Hi, white friends. Let’s get to it: You and I have work to do.
As I’m sure you’re learning, in the grand scheme of privilege, you and I are very, very lucky. In that privilege we both have an important role to step up and take. We’ve been silent and complacent for a long time.
As you rally for feminism, I want you to understand the ways your Black sisters can be stereotyped and devalued and harmed every day of their lives. I want you to acknowledge the generations of work Black women have put into organizing, educating, and protecting. I want you to realize your feminism may be limiting and harmful and selfish because it centers white feminists like you.
I want you to find some way, somehow, to stand in the middle of a room, neighborhood, or city where you are not the majority and see what that feels like. I want you to take steps to expand your network into places where you can learn from and appreciate Black women. They have so, so much to teach us. I want you to understand why some people may distrust you or dislike you, and to not take it personally and double down, but strive to listen with an open mind and empathize with the fear.
I want you to understand why some people may distrust you or dislike you, and to not take it personally and double down, but strive to listen with an open mind and empathize with the fear.
I want you to see the harm in cultural appropriation. Every time you cook with ghee (Gandhi protested its absence in his prison diet in 1908 — it’s not the “superfood of the year”), or relax into a savasana, or Tweet “hot girl summer,” I want you to own up to the fact you’re stealing from a culture which you owe respect and even reparations to.
I want you to challenge yourself to ask: Where does this originate? Who am I taking from? How can I better learn from this element and elevate the people who own it, rather than making it mine or believing a false narrative that white people created, improved, or invented it?
I want you to understand the myriad ways our systems that be perpetuate racism. Something as simple as buying hair products or visiting a salon, putting on a Band-aid, or finding something “nude” in the color of your own skin are taken for granted as a white person. Speak out against this.
I want you to realize that traveling the world on a service or mission trip is problematic. I want you to research the centuries of colonization, enslavement, and pillaging committed by white oppressors upon Black and brown nations. I want you to sit with quiet reflection in the places you love to visit and realize they are often still reeling and recovering from the lingering impact of these invasions. I want you to know you’re not a white savior. It’s OK to understand you’re a hinderance in some spaces.
I want you to advocate for getting paid more at work. You deserve it. But I want you to also realize the racial disparity at play. When you rally against the fact that “Women make 81.9% of every man’s dollar” I want you to realize that you rally for a whitewashed statistic. In fact, for Black women, this number is closer to 67.7%; For Hispanic women, it’s 62.1%. I’ve lost my job after advocating for people of color. This may happen to you to. Let it. Own it. Be the change anyway.
I want you to understand how racial disparity affects your BIPOC friends in the workplace. And I want you to elevate them, hear them, and most importantly, advocate for them. If you’re in a position of power, I want you to hire them, credit them, and promote them.
I want you to fight for environmental practices and policies, armed with the knowledge that natural disasters and environmental pollution affect marginalized groups more — and use that knowledge to push for climate justice.
I want you acknowledge immigration as a women’s issue. I want you to know that more women than men opt to immigrate, but that the 86% of women who don’t hold STEM degrees globally are disadvantaged by our visa system. I want you to know that while women play a more dominant role in the labor force of their home countries, many immigrate dependent on their husbands and are therefore subject to low wages and poor working conditions without the protections and rights offered by legal status.
I want you to know that some organizations report up to 38% of asylum seekers are women fleeing domestic and gender-based violence.
And I want you to know that 80 percent of female Central American migrants face sexual assault in their process of crossing the border — in some cases from the very government officials they rely upon to protect them.
Even if you have never been touched by gun violence, I want you to realize that it is indeed a women’s issue. I want you to solemnly consider this: Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide. As you rally for #MeToo, I want you to consider that Black women started the movement and that we have co-opted it. Black women are twice as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner compared to white women.
I want you to internalize the unjust truth that Black people, especially women, are more likely to be unarmed when killed by police. In fact, more than 57 percent of Black women are killed while unarmed, compared to 20 percent of white men. These are uncomfortable facts, but I want you to feel them deep in your heart and bones and demand antiracist laws and legislators and a defunded police force in favor of community enriching programs.
I want you to care about women’s reproductive health, but expand your horizons beyond birth control and a woman’s right to choose. I want you to know that black babies are more than twice as likely than white babies to die during childbirth, and that racial disparity adds up to more than 4,000 lost black babies a year.
I want you to be hurt and angry that black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as white women, according to the C.D.C. — mostly because black women are not believed when they have legitimate medical issues, instead being cast into stereotypes that limit their care.
I want you to familiarize yourself with intersectionality. I want you to rebrand your feminism to make it one that works for all women, including trans women and WOC. I want you to march and yell alongside Black Lives Matter protestors until your throat is raw and you’re exhausted and emotionally battered, and realize that pain is only new for you instead of a lived experience every single day.
I want you to take your love and ambition and drive, and channel your feminism into advocacy that extends beyond your own benefit. I want you to listen more than you speak. I want you to pull up more chairs as you sit around a table of power or decision-making. Or I want you to knock that table over altogether and stand behind the construction of a new one.
I want you to realize that you are not threatened by equality, although it will be uncomfortable and painful to do what is right. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “No one is free until we’re all free.”
So how will you start?