Inserting the term “intersectional” into the name and description of your feminism to prove your progressive bona fides doesn’t mean shit if your actions betray the theory.
As writers here and here have stressed, the news that a viral meme stating that 14 girls of color went missing within a 24-hour timeframe last week in Washington, D.C., turned out to be false does not negate the problem of girls of color in D.C. and other American cities who go missing. The real statistics are clear on that. The actual number of girls who went missing in this particular case, 10, is no less frightening and unacceptable, nor is the fact that the girls reportedly went missing over a span of 10 days instead of 24 hours, as originally believed.
One missing Black and Latina girl is, should be — hell, must be — one too many. It should send us arm-in-arm to the trenches.
So, here’s my question: where, oh where, are all the white feminists who were, by their own lights, radicalized into action by Donald Trump? And — not just white feminists, but white feminists of an intersectional persuasion? Is mum the word, or what?
Where are all the liberal and left white women who, just two months ago, put on pink pussy hats and assembled in record numbers on our nation’s capital to protest the governmental, capitalist powers that be, and present a mass united front against the forces of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism?
I mean, come on. Ten black girls go missing within 10 days to scant or no media attention? And hardly an intersectional white feminist so much as bats an eye?
Really? Is that how it is? Is that how the majority of white women internalize an intersectional feminist praxis?
Let me make one thing clear: the silence of white intersectional feminists about these missing girls of color is not only worse than that of plain ol’ white feminists, but is very fulcrum of un-intersectionality. For, intersectional activism, as I understand it, demands that everyone concerned about the welfare of the species — the theoretician, the activist, the artist, the parent, the educator, on and on — account for the reality and lived experiences of every category of woman and how every mode of oppression forms an intricate matrix that strengthens, interpenetrates and reinforces one another. And intersectional feminism, as I understand it, demands of us the ability to view the world beyond the natural and culturally-imposed circumscriptions leveled on the journeys of different women negotiating the world in different bodies in a multitude of ways.
In essence, what an intersectional position requires of us is to go beyond the physiological and neurological stop signs of our gendered, social selves.
I realize that’s tough to do in a world that continues to prioritize the hurts, needs and desires of white bodies in compliance with the dictates of an evolved version of white supremacy. It’s tough to do when there are racial and class perks to doing the opposite, behaving in an un-intersectional manner, as, historically, plain ol’ white feminists tend to specialize in.
However, if you intend to be intersectional in your feminist praxis, there’s no way of skirting around this.
This early national history of white women resisting the patriarchy and invoking women’s rights to substantiate their own claims to a top slot in the social hierarchy and accrue protections and entitlements for their group sets the ruthless precedent for the more modern phenomena of white feminism and, from where I’m observing, its intersectional offshoot, like the “missing white woman syndrome,” with its ostentatious bias of bringing the cases of missing white girls, like Natalee Holloway and Elizabeth Smart, to the undivided attention of the country.
Meanwhile, missing girls of color like Jacqueline Lassey (15), Yahshaiyah Enoch (13), Antwan Jordan (15), Juliano Otero (15), Dashann Trikia Wallace (15), Aniya McNeil (13), Dayanna White (15), Talisha Coles (16), Morgan Richardson (15), except in certain media and social media spaces, go unspoken of and unwritten about.
Go ahead and blurt “WTF,” if you so feel the urge.
It just means that, like me, you understand that the exclusionary politics of white feminism has been the dilution and demise of social justice agendas in the past and, by the look and feel of it, is destined to be the death of this radical moment we presently find ourselves in. That feminist work which turns a blind eye to the problems of women and girls of color is doomed to fail, recycle and repeat the mistakes of the past.
Inserting the term “intersectional” into the name and description of your political position to prove your progressive bona fides, to graduate plain ol’ white feminism into something more radical and befitting the times, doesn’t mean shit if your actions betray the theory.
Honestly, it’s not as if white feminists lack the capacity to digest the accumulated insight that comes with hindsight about feminisms of the past to make better decisions about shaping the form and content of this new chapter of intersecting identities. They simply lack the will.
I continue to remain hopeful and act on the belief that all is not lost. But — this silence certainly adds to the recognition that a lot of white feminists have many more miles to go before they truly grasp what it means to see and exist in a world through an intersectional lens.