Dear White Women: The Things We Do in Secret
Sisters. It is time we talked. We just elected someone to be our president whose racism is so obvious that the KKK is now marching in celebration. The polls all said he would not win. But he did. The polls said white women in particular would vote against him. We did not. That means a bunch of us lied and said we weren’t voting for him but, once we were alone in that voting booth, we did. We voted for an admitted sexual assailant over another white woman who could have been our first female president and many of us did it in secret.
Why? I hear all kinds of explanations. Hillary is so bad. Emails. The economy. The dems don’t listen and so on and so forth. I could argue against each one but I won’t because deep down I don’t think any of these reasons are real. If they were, we wouldn’t have done this thing in SECRET.
When do we do things in secret? We do things in secret when we want to present one face to the world and another to our community and even to ourselves. We hide our racism under white sheets, social masks, coded language, and voting booths. We are so good at hiding our racism that we even hide it from ourselves. We say we are electing a KKK endorsed candidate DESPITE all the hateful things he said about people of color not because of it. We use the language of “greatness” and “unity” without considering who it is that will pay the price for it. Even when faced with a “not PC” candidate who “tells it like it is” meaning he is OVERT in his own racism, we still pretend he didn’t just say what he did. We still find a way to vote for the racist without making it SEEM like we are racist ourselves, often believing we really aren’t. Sometimes we do it by playing with language that makes it possible to BE racist without being CALLED racist or even thinking to ourselves privately that we might BE racist. Others just lie.
Well guess what. As a white woman, I am calling us out. We just did some really racist shit. Racist, racist, racist and yes, I just cussed. Oh my.
Why do I think this happened? The best explanation I can come up with is the way so many of us have been socialized to think about black men. Dating back to the era of mass lynchings and probably sooner, we were told black men were predators wanting to rape us and that our “virtue” and “womanhood” needed protection. I remember when I first became a police officer and white men wanted to get me off the job by trying to scare me by pointing to the “dangers” of the job, they almost always used the language of “What are you going to do when confronted by a BIG, BLACK, MAN?” When men are trying to get us to cooperate with the patriarchy by setting up boogie men, it’s never white assailants. It’s this mythological “big, black, man” that keeps us in line, obedient to the “nice, white, men” who perpetrate it in order to maintain dominance. We don’t like patriarchal dominance. That’s why many of us identify as feminist.
But even when we are feminist-fighting patriarchy, we still don’t fight the racism that lies within ourselves and our movement. From the beginning white American feminism has been racist. The first wave of feminism (the suffrage movement, Seneca Falls etc.) explicitly rejected black women. When it was apparent that the right to vote would either come first to black men or to white women, the white suffragettes were quick to betray their black sisters. Check out the history of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as it relates to their treatment of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. That is the side of our movement we don’t like to look at, but desperately need to, because we never overcame it. We, white feminists, are still in the business of betraying our black sisters.
We will even turn on other white women if they get too close to black people, particularly black men. That is what I believe just happened to Hillary Clinton. She allied herself with President Obama and paid the price for it.
According to the exit polls, Black women were more than willing to support a white woman for president. They turned up in great numbers to do so. But they were the only ones who did.
We white women made a different choice. In secret.
We took our “souls to the polls” and lost them.
We have to do better than that. Starting now.