According to CNN exit poll, 53% of white women voted for Trump. The majority of white women in America voted for a president who has been explicitly racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, anti-immigrant and downright hateful. They either excuse him for this behavior or agree with it. To re-iterate the obvious, Trump would not have been elected without white people voting. So is this a blog where I write to white women who voted for Trump? To put it shortly, no. Your post will come. I had a nice little encounter last week with a Trump supporter (they are up here in Canada, friends!), and would gladly talk to many more.
I’m specifically addressing my fellow white liberal women. And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a blog post where I congratulate us. I’m writing to my white women friends who may even call themselves feminists because we are also responsible for white supremacy. We are also responsible for the monster that is the entitled and now enabled Donald Trump voter. As much as our anger can be directed towards these individuals, it can also be directed to ourselves.
Let’s sit in this discomfort. Let’s sit long and hard with the fact that we white women overwhelmingly chose our race over our gender. Are you thinking now, “I voted for Hillary, how am I guilty?”. Or even, “I posted on social media about how Trump is racist, how am I to blame?” Don’t get defensive! Keep reading, please. I’m one of you.
White women betrayed women of colour, as we have been doing for centuries. If you want a quick history lesson, think about how early suffragists excluded black women to fast track their campaigns. To all the white women who were putting “I voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave, think about how she was pretty blatantly racist. For example, she voted against the 15th Amendment, which was set to give black men the right to vote. Anthony describes how “an oligarchy of race, where the African rule the Saxon, might be endured” but “the oligarchy of sex” is unacceptable. This is a telling metaphor for modern day white feminists. And it’s not just dear old Susan, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anna Howard Shaw and other white women lauded as feminist heroes. Also, where is the talk of Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth when we talk about “historic” feminism?
If you are predominantly concerned about the misogyny backing Trump’s campaign in 2016, please consider that woman of colour are disproportionately impacted by patriarchy because of racism.
Dear fellow white women: I want you to look deep inside yourselves and recognize your own racism. Unless you have been living under in an isolated abandoned mine shaft, you have grown up in a white supremacist society. Yes, racism is systemic. But systems are composed of humans and we are all human.
When I was a junior at Colgate University, some beautiful and inspiring people of colour spearheaded and drove a movement on campus. This movement became a 101 hour Sit In in the admissions building. I was immensely lucky to listen to the stories, fears and pain of black, brown, Asian, queer and other marginalized students speak. The Huffington Post and MTV will tell you it was about racist Yik Yak posts, and those were there (such as the one telling black students to go back to Africa), but it was so much more than that.
It was about students of colour on a predominately white campus feeling like they were not welcome. It was about racial profiling. It was about the question, “where are you, really from?” It is hateful statements, like “I didn’t know people like you got in here” or “why are we talking about this, racism doesn’t exist in America” It was also violent. One of my role models and a brilliant woman of colour was called, pathetically, cowardly, and anonymously on Yik Yak, “the bitch with the flag”. A post was written saying that she should have her head bashed in, after she used the flag courageously in protest.
Colgate is an amazing education full of intelligent young people. So, my fellow white liberal women, the next time you blame Trump on “poor uneducated white people”, stop and think about how my place of higher education circa 2014 (and still now) saw the same attitudes many of you may be seeing now for the first time. The white students who vehemently were against the Sit In, who wrote the Yik Yak posts, and who said people were making a “big deal of things”, may have graduated now. They are filling American consulting firms and banks and schools as teachers. I don’t care whether or not they voted for Trump, but I do care that they have and may continue to perpetuate racism
During the Sit In, a student on Yik Yak posted “as a racist, I feel marginalized on this campus” I’ve realized that America right now is Colgate circa the 2015 Sit In on a magnified scale. America has always been like this too.I said it as a junior in college and I’ll say it now: having a racist view and being called out for it, is not the same as experiencing racism. Hating on Trump voters isn’t the same as being hated BY Trump voters because of your identity. The former is a choice. The latter isn’t. You woke up in America and either chose to support or look past a candidate who has shit on pretty much anyone other than white, straight men. Latinx, Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQ+ folk didn’t wake up and say “oh I want to be subjected to hate speech and racism”.
But that is a tangent, as I’m writing to “Good” White People who probably didn’t vote for Trump. White women who may just be realizing in dismay that America is a racist country. I’m writing to white women who have posted things on social media in shock at what Donald Trump’s victory means for America. I get that this might be when you’re finally realizing that racism still exists and is really fucked up. But people of color in America have known this (and been saying it) for centuries.
But I get your shock, because I was you. I was you two years ago, when my white bubble of privilege was shattered with the Sit In. I am you today because I am constantly learning of and unlearning my own racism. So I ask you to please don’t be John Mettaa’s aunt in this really powerful article, and instead think long and hard about what I’m saying.
I want to share mistakes I’ve made, in hope than you will not make the same. I wish I had read an article like this before I delved into social justice. I caution that trying to be a white anti-racist “ally” (a word I don’t like). It is a continual learning process which does not come with a formula. Similar to how I teach new people how to use the cash register at the coffee shop I work at (“this is a complicated machine, but I’ve made every mistake in the book so let me know if something goes wrong because I’ve probably done something similar”), I’m going to talk to you about being white, female and trying to fight racism.
- Please don’t turn Trump being elected into your after school special moment. I have done this during my time involved in activist spaces and it was hurtful. I remember sitting in a circle of predominately black and brown classmates during the Sit In and having tears come to my eyes. I asked “how can I be a better ally”? Which is perhaps the equivalent of white liberal people in post-Trump America posting on social media apologizing to their POC friends. Use your friend google. Also, hey here are some cool links you can check out now to start. Also, please message me! I would legitimately be happy to talk to you about this stuff. That being said, dear fellow white woman, recognize how much you have to learn from people of colour. Which brings me to point #2:
- LISTEN. Listen compassionately with an open mind to the experiences of those who do not benefit from our whiteness. Whether these are friends, acquaintances or strangers on the internet. I never really thought about what one of my close friends felt like being a black woman on a predominantly white campus, until I began to think more critically about racism. You may have close friends of colour. DO NOT flood these people with messages and apologies. Even if you’re just realizing America is racist, they are most certainly not. I’ve learned more from my friends of colour, and from professors of colour, than I think I even realize. And I thank them for sticking with me, working with me, and not giving up on me. Specifically, I am so lucky to have learned from amazing black women. Thank you to my compassionate college roommate who taught me the value of an opinionated introvert, the danger of whitesplaining, and taking criticism. Thank you to my Educational studies professor who had us read Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Janet Mock and other phenomenal feminists of colour. Thank you also for having me write a race and gender autobiography that truly changed me, thank you for bringing creativity and feelings into the classroom and for taking us to see great plays like the Mountain Top. Thank you to my English professor. I loved reading Richard Wright, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat and Kiese Laymon. Your gift with words is so powerful, as was the space you created in our classroom.
- Do not center your feelings or make this about you.Remember: being called out for racism or privilege isn’t nearly or even comparable to actually experiencing it. My fellow white females: people of colour are hurting and we need to give them the space they may want. Yes, it’s natural to feel bad that people you care about are hurting. Or that you’ve personally hurt them. But our tears in certain spaces are very toxic. One time I knocked the laptop of a close friend off of a table and she lost her essay when the system crashed. I felt SO bad that I had done this damaging thing, that I ended up apologizing so much that I made myself the victim. White America: don’t be Emily circa 2014. Don’t have white supremacy be the computer. This work is hard and messy, but you’re still white and your safety isn’t at risk.
- Don’t look for your Gold Star of being an “anti-racist ally”.During my junior year I had the privilege of attending a workshop about racism (PSA Colgate people who may be reading this, attend Skin Deep because it’s great). While dialoguing about privilege and what not, a wonderful feminist of colour said to me: caring about ending racism doesn’t make you better, it just makes you at a bare level of human decency. This lesson stuck with me, and I hope it sticks with you. Don’t expect your friends and acquaintances of colour to pat you on the back for not being a Trump voter. You are not a special snowflake because you didn’t vote for a man who spewed hate speech.
- Don’t homogenize any marginalized group as one unified opinion!! For example, don’t assume that all the Latinx friends you have will react to Trump’s election in the same way. Don’t assume all Muslims react to Islamophobia the same way. Please don’t explain people of colour’s emotions to them. People cope in different ways. Just because your black co-worker isn’t crying in the hallway, doesn’t mean you get to ask him why he isn’t more distressed about the election results. If your Cuban immigrant neighbours don’t want to socialize as much for a while, respect this. Don’t belittle the feelings of people of colour. Don’t criticize people as being oversensitive or not sensitive enough.
- Hopefully this is stating the obvious but, recognize that this election wasn’t just about politics. Damon Young writes a powerful piece for GQ that captures his experience of being black in post-election America and dealing with anti-Trump white people who are still able to look at the election solely politically. Don’t be the white people he refers to in the bar.
- Robin D’Angelo has a really good theory called white fragility. Basically, this is the idea that when confronted with their racist or hurtful behaviour, white people try to separate themselves from it, defend it, or justify it. You may have encountered this. Recognize fragility in yourself and others.
- White women who may be reading this, please message me especially if you disagree. And although I’ve chosen to address this blog post to my own community, I would be happy to talk to ANYONE about racism or related topics. I honestly and authentically welcome these conversations. Although being a barista is cool and all and I get to make tulips and hearts on lattes, I miss talking about social justice as much as I used to when attending my liberal arts college.
- Make mistakes graciously and humbly. Learn from them. Don’t just say you’ll be better, but actively work to be better next time.
You, fellow white feminist women, probably don’t need to be told of the hate crimes which have occurred in Trump’s America.
I’m not writing this piece to convince you that the white people who do these hateful acts are pieces of trash. I think you know this. But they are our pieces of trash. And it’s time, if you, fellow white women, haven’t engaged already, to get to work picking them up. And to do this authentically we must also work within ourselves and unlearning our own biases. We must look towards our own relationships and daily practices. We must talk to other “progressive” or left-leaning whites in our circle. We must penetrate white spaces. We can bat our blue eyes and instead of changing the topic when Uncle Chad starts going on about black on black crime as a reason for the amount of police brutality, check him on it.
Courtney Parker West writes a brilliant piece describing how offensive “woke” white people being shocked that racism exists is to her, as a woman of colour who has been experiencing it in America her whole life. Amber Ruffin gives a biting welcome to white people to this realization. As has been pointed out, it is a privilege to not have seen the racism in America until Donald Trump was elected. So, fellow white women, let’s check this privilege and start to work towards seeing the racism in ourselves and those close to us.
Let’s take a moment to not focus on the “Trump voter” being profiled in think pieces all over the media. There is a ton of well-deserved anger being sent towards this voter. But posting statuses about how angry you are at those who voted for Trump can only do so much. It is also, I hate to say this, slightly performative. Let’s ask ourselves: what are we doing behind closed doors, in white spaces? Fellow white women who may identify as feminist our target is a little closer to home. It is the guy who I hooked up with a year or so ago who seems more interested in preventing Trump supporters from being stereotyped than listening to the people who are being targeted by Trump. It is this individual who has since messaged to call me a”self-hating racist, a crazy man-hating “feminazi”, an over-sensitive social justice warrior, and most of all- an idiot” (took this as a compliment btw and should have sent him my 60 page honors thesis) before saying he could “could care less about having a “productive conversation”.
These conversations will be ugly and uncomfortable. And I say, let’s have them anyways.