SISTER O'SISTER LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS WOMEN'S MARCH
Whether you were here for it or not, last weekend’s Women’s March deserves a round of applause for being the largest inaugural protest in history. That said, the stories shared post-march prove everything wasn’t all sisterhood and pussy hats.
Before I dive into dissecting what did, and should have, happened during last weekend’s marches, I have to be real. I did not march. My intention was to ride up to D.C. on a chartered bus to lend my voice and energy to the growing movement. My reality involved spending almost two hours in a Home Depot parking lot waiting for a bus then another two hours at a gas station in South Carolina after our bus broke down. Instead of waking up with the capital on the horizon, I woke up in a friend of a friend’s house to Vanderpump Rules. I also did not make it back to Atlanta in time for the marche there. But I digress.
The women we waited and rode 3 hours with, represented a multitude of diverse backgrounds. There were housewives from Buckhead decked out in yoga gear, young women who won last minute scholarships to attend, mothers with their young sons and daughters, members of the LGBT community, and everyone in between. While we are all annoyed from waiting outside and then again in the gas station, everyone was engaged in listening to, supporting, and looking out for each other. We’re southern and that’s how we roll, even if we don't like you, so I cannot say that was indicative of the mood felt in D.C.
From what I have heard from friends who attended the various marches, social media, and every think piece I’ve read, our group was not a representation of the Women’s March as a whole. Women of color felt alienated due to “white feminism”, you know the kind of feminism that isn’t intersectional and seethes with white supremacy. These same sisters who needed our black and brown bodies to stand with them fetishized native women gathering in traditional dress to pray with their elders, were not respectful when Angela Davis took the mike in D.C., and generally made women of color feel unwelcome.
I cannot and do not speak out on things I have not experienced, but this conversation is too big to not lend my voice to. Not the conversation about what did/did not happen during the march, but the conversation around how we can come together and heal so that we can present a united front over the next 4 years. That conversation begins with two things, listening and understanding the difference between actual ignorance and willful ignorance. The first thing is simple, when someone is sharing their experience, listen. I am a black, cisgender, heterosexual woman, raised in the south by two parents who have college degrees. My life was hella wheat bread. I do not know what it is like for members of the LGBT community or people raised in poverty, or someone who is an immigrant, or Muslim unless I listen when they speak. White people, I love you, listen when we share our stories, do not minimize or try to play devil’s advocate— the devil does not need you to advocate for him. Just listen and learn. We’ll do the same when you speak, I promise. If we don’t it’s because we weren't raised right, just like you if you aren’t listening.
The second thing that needs to happen is a bit more complex but incredibly necessary. In America, there are entire groups of people who have grown up in bubbles without interacting with anyone who is different than they are. Everyone looks like them, talks like them, thinks like them, dresses like them, it’s very Stepford Wives. The only time these people interact with anyone different than they are is when they turn on the TV. They are genuinely ignorant to the struggles of anyone else. I was one of those people, raised in a black, middle-class community until I went to a PWI for college. That is why I can say people like that are not feigning ignorance. They really don’t know any better. Those are people who you can have a real dialogue with and maybe open their eyes to why what they said was unintentionally offensive. Unless they are willfully ignorant, meaning they don’t care about the facts, they care about preserving their belief systems. Don’t waste your time or energy on those people. They suck.
Yes, I know it’s bullshit that as a representative of a marginalized group we have to be the ambassadors. But, unless you have meaningful conversations with people who live differently than you do, we will keep reading think piece after think piece around how liberals can’t get along to get shit done. Put your ears where your heart is and be the change by listening, teaching, and trying to heal these deep divides no matter your race, religion, gender, orientation or whatever else so we can be stronger together.