When white feminists enable white supremacy

More Black people were murdered by police in 2014 than those who died on 9/11. This is not a fact that’s thrown around in mainstream political discussions and certainly not repeated by Hillary Clinton, ostensibly the candidate for “everyday Americans,” a campaign phrase so hollow it speaks to no one and everyone at the same time. 

I’m guessing that “everyday Americans” was researched and tested as the best way to appeal to middle-class folks while not alienating wealthy donors of the 1%, but it unequivocally ignores the ongoing national crisis of a law enforcement that’s been systematically killing Black and Brown people since it issued its very first badge and gun. Rand Paul, arguably the leading contender for the GOP nomination and on record as anti-choice, has spoken more passionately about how racist institutions like prisons and militarized police affect Black people than Hillary. Again: Republican. Discussing. Meaningful. Prison. And. Police. Reforms. Republican. Only Rand Paul knows if Rand Paul is good for his word, but he’s bringing something negotiable and therefore winnable to the table of a potential presidential agenda. Again, he is the one willing to engage the conversation.

Thanks to technology and the brave souls like Feidin Santana, who use it record these tragedies on video, white people can no longer deny the crisis of the New Jim Crow (copyright forever: Michelle Alexander) is real. So the question of why Hillary and the powerful feminists who support her stay silent, or worse, vague, on the issue is the only question for the 2016 election. How many more Rekia Boyds and Walter Scotts and Tamir Rices and Eric Garners and Aiyana Stanley-Joneses must die? This is domestic terrorism and no other definition does the thousands of deceased justice.

In the America we have, not the one we want, law enforcement systematically attracts and protects white supremacists like the Catholic Church did for pedophiles. The silence of Hillary Clinton and mainstream feminists doesn’t just consent to the institutions and policies actively harming Black women and men, it enables them. As long as the vanguards and proponents of the modern feminist movements don’t call out our institutions for what they are — bastions of racism and terrorism — they’re not activists for any human rights other than their own. They are lobbyists for self-interest.

White supremacy is partially fed by good intentions. When does earning thirty or forty more cents per dollar matter when you’re being categorically murdered by public servants who’ve taken oaths to serve and protect? The equal pay campaigns make white women feel simultaneously comfortable with their economic advantage — “You should make as much money as the guy over there” — and rebellious to the patriarchy — “but you’re judged by very different standards than him.” When children, neighbors, sisters, colleagues and friends are being gunned down by the people being paid from the coffers of the state and then lie about it, every other issue is white noise. Crises take priority. Anything else is bad leadership.

Whiteness is the reference point for almost every facet of life in the United States, so much so that white people assume traits are “human” or “universal” when they’re uniquely supremacist ideology. Mostly, it’s feminists of color who point out that women of color earn less than white women and men. Hillary and lefty shero Elizabeth Warren herself been mostly ignorant of or silent on the Fight For 15, a movement lead by men and women side by side to demand a wage of $15 an hour and unionization for fast food workers. Incidental in this fight is, of course, that it’s also pushing for women and men to receive the same wage. But fast food workers are overwhelmingly not middle-class white women, so it’s unsurprising your aunt who’s been ready for Hillary since the late ‘90s or your college friend who shares every piece of “We Want Elizabeth Warren” content won’t be changing her Facebook profile pic to the Fight For 15 logo in solidarity.

The question of when America decides to stop living the trauma can only be answered when white people recognize their place in it and risk their own comfort to put an end to the institutions created to benefit them. Neoliberalism, or whatever you want to call the good intentions of Hillary and Bill Clinton, cannot and will not accomplish this. Except mainstream, neoliberal feminism is in the water supply. It might get Hillary elected, but it’s appropriated a credibility associated with other justice movements that does it no favors save for itself. It’s true that women’s rights are human rights, but the white feminist leadership in America risks little or nothing for Black women and Black men’s lives.

It’s not lost on me, a white woman, that I’m building my argument from an essential issue originally posed by Mikki Kendall: you can be an astute feminist and an oblivious racist. With thousands of Black people murdered at the hands of white public servants, it remains the tragedy of our time. White feminism hasn’t given white supremacy a fair fight, and if a Black president can’t ease the suffering of Black life, I doubt Hillary Clinton will.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Annie Schoening works for Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. She lives in New York.

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