Why the Historic Women’s March Was Controversial for Most Black Women

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(TIML NEWS) Just one day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, an estimated 470,000 people (and millions more across the United States and the world) flooded the streets of Washington, D.C., for the first Women’s March on Washington.

Men, women and children but mostly women  turned out for the historic march on Saturday, Jan. 21, to stand up for women’s rights but also to protest against newly inaugurated President Donald Trump, who made a series of overtly misogynistic remarks during his campaign.

Millions ultimately gathered to unify under the umbrella of feminism, civil rights, immigration and environmental activism, among other issues. However, many Black female organizers and intellectuals had their doubts about the march meeting the needs and concerns of Black women.

Old rifts between Black women organizers and the white feminist movement began to arise soon after the idea for the Women’s March on Washington was announced. The New Yorker reported that the idea for the march was credited to Teresa Shook, a retired white lawyer who resides in Hawaii. After Trump’s surprising presidential win, Shook launched a Facebook event page suggesting a protest. Word of her anti-Trump idea quickly spread, garnering more than 10,000 supporters overnight.

Shook initially called her event the Million Woman March, a moniker originally attributed to a massive protest for Black sisterhood and self-determination held in Philadelphia in 1997. The retired attorney eventually changed the name of her rally, but some Black women still weren’t convinced and accused white women’s rights advocates of appropriating movements started by Black women.

“The many mistakes inherent at all levels of organizing the Women’s March event from very early on demonstrate the very problematic nature of  ‘white feminism,’ ” Jalessah Jackson, a Gender and Cultural Studies major working on her master’s at Simmons College in Boston told Atlanta Black Star. “That is, white feminists’ tendency [historically] to align themselves with white supremacy to achieve their own goals.”

“What we see happening is white women tokenizing and using women of color to advance their own agenda,” Jackson continued. “I don’t think that’s genuinely intersectional. I’m not interested in faux solidarity or intersectionality being merely an afterthought.”

The “intersectionality” Jackson spoke of is a term coined by African-American feminist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and is the concept of inextricably linked facets of race, sex, gender identity and economic status.

The galvanizing issue behind the march was the election of President Trump, who walked to victory with 53 percent of the white female vote. But could white women who couldn’t convince other white women to vote against Trump now center themselves in the “resistance” against his policies?

Many African-American women questioned why they should respond to white women’s call for human rights when they felt their own calls had gone unanswered. Historically, African-American women’s rights advocates have taken issue with the feminist movement overall, highlighting its sometimes racist and exclusionary practices. Was this present-day equality march tumbling down the same rabbit hole? Was it catering to the anxiety of white women over Trump’s victory, while bypassing the real concerns Black women (and communities) have been organizing around for centuries without the resources or support from the people now jumping in front of the line?

Lastly, if Hillary Clinton had won the election and broken the glass ceiling, would there still not be a need for a march to make sure Clinton was clued in that women, particularly Black women, would still be facing income and wealth gabs, police and incarceration issues, terrible public education policies, as well as reproductive rights issues?

 Columnist Jamilah Lemieux addressed these concerns in an op-ed piece for ColorLines on Tuesday, Jan. 17. In it, Lemieux explained that she wouldn’t be participating in the Women’s March because she didn’t see the point in “putting my body on the line to feign solidarity with women who, by and large, didn’t have my back prior to November.”

The Women’s March was a historic success in bringing out the masses, with far more people turning out for the protest than for Trump’s inauguration, according to The New York Times. But as the feminist movement struggles to become more diverse and open, many concerns need to be addressed, such as leadership, resources and the next steps in creating a viable “resistance” to Trump’s agenda. Moreover, there’s a need to tackle the liberalism of the historic feminist movement, which has too often fought for a place for white women at the expense of Black ones. Wow do you guys Agree or disagree?

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