ICYMI: The Feminist Wire’s forum on race, racism and anti-racism within feminism

The Feminist Wire just wrapped up a ten day forum on race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism. If you haven’t already, the forum is really worth delving into. In the introductory post, Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Heather Laine Talley explained its origin:

Perhaps in this twenty-four hour news cycle culture, the horrid sexist and racist sexualization of nine-year old Quvenzhané Wallis both at the Academy Awards and in Twittersphere is now old news. And maybe for her sake, it should be. 

White feminists’ silence in the face of racism is old news too, but feminism’s troubled relationship with race and racism is something to keep talking about. It was the reaction to Tressie McMillan’s analysis of white feminists’ response to the attacks on Quvenzhané Wallis that ignited our interest in hosting this Forum on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism. To be sure, The Feminist Wire has been engaged in these conversations since our founding, but what McMillan’s piece noted was the yawning vacuum of public response to misogyny directed at a Black girlchild.

Many white feminists jettisoned the opportunity to think about silence as racism. Instead, they cited examples of white women’s response to defend against the critique of white silence. While it is true that some white feminists publicly responded, the very impulse to deny a pattern of silence sidesteps critical feminist and anti-racist work. The legacy of feminism has taught us to ask: in what ways am I oppressed and marginalized? In thinking about race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism, an equally important question is: in what ways do I oppress and marginalize?

Following the forum with that critical question in mind—”in what ways do I oppress and marginalize?”—has been both challenging and enriching. Here is a (non-comprehensive) collection of some of the pieces, but the entire forum is highly recommended reading.

The Tragedy of a Failed Politic By Farah Tanis, Kalima DeSuze, and Nikki Patin

When have Black feminists been able to rely on their white comrades in earnest?  When have we been able to rest assured that white feminists would show up fully armored, ready to challenge even the most egregious forms of racialized-sexism?  Has there ever been a time in history when Black women have not had to pull themselves from real-on-the-ground battles to defend human and civil rights, including the right to bodily and personal safety, in order to step away, to educate, and to ensure our white feminist comrades engage in authentic alliances on our behalf?

You Become an Anti-Racist Feminist By Cori Mattli

And then one night, there is a dinner and discussion at your house–a class project about immigration and the media. You arrange copies of magazine covers, like place mats, on the dining room table for discussion–they show Latino people, the shadows of their eyes dark. The illustrated faces squished into hard stares and grimaces. Their creators, through ink and gloss, try to communicate to you (you young white American woman you) that these faces wish you harm. You think that this sort of media does not affect you.

Un-Raced in Transit : Colorblindness and the Stakes of Speaking Up By Marlaina H. Martin

My reality is that this world remains one in which my black skin and feminine attributes connote almost every move that I make as spectacular. There have been many times in which I have felt trapped by the paradox of liberalism – on the one hand, I am framed as an ‘equal stakeholder’ at the table of social (mis)givings, able to determine my own destiny and to assume access to the same possibilities and resources as anyone else. On the other hand, gasps and whispers swirl around me as I walk into many of those very places claimed to be open for those willing to work hard and persevere.

Black Feminist and Dominican: How Black Male Writers Shape My Practice By Rosa Cabrera

I count up the strikes I have against me. Female. Daughter of immigrant parents. Survivor of domestic violence, sexual manipulation. Queer. I think about the way all of these markers inform each other, intersect. I am told by some self-proclaiming feminists and critical race theoreticians that in more ways than others, I’m nearing the top rung in some form of oppression olympics. But instead, it feels somehow, like I’m losing.

Building a Racial Justice Praxis By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

Maintaining a rigorous racial justice praxis that is based on learning, self-reflection, action and more self-reflection; valuing the necessity of discomfort when the struggle is honest and accountable; understanding that political alignment is almost never based on identity but rather on shared values and a commitment to collective liberation.

Silence Does Not Equal Absence: Lessons from Arizona By Wendy Cheng

I do think that there are moments and situations when we are obligated to act and speak out, and can understand why many people felt that Wallis’s degradation by The Onion was one of them. But I interpret reactions to the treatment of Wallis as an instance in which we cannot assume that silence equals absence and consent.

Tilting at Windmills By Rebecca Miriam

No, goddamnit, I’m pissed. I’m not a special snowflake who clutches her pearls because someone has hurt her “feelings.” This is not about personal comfort zones. I’m freaking angry because someone is a racist. And so should you be. This is not a personal wellness issue.

No Easy Walk to ‘Total Freedom’ By Josh Cerretti and Theresa Warburton

What does it mean for a white person living in a white supremacist society to label themselves an ‘anti-racist feminist’? Does it surrender control over the meaning of the term ‘feminist’ (unmodified) to those who tacitly support white supremacy? Does it again re-center the good intentions of white people and their need to be validated by the people of color in whose oppression they are complicit?

You can check out the entire forum over at The Feminist Wire.