Is there a difference between Black Feminism and White feminism?. Honestly this is a very simple question, with a very simple answer. We need to look at the history of the feminist movement, did the movement ever have black women at the table or did they tokenize them?, and finally do black women currently feel involved in the feminist movement of today.
Organized feminism did not begin until 1848, according to white feminist in 1848 is when they first held their official women's conference. The feminist movement in this time took examples from the the abolition of slavery movement to mold their work. It was in 1903 that a new organization was founded called “The Women’s Social and Political Union” the leader was Emmeline Pankhurst. Emmeline believed this new movement would have to become radical and militant in order to be effective and create some change. This new women’s movement was known to the daily mail as the “suffragettes”. Due to this movement, white women in 1920 gained the right to vote. Furthermore, they achieved the rights to own property, reproductive rights, rights to education, rights to wear pants, and the right to work outside of home and be financially independent. The question now is, who was missing from this conversation from the very beginning?. The Feminist movement in its beginning excluded women of color and poor white women as well.
Black women have never been invited to the table when it comes to feminism. The feminist movement was known to try and get their liberation by oppressing another group which in this case and many others the ones getting oppressed are black women. Alice Walker a black women who was a poet, activist, and an award winning writer stated that she was not a feminist she was a womanist and I quote “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” because womanism and feminism are almost the same but the feminist movement forgot to include everyone who isn't a rich white women. Due to the lack of acknowledgement about the issues that surrounded black women (Women.Of.Color) by mainstream feminist, women of color were forced to create and start their own movement which is where the womanist movement or as known in current day “black feminism” started. Audre lorde once said “The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house” and that was the biggest problem of the feminist movement like I stated before you can not gain your independence by oppressing someone else. Years later white feminist wanted to tokenize the work of women like Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Bell Hooks,and Shirley Chisholm but completely ignored the trauma and distress they put women of color through.
The feminist movement just got it’s big break again in January 21st, 2017 , woman all across the nation felt attacked and disrespected by this current administration. The women's march is the biggest march and social outcry to date. The planning committee was very diverse they had an African-American woman, a Latina and a palestinian muslim woman from New York. So yes, for the big march in D.C there were women of color at the table but let's take a look at what happened in the streets. A Native American woman took to twitter to express her anger with the Women's march after her and her fellow Native American sisters were blatantly disrespected, she stated and I quote “ We were visible. They took pictures of us and then refused to take our fliers on pipelines, fracking, and #MMIW in Oklahoma.” then she stated “ Ashley and I started a chant, "You're on stolen land." WW shot us ugly looks. One shouted in her face, "We know but it isn't our fault!" …. You could hear what the WW said. "They're real Indians." "They're still here?" "I think they're faking it." "Why do they look like that?"....WW try to walk through our prayer circle and are immediately called out by our elders present. This is all before the march even starts….When the march starts several WW try to join our group to march with us. Two WW beside me told me "Guess we're Indians today!" and laughed.” that's just some of the sad reality woman of color faced at the march. Many have accused this modern day feminist movement to be plagued with white supremacy ignoring the voices and struggles of women of color but also being transphobic by ignoring the voices of transwomen. Connecticut State Representative Robyn Porter said “I am reminded of one of the things I thought about. And that was what I had heard many of my black and brown sisters express about the Women’s March, and how they felt that it was a Women’s March that had left them out and that they wanted nothing to do with it.” the truth is black and brown women have stepped away from the feminist movement and are finding their own voice. Porter perfectly explained it when she said “ This is part of the reason why they told me they wouldn’t be here today. Because frankly, they were sick and tired – sick and tired of what they felt were white women hijacking their history and work and discounting their worth.” for years white people in America have stolen the history and work of people of color and claimed it as their own, tokenizing the hard work of women of color.
The feminist movement just like any other movement has a long way to go in understanding what it really means to fight for equity and liberation without standing on the necks of other and becoming their oppressors. White woman must become actual allies and speak on issues that affect black and brown women Rep.Porter said it best
“So, here I am – on behalf of the black women who feel left out and left behind –- black women whose voices have not been heard and whose issues have not garnered white women’s staunch support. Issues that mainstream women’s rights movements often dismiss – the issues affecting black women, like, maternal mortality, infant mortality, police brutality, mass incarceration, the War on Drugs aka the War on Black People, gang violence, unemployment, education, voting rights. The AIDS epidemic because it is still an epidemic in communities of color. And the heroin epidemic: Yes, the epidemic has seeped into communities of color and heroin overdose rates have more than doubled — said doubled — among Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, and the media isn’t talking about that.” these are all issues mainstream feminism needs to take on if they really believe in equity for all women in america. Till then black and brown woman will continue to advocate and fight on their behalf and make sure they seek their own liberation.