The thing about conversations that need to be had is that they haven’t been had.
Obvious enough, but the inherent problem there is that the recipient of the much needed word needs to feel like the idea presented doesn’t encroach on whatever it is they have built – whether that be self, an idea, or most infamously, an institution of privilege.
The latter, by the way, is surrounded by a moat of other institutions or ideas that are there to shield the gleaming privilege from being permeated. So the idea is make your recipient feel as comfortable as possible so that the addendum will fit seamlessly. Right?
Well therein lies your problem. When black and brown feminists presented a conversation to white feminists that has already been had many times over in our communities, the irony was stifling. White feminists rejected, bashed, and simply could not wrap their heads around the problems non-white fems are faced with, while trying to be included in a space that doesn’t recognize marginalized women.
Sounds pretty far away from solidarity to me.
The cold hard truth was heard loud and clear earlier this week on the Twit-O-Sphere when blogger Mikki Kendall coined the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen that was both obvious to me, but (if the hate against Kendall is any indication) a threat to anyone who felt the lengthy tag divisive.
But here’s another truth. Solidarity is for white women will go down as the most important discussion on race, femininity and exclusivity we will have. And while I’m not certain if that was Kendall’s goal as she clapped back at Hugo Schwyzer, (an American academic, fraud and male feminist who admitted to trashing non-white women who were “in his way”), during his very public Twitter meltdown, she might just be responsible for changing history.
For the sake of time and space on this forum, here is a breakdown of that lengthy episode written by Kendall.
Am I too optimistic? Probably. But, make no mistake. Solidarity IS for white women and if you didn’t know then, you damn sure know now. But, solidarity isn’t a black or white issue. It’s an overall white privilege issue, designed to deal with issues that only affect white women. But, as Kendall has pointed out, this design isn’t something that just evolved – since inception, feminism was hailed as an institution where gender trumped race and lumped us all together.
Which, if you’re a woman of color, you know that just doesn’t work. Our experiences as women…and women who aren’t white at that…just doesn’t fit into that idea of feminism. So, in arguing that this hashtag on the inclusivity on white fems part is divisive, listen up. We didn’t put ourselves here.
In short, solidarity is totally about race. It’s about being alienated from the fight we would like to join, but not only because of the design of feminism, but the design of this country, its politics, and history’s narrative. Get it?
And if you can’t wrap your head around excluding women of color, take a look at my favorite explanations.
#SolidarityisForWhiteWomen Muslim women are viewed as voiceless, helpless creatures who need to be “saved” We’re not victims. We have voices
— Sarah (@buonasahra) August 12, 2013
#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when convos about gender pay gap ignore that white women earn higher wages than black, Latino and Native men.
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) August 12, 2013
There’s a really simple idea here. You can’t be a feminist if you aren’t fighting for the rights of all. And if you can’t accept the experiences of all and be an ally in the issues that they face without being skeptical of what they are fighting for, then have a seat.
Take it from GlobalGrind’s EIC, Michael Skolnik:
“The rights that you take for granted are not valid unless you fight for the same rights for others.”
More than wanting solidarity with white women, it’s about wanting to stand in the trenches with those who want to fight with you. It’s about needing them to listen to this uncomfortable conversation that just may shake their core. And until that happens – with no half-assed changes to appease or quiet down this roar – all women of color will always be the John C. Calhoun’s of feminism to the rest of the world.
As if that was our fault.
***Thank you, Mikki Kendall, for sharing your brilliance with us and holding the torch in this conversation.
Christina Coleman is the News and Politics Editor at GlobalGrind and a Howard University Alumna. Prior to this she was a science writer. That explains her NASA obsession. She crushes on Anthony Bourdain. Nothing explains that. Follow her on Twitter @ChrissyCole for all things news & politics. Oh. And afros.