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November 2012
19

You Aren’t An Ally; We Just Share Biology

When White women (who of course call themselves “feminists”) criticize First Lady Michelle Obama for emphasizing the importance of motherhood to her or criticize President Barack Obama for calling his daughters beautiful, I am then reminded of Alice Walker’s words on womanism:

When I offered the word “Womanism” many years ago, it was to give us a tool to use, as feminist women of color, in times like these. These are the moments we can see clearly, and must honor devotedly, our singular path as women of color in the United States. We are not white women and this truth has been ground into us for centuries, often in brutal ways.

The reality is that some White women are pretending that our experiences as women “together” somehow erases race. They reek of White privilege. They are willfully ignorant on intersectionality or are purposely rejecting the notion to assuage their guilt about White privilege and emphasize their struggles as women as if the White part is not a factor.

If they cannot understand the history, let alone the emotion, involved in Black women being able to be MOTHERS to THEIR OWN CHILDREN with the care and love that for CENTURIES was often only allotted to WHITE CHILDREN (though this myth of the loving mammy has backfired at times on White women whose racially and emotionally immature views of parenthood meant that their children ended up hurt or dead because they couldn’t even conceive of anyone not worshipping their White children [as they is not kind, smart or important] so they ignored clear as day signs from the today nanny or yesterday mammy that she herself was hurting or not well and a risk to those kids) then they don’t see us. If they cannot understand the POWER in Obama’s unapologetic love for his Black wife and Black daughters, commenting on their intelligence, character and yes, beauty, in a world where for centuries up until this very moment and future moments, Black women aren’t allowed to be anything but mammies, Sapphires and Jezebels and if we’re lucky “strong” at best, they don’t see us.

(Though the Obamas do not represent all Blacks, and their own relationship is often fetishized in an ahistorical way, as Black love can be at times, they STILL matter in the greater scheme of Black culture and what they do is on a stage for the entire world in a way that Black people who aren’t “celebrities” are not. Those images of who they are do matter to Black culture, despite not being the end all of Black culture.)

If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny watching White feminists, many of whom are class privileged and don’t even truly raise their own children, bash Michelle for her pride in motherhood (as if somehow this erases her résumé—which seems to be their focus, as if she can’t have a plethora of roles) yet have no problem with their Black and Latina nannies. If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny watching White feminists reject beauty talk for any women while conveniently being labeled the STANDARD of beauty for all women.

How can someone be an ally if they cannot even see me? You aren’t an ally then; we just share biology and maybe geography. And that’s it.

So sure, there’s a handful of awesome White feminists who clearly have intersectional views and understand how race, class, sexuality, size, ability, colourism, education and even location in the world affects women’s experiences differently, while some experiences are universal to women, but ultimately patriarchal and feminist White women alike marginalize Black women. It’s just that the latter thinks she is an “ally” who is trying to “get” Black women on the “right track” of feminism, yet can’t even truly see the Black women she’s addressing.

They need to go back and read Peggy McIntosh’s essay on White privilege and start over or something…

But…then I remember…some of them never intended to be my ally anyway.

Related Posts: Intersectionality Meets Social MediaWhite Women and White Privilege: Telling Them NO

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