Wednesday, November 9, 2016

White Feminism Did Not Save Us

It is the morning after and my feed is full of angry posts about who is responsible for this. I have a suggestion:

Back off from third party voters or eligible voters who did not vote, and take a break from reprimanding pro-Trump voters with your ALL CAPS Facebook posts, they are not going anywhere.

Instead, have a moment to take responsibility for your candidate and the work you did or did not do to make them better. Own your role in this mess because you played one. You declared your candidate the untouchable messiah, the holiest of all white saviors, and shamed anyone on the left who dared critique them on their record and merits. You conflated critical civic participation with sexism (even when we were crying out the name of Berta Cáceres) as if your amnesia of your candidate's past also wiped away your knowledge of your fellow social and racial justice activists/academics/artists' gender politics. You confronted intersectional discourse with "DO YOU WANT TRUMP TO WIN?"--when you knew better. You chose a single identity movement and left no room for those who had concerns and critiques, morally prohibiting one of the greatest virtues of a democracy: public debate. You forgot or ignored that many of your kin do not have the luxury of a single identity movement, that it is antithetical to their very existence.

I am not upset about Bernie Sanders not winning the primary, in many ways he was offering too little too late and learning too little too late (and, yes, the Bernie Bros were/are misogynists and often racists [are they inseparable?]). I am upset that you did not value what the Sanders campaign did to push your candidate ever so slightly to the left (Minimum Wage, Pacific Trade Partnership, etc.) and that many people who look like you were a part of making that happen. You dismissed him and dismissed those of us who are your kin who supported him by writing us all off as Bernie Bros. Again, you knew better.

I am upset that you did not hold your candidate accountable to be that beacon of hope you saw but that many, many (and we were many) did not see. You had the opportunity to push your candidate to center the lives and priorities of people of color so that our people could be inspired and activated to come out to vote. You could have risen up in unison and demanded a VP candidate of color (Cory Booker, Lucy Flores, etc.--there were options). You could have decried the Spanish-speaking white cis missionary man they gave us as a slap in our faces (yours included). You could have demanded that your candidate take a stand against Wall Street, that they be transparent about what they said in those paid speeches to them, that they stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors of North Dakota. You didn't.

You could have acknowledged your candidates' grave sins against people of color ("super predators," for example) and pushed them to go beyond sorry-not-sorry tactics like "I shouldn't have used those words." You could have demanded they prove to those Black children who are now adults that not only did your candidate regret those words because they are politically inconvenient today, but because they were despicable and had palpable repercussions that are very real today. You could have demanded that your candidates' every move be intentionally and explicitly about rectifying their role in helping create human catastrophes such as today's prison system (again, this is only one example). You saw that so many racial justice activists were not satisfied, yet instead of taking that as a sign to push your candidate further left, you turned to us and scolded us for being ungrateful, ignorant of the political system, or simply sexist. 

You relied on the fear of a Trump presidency to stifle critical dialogue and when we had questions--questions based on the same political consciousness we shared before the primary season--you dismissed us as foolish and divisive. You drew white feminist lines in the sand with your black/brown fingers and othered your kin as though we were traitors--but traitors to what? To women or to white feminism? Did we, the traitors, completely misunderstand the role of womanism/feminisms of color and not realize it until this election cycle (never mind 2008)? Is that what you were trying to tell us? Did you actually believe we did not value the historic importance of a woman president? I believe we did (I know I did), but we also remember the cost of single-identity movements and their (mis)use of people of color (white women's suffrage, white gay and lesbian marriage equality, white environmental movements, etc).

You said your candidate was the best option because they knew how to get things done. Get things done. Where? In the same political system of always, that political system we spent decades critiquing together? That system we were so excited to transform in 2008, but only got stronger. That was the strategy. Well look at us now.

I am not saying this is your fault nor that I or other people critical of your candidate share no blame--we do, I do. What I am trying to say is that instead of catching a cold all the way up there on that high horse, come down here and let us have the hard conversations. Let us look at where we went wrong. Let us learn from our many, many mutual mistakes. Let us test each other's values and hold each other to task so that we may imagine a democracy that is larger and greater than this. Let us envision from a place of shared social and racial justice values and develop the language to articulate our discrepancies and the capacity to receive when our kin offer us a mirror.

Let us do the work, the heavy work, the dirty work, the necessary work. Just, please, do not let this historic tragedy be in vain. Do not interpret this loss as only the result of sexism or that white supremacy was only at play among republicans. Please, let us not make these mistakes again. You played a role in this. I played a role in this. Let us now play a role in confronting this with our lessons in hand.

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