“Women of color have always led change. We won’t stop now.”
In this case, ‘women of color’ pertains specifically to Black womxn. It’s a very true statement, yet even that they don’t receive credit for. In all honesty, I didn’t even know the March for Black Women – a peaceful protest set-up and run by Black womxn to bring attention to just how marginalized they are – was an event that took place until I was informed about it by one of my team members. In fact, I don’t remember seeing a single thing about it on the news or on social media. Black womxn don’t get the media attention they deserve, and that’s just one thing they’re robbed of by this society. The March for Black Women took place on September 29th and 30th in Washington D.C. It was organized by The Black Women’s Blueprint, an organization that works to build power with Black women and girls, and have been doing so since 2008. The purpose of the march was simply to stand up for Black womxn by pushing for the need to disavow systemic over-policing of Black people, gender-based violence (such as sexual assault), and lack of political response to securing Black womxn’s basic civil and human rights. The march was, of course, run by Black womxn, accompanied by allies, as they protested these issues above; issues that pertain to Black people, womxn, and subsequently, Black womxn.
When visiting the Black Women’s Blueprint website, one will find this extremely well-stated paragraph which I will share verbatim because I feel it’s salient to understanding the meaning behind this movement: “We give ourselves permission to believe in the power of our demands and the strength of our convictions to take back what is already ours. We cannot allow an isolationist impulse to dictate our movement strategy given the political urgency of now. As various communities of Black womxn, we have always faced innumerable personal, and unspeakable brutalities. We cannot allow the travesties that have affirmed disregard for our existence to continue to flourish while we wither away with resentment and stew in our own rage. Continue to act to eradicate oppression whenever it shows up. This has been our inherited tradition for centuries, practiced in diverse ways around the world, in both peaceful protest and in righteous anger in the face of indignities and in the face of dehumanization.”
I, as a white woman, cannot possibly even begin to understand this struggle that Black womxn have been going through for centuries. My job is to be an ally to Black womxn at events like this, and in life in general, to step back and allow Black womxn their voice, their space, and their platform, and to educate myself as well as other people on these issues that Black womxn face every single day. This is what every non-Black womxn should be doing, especially if they claim to be feminist. Feminism means nothing if your idea of feminism is only run by majority white womxn.
Going off of this point, I think a lot of the issues with Black womxn not being able to share their voice properly to this day is because even when they try to speak up in feminist circles and communities that are supposed to be uplifting, they aren’t exactly able to because a lot of times non-Black womxn feel threatened by all-Black ideas and movements, meaning that they feel left out in a sense.
The March for Black Women is a feminist movement, but it’s directed towards BLACK womxn. Black womxn lead and Black womxn start the conversations, and suddenly non-Black womxn can only be allies. But that’s precisely the matter that these marches and movements are trying to tackle. We already have marches for all women to have the opportunity say what they want to say. We have the Black Lives Matter movement to counter disproportionate police response against Black lives, but The March for Black Women is specifically for BLACK WOMXN to attest to the daily struggles they face because they happen to be Black AND female. Black womxn’s issues are racial justice issues. In other words, Black-lived experiences that relate to gender, sexuality, and gender-identity, just to name a few. As long as Black womxn are unjustly killed by cops, taken or go missing, and are raped by friends and strangers only to be dismissed, there can be no justice.
More than 20% of Black womxn are raped during their lifetimes, a higher rate than any other group of womxn. One protestor shared her thoughts with a reporter at the march: “Black womxn are still the most disrespected womxn in America.” I have no reason to believe this isn’t entirely accurate. A few other protestors stated their beliefs as well: “The march is a good opportunity to uplift womxn who are imprisoned” or have been mistreated by the prison system. The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline investigation led by the Rights 4 Girls social justice reform organization found a staggering intrinsic link between the incarceration of young womxn of color and sexual assault. Black teen girls around the age of 18 are four times more likely to be imprisoned than white teen girls. “This country doesn’t prioritize the importance of Black womxn in our lives. Black womxn are crucial in creating life, encouraging and strengthening Black men as well as themselves in the Black community,” a young man marching explained. “Looking at the current state of the country and what’s been going on, we haven’t progressed as much as we think we have.” Unfortunately, I think this statement is also true.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. The March for Black Women is a perfect example of how Black womxn are finally beginning to claim the freedom they so deserve. The freedom to speak up, to speak out, and to be unapologetically Black. A quote I think sums this up nicely is, “Black womxn want to be free, not equal to white womxn”, so eloquently spoken by yet another protestor attending the march. This is a very significant point, because I think a lot of people often think the fight is about bringing Black womxn up to the position that white womxn are at so we can all finally be “equal” and have the same rights, but it’s more about Black womxn being able to be FREE to be who they are without having to constantly face oppression for their skin color and gender. By thinking that Black womxn want to gain the same rights that white womxn hold by being white, you are still reducing Black womxn down to be lesser than white womxn, as well as suggesting that Black womxn need help to be brought up to the level that white womxn are at, as if being a white womxn is some sort of standard they need to meet in order to not have to protest any longer.
A fifth protestor expressed that she thinks that by “looking at the current state of the country and what’s been going on, we haven’t progressed as much as we think we have,” but again, marches like this one show me that is soon going to change. “It’s easy to look at the headlines and feel discouraged and feel sad, but it’s another thing to take action and to do something,” and that is what’s finally being done, slowly but surely. To my non-Black friends, men and women, let’s be allies. To all the Black womxn out there, I stand behind you, I commend you, and I am inspired by you. We need to show up for Black womxn. If you’re interested in getting involved, visit Black Women’s Blueprint . If you can’t march, here are other ways to get involved: https://www.mamablack.org/march-for-black-women .