After gender studies writer Hugo Schywzer “quit” the Internet and had a mental breakdown (on which I believe everything that has to be said has been said on various media outlets), Blogger Mikki Kendall started the Twitter hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. It has opened up a long-overdue discussion on the inherent racism in mainstream feminism. Jezebel (former home of Schwyzer’s column) posted about it, apparently oblivious to the fact that their role in pushing Schwyzer’s agenda and silencing or banning commenters (particularly women of color) who criticized him and their decision to publish his work had led to this in the first place.
Do I think that solidarity is for white women? Absolutely. I’m one of the many women of color who hesitates to call themselves a feminist because I, as many do, feel excluded by mainstream feminism (often referred to as white feminism). My own experiences, like many, have led to this hesitation, and I can see from reading various blogs that this feeling is quite common.
Last year, I found myself part of an online feminist group. It was quite fun and interesting at first. I enjoyed getting to know many women, discussing current events, and addressing serious issues along with the more trivial ones. Occasionally, after a while, an issue would crop up and it would occur to me that there was a persistent race and class (racism’s close cousin) problem within. There would be a big discussion about it, and nothing would change. After several months, I had a verbal altercation with a young woman regarding race and class that ended up in a discussion spanning several days. Many of the women remained silent on the matter, some blocked me along with other women of color, and some told me that it “wasn’t a big deal,” or that “now was not a good time.” It never seems to be a good time to discuss racial profiling, poverty, and urban violence. I was told that I was “scary” to them, someone whose only crime was apparently unpopular discourse. When a woman of color speaks her mind, the word “scary” always seems to come up. I can’t say how insulting it is to be constantly referred to as scary when being outspoken, always afraid to invoke the Angry Black Woman trope. Many of my “friends,” people whom I had visited and spend a lot of time with, suddenly disappeared and no longer had any contact with me. I withdrew myself from the group, along with the majority of the women of color.
After that, I don’t see myself rallying with mainstream white feminists anywhere in the near future. I might be welcome as long as I keep myself in line, as long as I don’t say anything that causes anyone to feel uncomfortable about their privilege, or question their own possible racism. This is a typical story. You could remove the names and it would nearly be the same story, over and over again.
I may still hope for change, but I’m no longer holding my breath.