A Word to My White Sisters

I have been working on getting my new blog off the ground for 6-12 months now and in the last week alone, I have mentally written & re-written numerous posts following each new “development” under the new president. And while this post and even the blog itself may not be as “ready” and “polished” as I may have hoped, here we go… 

My dear white sisters, this first post is dedicated to you. To us. I started writing it in my head a week ago after attending my local sister march of the larger Women’s March on Washington. I didn’t fully decide until late in the week whether I even wanted to attend. As an introvert whose job is to walk alongside victims of domestic violence experiencing immense trauma & safety concerns, a large social gathering is not exactly my idea of self-care. I also had a lot of questions and concerns about whether the space would truly be intersectional or would by-and-large be more of a white feminist space.

My experience was mixed. On the one hand, I had a visceral emotional response to standing and marching with thousands of sisters gathered together in that space. I felt visible as a woman, something that is not a given in my day-to-day experiences as a woman. And there is something communal about such an experience, despite knowing that I likely disagreed with other marchers on MANY issues. One of those overarching issues being the need for intersectionality. While efforts to make the Women’s March and sister marches intersectional were certainly apparent, there is a lot of work to be done to continue moving in that direction. This became especially clear in the hours and days following the march as white women pushed back on critiques expressed by women of color.

There is SO MUCH to say about this, but here is where I want to start:

White sisters, it is beyond time for us to start listening to and following the leadership of our non-white sisters.

To hear, reflect on, be challenged by, and feel uncomfortable about their critiques and frustrations and pain and anger. 

NONE of this minimizes our experiences of gender-based oppression. But as white women, we stand with one foot in oppression (as women) and one foot in privilege (as white women). I invite us to use our own experiences of gender-based oppression to cultivate a deep empathy for those who are oppressed due to the color of their skin (and every other type of oppression we may not experience due to our respective privilege). We HAVE to stop dismissing and talking over and minimizing and ignoring the very real experiences of our sisters of color. And we have to reckon with our collective participation (as white women) in their oppression – both historically and recently (regardless of how you voted individually, we collectively supported Trump…who has already followed through on an overwhelming number of horribly oppressive and unjust campaign promises…that will collectively have a greater negative impact on our sisters of color than on us).

And for the love, stop expecting a cookie and a pat on the back from our sisters of color when we do show up or speak up. They don’t owe us sh*t. This doesn’t mean stop showing up. But it does mean to start listening and learning and following. It means holding each other (as white women) accountable. It means standing up to injustice even when it does not directly impact us. It means taking risks and getting out of our comfort zones.

I don’t know where you are starting from today, but please don’t stay there. Please act. Please figure out what you need to do next. I will try to share some ideas soon and I am sure there are plenty of other posts and articles currently circulating on the topic. We are stronger together, but only when we make sure the voices of those most marginalized are the ones that are given the most attention and care (if you consider yourself a Christian, this is definitely modeled by Jesus). This means it’s time for us white women to stop re-centering the conversation on ourselves and to move to the outer rings of the circle and to adopt a posture of listening. Only then can our collective voices be heard. So let’s get to it.