sink their desperate claws in to the shoulders of WOC feminists and beg for a tutorial, a lesson for change, how to be better, live better, make others feel better. How do you get rid of conflict? Discomfort? This ugliness between us? This ugliness between us is not something that can be rid of by simply talking about it. It must be undone by your mind, your soul, your truthful admittance that you are living off the expenses of the marginalized and your extravagance has a price. You center yourself in your theory, why not center yourself in your decolonizing, de-racist work?
The second reaction is my favorite, and by far, more entertaining to read on blogs: TOTAL DISMISSAL of WOC and anger of the possibility that a progressive feminist has not thoroughly checked her knapsack and must be sent back to Peggy McIntosh for further examination.
What woc have known is that their lived experience is that of an entirely different species than that of their dominantly privileged counterparts. The corners of life that most privileged people dare not even speak or consider are the shadows in which woc not only visit, but exist and breathe in. How could their perspective not be deeper, to include the light and the shadow, the blood and the cells, the suffering and the redemption?
These truths of antiquity for WOC flow from their pens as if from their blood. They know mess. They hold both the blunt and the shy in their calloused hands. Our forefeministmothers knew they needed a different space and feared what that might be, where it would be. And so, many of them waited. They waited in the margins, too afraid to approach the center, too afraid to leave.
Then, suddenly, a shift occurs. A momentun begins. WOC realize that the margins extend beyond ourselves, and there are Others, so many Others hanging onto the little bit of faith, hoping Something will change, hoping their voices will be heard, hoping their blood will stain deep enough that will rouse an feminist investigation.
Radical WOC can spot each other. We find community and have broken off from the margins and turn our backs to an agenda that never served us, never truly listened to us, or even loved us enough to try and understand Brown, Black, and grey matter.
This shift, the No More Margin Living illustrates the current state of grassroots organization and separatism that is currently transpiring: WOC planning, strategizing, theorizing, building, and moving away from the margin and recreating a circle of their own, one with no margins known; an open circle with nothing in the center but deliberate inclusion and focus on the Other. It’s a circle, but with no vortex. It emphasizes knowledge, history, colonialization impact, imperialism – all found in self stories, in the narrative, not the text. It is no wonder, then, that when WOC begin to voice their own experiences White women begin to cry from dismantled sisterhood and intersectionality.
Please understand this: sisterhood was never whole to begin with.
The ability to live, move forward, progress WITH, not despite, difference is a conception that mainstream feminists have yet to embrace. And while the “mentionable” effect( aka giving shoutouts, sidebars, quick links, and forget-woc-not stats) provides a literary alibi which testifies that WOC are not being ignored, the truth is that the agenda on the clipboard largely remains dictated by white, middle-class, academy educated, Eurocentric American women. And the clipboard is not being passed around.
Well, we don’t need your clipboard. We have our minds. I am over this and am unafraid. So the only tutorial I can give is this: get over your fear. Walk out into the unknown, if you are that committed to anti-racism within feminism. Be willing to give up your comfort and privilege of ignorance and safety.
Let me know, but I’m not waiting.