It may be a new year but many of us are dealing with the same things we’ve always dealt with. If you are a black woman, you especially know this to be true. The anniversary of The Women’s March may have fired people up but, in reality, there is still a major divide between being a white woman and a woman of color in the United States of America.
With movements like #TimesUp gaining steam, one would think that equality for all women would be first on the agenda. Sadly, I have seen more people posting and retweeting images and videos from this year’s Women’s March than I have seen support for the actual individual causes that the march is supposed to support, especially if those movements involve people of color.
Over the past few weeks, there has been outrage over white female actors like Michelle Williams not being paid as much as their co-stars (in this case Mark Wahlberg). This outrage is deserved as Michelle Williams can act circles around Mark Wahlburg and the pay discrepancy was astronomical. (Wahlburg also has a history of racial violence so I don’t know what business he has starring in movies to begin with.) However, the same outrage hasn’t been extended to black female actors like Taraji P. Henson, Wanda Sykes, and Monique. While my timeline was full of support from black woman for Tracee Ellis Ross when she was renegotiating her contract for a higher salary, I didn’t hear anything from white woman.
This seems to be a common theme in Hollywood, on my timeline, and in the world. When a problem is a white women problem, it is a problem for all women but when a problem is a woman of color problem, we are left to handle it without support. And why should I be surprised? After all, 54% of white woman voted for the Nacho Nazi and many women who didn’t are still afraid to talk to their family and friends who support him.
I understand that women who benefit from white supremacy are still fighting an uphill battle against misogyny. I also understand that some of the issues that people of color deal with daily may be out of sight and out of mind for them. However, once you know better, you do better, and claiming ignorance in the age of quick and constant information is not acceptable. I’m sure that speaking with your racist uncle about his use of the n-word over a family dinner isn’t pleasant. You know what else isn’t pleasant? Being called the n-word. It can’t be enjoyable to explain to your older white mother the realities of misogynoir. Do you know what’s even worse? Dealing with the realities as a woman of color because of the uninformed votes your mother keeps casting. Ignoring your old friend from high school’s inappropriate remarks over brunch might be easier than confronting her. You know what’s not easy? Rebecca dropping your resume into the trash without reading it because your name is LaShonda and she assumes you are not capable.
I spoke to many white women before the election who confessed that they had multiple people in their life that they could take the time to try to educate but they chose not to because it would be difficult, uncomfortable, or create family drama. Meanwhile, people who look like me can be stopped and killed at a traffic light.
Silence is no longer acceptable. Silence, when you have privilege, is violence.
When you walk into a room, if everyone looks like you, ask yourself why other types of people are not in that room. Were other types of people invited? Did they feel as if they would be safe and welcomed if they showed up? When I enter a new space, I ask myself if trans people would be comfortable and accepted in that space. If not, I need to create a new space where they are celebrated. We all have a certain amount of privilege and it is the job of the privileged to create an even playing field. If you consider yourself a feminist and you truly want equality for all people, getting rid of privilege should be high on your agenda. The more privileged you are, the more work you should be doing. Only when white privilege is eradicated will we have true equality among all people.