On White Womanhood
A friend of mine at Yale, a young African American man, was fired from his internship as a hospice counselor. Why? A white woman accused him of hitting on her.
And that was that. He was fired—without any just process of hearing his testimony.
Here’s his Facebook update about the event:
“I lost my hospice internship because a white woman reported that she felt uncomfortable around me. She said I repeatedly asked for her number and kept telling her she was cute: two things I never ever did, not once. I’m a black man. I know how to carry myself, professionally; I just forgot how much y’all lie on us anyway….”
This injustice, my friends, is a feminist issue. It’s a feminist issue for 4 reasons:
- Because feminism cares about the dignity and humanity of all persons.
- Because feminism cares about the ways in which “pure white womanhood” has historically been constructed on racist ideologies—ideologies that white men and women have used in horrific ways toward men of color in the pretense of “protecting” white womanhood. (Yes, think Emmett Till. Think the myth of the black rapist.)
- Because feminism cares about how racism toward men of color harms sisters of color. For example, when black and Latino men are unjustly stopped and frisked and locked up (as happens every day in our communities), women of color also bear the economic and emotional injustices in profound ways.
- Because, folks, let’s be blunt: any feminist theory or activism worthy of anything has gotta be founded upon understanding intersectionality—the interlocked reality of all systems of injustice. The feminist concept of intersectionality is a critical framework, developed by folks like Kimberle Crenshaw and the Combahee River Collective.
The reality is that it is often white women—including those of us who truly want to root ourselves in feminist thought and activism— who so often buy into and promote white-supremacist-patriarchy without even realizing it. (Or, at least I know I do or have done.)
This violence must end— and it is the work of white folks to end it, for we are the ones who re-enact this historical system.