Last year, my son brought home an assignment. He was in third grade and was learning about voting and the U.S. political system. The worksheet included a passage he was to read and then answer questions about what he’d learned. It was about the Suffragettes and their fight for women to have the right to vote. “In 1920, women received the right to vote,” it said.
In my typical fashion, I shut that shit down. “Nah, white women were allowed to vote, boo,” I informed my baby. I proceeded to take a red pen and circle that lie. I followed up with an arrow drawn to the sentence and the text, “This is not true. Only white women were allowed to vote.”
The most = What I always do.
But with Black children, shutting down revisionist history deserves clear and dramatic action. And there is little history that white people, especially white women, enjoy rewriting more than that of the feminist movement. Let many white women tell it, white slave mistresses sat in the big house distraught and pained that their husbands not only enslaved Black people, but used Black women as sex objects, acting out their violent sexual fantasies and abuse. And then, white women, so fed up with how women were universally oppressed by men, locked arms with the likes of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida Wells and Ella Baker to forge a great, color-blind sisterhood where we all fought together to free ourselves from the tyranny of patriarchy.
White women have been putting the interests of their race above their gender since colonialism became a thing. A couple of months ago, racist ass white women filled Twitter with the #metoo, giving their testimonials of sexual assault. I guess anyone has a right to tell her story, but I noted how many of these women have no problem silencing, stealing from and playing victim to Black women. But when we’re discussing being victimized by men, suddenly, Black women must step over centuries of their racist, self-serving bullshit in the interest of solidarity.
Meryl Streep was lauded for mocking Donald Trump just a year after she peddled t-shirts declaring how she’d rather be a “rebel than a slave” in support of her Suffragette movie, mocking the enslaved Black women who were both. White women called for a Twitter boycott after Rose McGowan’s account was suspended following her tweets about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations, but days later when Rose, in true white woman form, compared being called a woman to being called a nigger, it was all quiet on the Becky front. And a few days ago, resident racist “conservative” correspondent Megyn Kelly issued a statement to women who have been victims of sexual assault and harassment saying, “You are not alone. We are all there with you.” Odd that she wasn’t there with Dejarria Becton, the 14-year-old bikini-clad Black girl who had a white cop pin her to the ground and sit on her back. Of her sexual assault — because a grown ass man pressing his balls and penis against the naked back of a teen girl is in fact an assault that is sexual in nature — Kelly reminded us that Becton was “no saint either.”
Women like these are allowed to toe the line, though. They’re allowed to be both oppressed and oppressor. They’re allowed to spew their racist bullshit then turn around and feign fragility and innocence when the white men they love and uphold turn out to be predators.
And in no venue do white women better exhibit their commitment to race over gender than in the polls. Last year, in the midst of cheering “I’m with her,” for anyone who would listen, and lamenting Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” politics, more than half of the white women eligible to vote voted for Trump. And just last night, more than three-fifths of the white women in Alabama signaled that they were cool with a man accused of sexually assaulting nine women, two of whom were teenagers at the time of the assault, so long as he kept his commitment to keeping the pesky nigras in their place.
White women live at the intersection of white privilege and gender oppression. And what we have to remember is that they have their white husbands, sons and daddies to think of. Never mind the fact that the men they love hold the reins to a system that sees them devalued simply for their gender, if nothing else, they ain’t Black women. They can’t lose what little footing they have over Black and brown women even if it’s to their own detriment. Becky and Calista thinking, “Shiddd, I might be a woman, but at least I’m white.”
That is until they need mules. That is until they find those rare moments when their stories of abuse and degradation mirror ours. That is until they need Black women to amplify their voices and dry their tears. That is until they want sistas to be sisters because we’ve endured pain for so long we’re pros at pushing through and fighting the good fight. That is until they realize that their white privilege is dependent upon the same patriarchy that oppresses and controls them.
Then they get amnesia again and punch out the candidate who may take their birth control, their mammogram screenings, their right to prosecute their abusers and their maternity leave, but he’ll never EVER fuck with the whiteness.