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Justice for All or None: A Note on This New Era and Possible Coalition

:– I was at The Women’s March on Washington. I did not wear a #pussyhat. I have since purchased a pussyhat, in pink, from a woman who’s donating proceeds from the hats to PBS and NPR. I will wear it with my #BlackLivesMatter and #LGBTQIA and #EqualRightsAmendment pins. –:

I want all these newly energized liberal-or-progressive-mostly-white women to hear the skepticism we are getting from women of color and lgbtqia folk, especially trans women:

  1. They want us to show up FOR them.
  2. The do not want us to save them, or fix their movements.
  3. They want us to help in the background.
  4. They want us to come to their marches and demonstrations* and risk for them, too.

I have been a feminist scholar all my life, and have been knocking around social justice movements primarily for the last five years or so. I have interviewed many women in the Second Wave and recorded those interviews for posterity (visit Va NOW’s YouTube to watch, they’re rough edits).

What is missing, still, from “white feminism” is deep engagement with the particular issues and experiences of other kinds of women.

We have a huge historical opportunity right now to build coalitions like never before, simply because so many more people are energized and realizing they have skin in the game.

“Intersectionality” is a word requesting this support, this space-making, this basic sharing. “Coalition” is about the strategy for doing that, finding our areas of common concern and really being concerned in common.

I am asking us to do a little learning. To deepen not only your action as a citizen, but to deepen your commitment to Justice for All. This country did not begin oppressing people last year. It started from the beginning. There are good historical reasons for many kinds of people not to trust us white women. Historically, we have ditched on them — every time.

Reading. Do some. There’s more here than a person can do, I know. But, do some. Show up with some education. Don’t ask people in these movements to get you hip, get hip, be cool.

Remember, make space: You get to center your issue and your symbol at your march, at your action. When you show up for others, and when you work intersectionally, the focus can’t stay on you all the time.

* There are huge practical and legal differences between planned and permitted marches compared to direct actions and spontaneous demonstrations. The latter two often involve some kind of not-very-serious law breaking — like blocking a street or highway or entrance to a building, etc. Those actions can result in arrest. Not all activists can be available for that, but we can all be available in support roles that do not risk arrest.

+ Full Disclosure: I’m the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow at Split This Rock and the managing editor of The Quarry.

 

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