The claim that "intersectionality" should be used universally to speak for everyone's experiences is simply an extension of the anti-Black violence we already experience. Remember that 2007 movie, Freedom Writers? In the film, Hilary Swank plays well-to-do naive teacher Erin Gruwell, who goes to teach 10th graders at Woodrow Wilson High School. In a scene where she (finally) begins to get checked for her white privilege, one of her students, Eva, spills into a stunning dialogue about her own life and survival that I still find myself thinking about to this day. Eva, staring right at Gruwell, says "[W]hite people always wanting their respect like they deserve it for free... see, I hate white people [because] I know what you can do... Except for 'cuz they can. And they can. Because they're white. So I hate white people on sight." Eva's dialogue reminds me so much of the pain that BIPOC have to carry to comfort and placate white women who believe that their well-intentions can make up for complacency in a white supremacist system. And of course, a lot of this well-intentioned "feminist allyship" comes in the co-option and theft of phrases specific to the Black experience, like intersectionality. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a website or news outlet that boasts about its awareness of the current social justice landscape who hasn't used intersectionality to showcase just how "woke" they are. But the overuse of this term has created a warping of how we see and interact with each other, both in social justice spaces and beyond. In particular, the co-option of intersectionality has amplified something that BIW+oC have already known: when it comes to our interactions with white women, the anxiety around co-option and culture-vulturing is rooted in its inevitable reality because of the power dynamics that place white women as socially dominant. The relationship between Black folks and white women has been tumultuous, at best, because for too long this inequality has been unaddressed. In short, intersectionality — much like solidarity — isn't for white women.
White women's racism will cut you in the dark and then ask you why you’re bleeding.
By Rachael Edwards It was the thick of Black History Month and I worked as an art administrator for a program in Baltimore City. The site I was assigned to was managed by a white woman who cloaked her racism with a bright smile and photos on Facebook with Black students that garnered “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” from the white liberal peanut gallery in the comment section. I once told her that since we celebrated Latinx Heritage Month, that we should celebrate Black History Month with our students. Her response, dripping with anti-Blackness, was that celebrating Black History Month would be “too overwhelming”. I was stunned and felt my stomach knot up in the most horrific way. At most of our team meetings, I was the only woman of color. Since the students we were working with were minorities, one would think that I would be the voice they tune into the most. My ideas and suggestions were often met with a, “Yes, Rachael we hear you, but that is not quite what we are looking for.” I later found out that the white woman running these meetings told another white woman colleague that “the stereotype about Black woman was true”, and she topped off her racist statement by saying Black women are “difficult to work with”.
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