We’re used to it, but we’re not going to roll over and take it. Women, people of color, queer folk — we’re as integral to the fortunes of the Democratic Party and the forward march of history as you are. Look at the European Union happily helmed by a woman while the US makes a proud march into the past.
I’m of the opinion it is inappropriate to invoke people of color to lend credence to an argument or to try to speak for all people of color as some sort of monolith that is aligned with white feminism, or even that women are some sort of unified monolith with a shared and totally consistent view of what feminism is. Consider: 53% of white women voted for Trump, while only about 4% of black women did. This suggests to me that white women aren’t exactly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with women of color, and probably should not co-opt the struggles of people of color in political opinion pieces.
This type of entitled thinking leads to tone-deaf juxtapositions such as the following:
You can throw us down stairs, throw us in jail, and feed us through feeding tubes. You’ve done it before, during Wilson’s administration when we fought for the vote. You have a mighty weapon over us — our regard for you. But it is wearing thin. You say you love women, but you obviously love privilege more. Ignore us, torment us — still we’ll rise, as Maya Angelou said. Remember the millions and millions of us that came together to march. We’re still here.
Maya Angelou was raised in the Jim Crow South. Because of that, she would not have been able to vote during Wilson’s administration. That you say “we” fought for the vote then co-opt Maya Angelou’s words in the same paragraph to conclude your piece is dubious, at best, and appalling, at worst.
What does allyship really look like, especially with regard to women of color? Does it mean denying the existence of a class of neoliberal politicians that has been party to raining death and destruction upon the entire globe with their neoconservative colleagues, does it mean being a Wall Street apologist, or does it look something like this:
The most important takeaway about this picture is that you and I only know the name of one person in it. Everyone else is just a cop, a bystander or, apparently, a person of color to be invoked in an argument. But, that woman on the ground in chains, that man at the foot of the officer — they have stories, too. If the injustice in that picture bothers you, maybe think about them and their stories the next time you invoke Maya Angelou in a paragraph about white women getting the power to vote.