In order to be a feminist contributing to the liberation of ALL women (and as a result, all PEOPLE), you have to understand intersectionality. Intersectionality is the way that our identities morph into a gray area of privilege and oppression. As a white woman, you may experience oppression for your gender, but you also have privilege because of your skin. (White) feminism addresses why that oppression exists, but what about why that privilege exists?
As a black man, you may experience oppression for your skin, but you also have privilege as a man. (Please read Feminista Jones’ amazing article on this). Privilege cannot exist without oppression. <- That isn’t debatable, it’s just fact.
As a mixed-black woman, in many ways I am oppressed because of my blackness and gender, but also privileged in that I am often seen as a “beautiful”. Society is constantly repeating the rhetoric that mixed-black women are the poster-women for black beauty. But when I’m only half black, compliments such as these and elevation based on this only serve to keep my actual black sisters down. Beauty can’t exist without ugly, and the concept of ugly is a form of dehumanization.
So instead of wasting time trying to dismiss, defend, or justify your privilege, accept that there is more to just the individual-you, and that the political and historical-yous impact the world as we know it.
Then learn about those who are marginalized.
Learn their narratives and their objectives.
And with that knowledge, and your will for justice, work in your own community to bring awareness of the direct impact privilege has on those struggling, and change your behaviors accordingly.
As Feminista Jones so eloquently put it, “While non-Black people of color have experienced colonialism and exploitation, racism and discrimination, they still rely on anti-Blackness to get ahead; the common denominator is anti-Blackness.” Feminism must fight anti-blackness, the same way fighting anti-blackness must take a feminist approach. That’s intersectionality. Dismantlement does not have to be militant or bloody. I talk a lot about white supremacy and patriarchy and the dismantlement of these structures, but I am not calling for violence. I’m calling for a mass paradigm shift.
Thankfully, we are no longer in the 1800s, and now have many tools at our disposal to fight white supremacy and patriarchy. Social media is, in my opinion, our greatest weapon. I have found many activists online who are doing incredible work for the cause. Today I will share four that I believe can give any feminist a more rounded understanding of the marginalized experiences of black/people of color.
1) Seren aka Sensei Aishitemasu
Seren is one of my favorite voices out there. She’s an American activist fighting anti-black racism who makes videos breaking down the many faces of white supremacy in our society. While she has stated multiple times that she feels uneasy identifying as a “feminist” because of white feminism’s history of erasure of the black-woman experience, her intersectional approach to current events and social issues often includes exposing racialized sexism against black women in media.
Seren also focuses on how we can economically elevate the black community, which as of now owns 7% of businesses in America, uhh yeah >:’-( As long as the inherently hierarchal capitalist system exists we are bound to it, but that doesn’t mean we cannot maneuver within it mindful of dismantlement. I live by the mantra that every dollar is a vote that can change the world, and Seren helps me live by that. Every Friday she highlights a Black American business that we all can support. All of her videos are passionate and precise. I find her words invigorating and the work that she does in the black community invaluable.
2) Cecile Emeke
Cecile Emeke is doing ground-breaking work here in Europe. While the black experience in the US is one drenched in a history of undeniable slavery and oppression, a sense of unity has come out of that. We have music born out of our struggles. We have literature giving us language to describe these experiences. Today we have a range of platforms to call out to one another. (Did you know that Twitter is mostly Black?) However, in many ways, this experience is exclusive to the United States because of our history. This leaves many black people outside of the US looking to Black America for a sense of identity, and while our American vocabulary is extensive, it has its cultural limitations that don’t fully capture the experiences of the Black Diaspora. Cecile Emeke is a Black British filmmaker who has created a platform for black voices in Europe. She’s made a mini-series called Strolling, so far only in France and the UK, where black citizens from all walks of life (from straight feminist men and queer fat women to poor people and university-educated graduates — yeah!) can voice their experiences in these countries. Emeke’s videos put a bright spotlight on one of the most invisible groups in Europe while showcasing her artistic brilliance. She is one of the most creative activists in the revolution.
DarkMatter is a queer South-Asian performance artist collaboration consisting of Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon, and my god, they are so fucking sharp. Everything they say about the social, political, and economic state of this world leaves you with goosebumps. Currently, they are working for the liberation of queer and trans women of color at the Audre Lorde Project and the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project in New York, while also performing their poetry around the world which highlights the global destruction caused by colonization and capitalism. I discovered them somewhere down the road of my feminist journey, and was so enthralled by their passion and politics that I ended up in Amsterdam last month to take part in their Abolish Beauty workshop. They are fighting anti-black racism, transphobia and homophobia, and the colonizing forces of capitalism. Everything about them is powerfully resistant, from their rejection of colonial sexuality and the gender binary in order to embrace and express their true selves to their call-to-action poetry verbalizing the necessity for introspection and dismantlement of our global social structures. Summed up in a phrase: Janani and Alok are two of the most critical voices of the movement.
So there you have it. 4 people taking different approaches to solve one problem: The problem of the global white supremacist patriarchy. They are invisible in mass media because our society doesn’t want to acknowledge the cries of these marginalized groups. From African Americans and those of the Black Diaspora to Queer and Trans People of Color, society cannot continue if it acknowledges their cries. Nevertheless, they are shouting.
Just listen. And do the work.
To my feminists reading, hear these voices, learn these stories, and continue awakening those in your communities so that the liberation of all can be fully realized. This means talking to your friends and family, challenging their beliefs and politics. This means donating your time and money to organizations working for the advancement of marginalized peoples. This means connecting to the revolution on social media and in the streets. This means using your own platform (or creating one) to speak out on our atrocious system. Liberation takes intersectional work. As those who are oppressed, we must continue to work to liberate our minds from our white supremacist patriarchal indoctrination and create places independent of this oppression. As oppressors, all we can do is the work that those we oppress ask us to do. And the only way we can do what they ask is by listening.
Continue your journeys, be strong, and know you are not alone. x