I was walking home with Michael this evening and I was telling him that my intuition was telling me that we're on the verge of a real revolutionary moment. It's been a bad year for women, it's been a bad year for people of color: Mike Brown, Marissa Alexander, Eric Garner, Janay Rice, Tamir Rice, Retaeh Parsons, Ezell Ford, Yvette Smith, Dante Parker, the Farr Road Victim, Jordan Baker, John Crawford. Isla Vista, Marysville-Pilchuck (yes, that's gender-based violence). Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi. And on, and on, and on.
It's gotten so bad that I don't think any of us buy the idea that the higher-ups are actually looking out for us, or actually have our best interests at heart. I can't imagine what measures it would take to make us feel like we're valued American citizens. Even an indictment for Darren Wilson - and everyone knew that wasn't going to happen - wouldn't have changed the impunity with which so many other people have been killed. And we're all just so tired of being told that there was something we could have done better to avoid being killed, profiled, harassed, raped. We're through with this culture. We're through with this government. We don't trust either. It has to change.
I think we're on the verge of a revolution.
And I say that having studied revolutions, specifically revolutions for independence in Africa, Socialist revolutions in Russia, and revolutions for democracy in Germany, Poland, and the rest of the Soviet Bloc. It's just - I know this is going to sound weird and very superficial, but, it's cold out and people are turning out in droves. That actually means something. That's a canary in a coal mine, in terms of activism. Our outrage is warming us.
I told Michael, "I'm afraid women are going to be left behind." I elaborated on that statement some: People seem to be more comfortable being vocally outraged with the complete disregard with which Black lives are treated in America than they are being outraged with the complete disregard with which women's lives and autonomy are and have been treated in America. It's not that I think one must be more important than the other, of course: to some extent, they're separate issues that require a different vocabulary altogether. To some other extent, to a greater extent, there's a lot of overlap. The overlap is horrifying. Yes, our culture feels entitled to women's bodies: Nowhere is that more evident than the way we treat the bodies of women of color.
But it occurred to me: "I might just be worried about my place in this moment, as a white woman." I might be clutching for representation, and if I am, I'm clutching for representation that I already have. The women of color who are organizing so many of the Ferguson-related actions and doing some of the best reportage are vocal feminists. Why should I feel afraid for my representation as a woman?
My womanhood is represented. My whiteness isn't. I'm OK with that. The fact is that I've found this year that many, many white feminists are unreliable allies to women of color. I've found this year that feminists of color have more dynamic, less regressive ideas about how to move feminism forward. I'm thinking of Mikki Kendall, Mychal Denzel Smith, Tracy Clayton, Bhas, Luvvie Ajayi, Jamilah Lemieux, Aura Bogado, Soraya Chemaly, Franchesca Ramsey, Wagatwe Wanjuki, April Reign, Mia McKenzie, and, of course, Jesse Williams and Roxane Gay. Black Twitter - and every other representation of people of color on Twitter - has been more informative to listen to than the thinkpiece re-cycle of white feminist writing that constitutes the majority of feminist content on the Internet.
And yes, I'm part of that problem, and yes, I'm trying to do what I can, little by little, to fix it.
I said it on Twitter before: #YesAllWomen means we stand together. If we're in a cultural moment wherein marginalized groups are starting to rally together for real change, I have to sort of immolate my non-marginalized identity to be a part of it. My non-marginalized identity is my identity as white.
I say "immolate" for the sake of poetics. Of course, it's easier than that. All it means is being aware of the fact that I have been grasping my white privilege and saying things like "I'm afraid women are going to get left behind in this movement" when women have in fact been extraordinarily included in it, have been leading it, and the "women" I was referring to is really code for "white women." All it means is catching myself when I'm saying something questionable, recognizing that it might be arising from my privilege, talk it out, and do better next time. It's a dose of self-awareness and humility. It's a matter of not digging your heels in and defending your privilege because it makes you comfortable.
It's just not that hard.