Race, Gender and Allyship in the Fight for Justice for Trayvon

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last week Roz posted a great roundup of reactions and reflections in the wake of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. The ten days following Zimmerman’s acquittal have been a time for processing, organizing and mobilizing, and there has been much discussion among activists and bloggers about race, gender and allyship within the movement for justice for Trayvon.

In a Facebook post, the Crunk Feminist Collective called out white feminist silence around the verdict, prompting discussions about good and bad allyship in the comments.

Calling all white feminists allies: Where are y’all? <looking far and wide> Your silence around the Zimmerman Trial speaks volumes. Six white women (some say five) decided that a young Black man was responsible for his own murder, and they believed that a young Black woman could not be a credible witness. Where is your (OUT)RAGE?! Where is *your* intersectional analysis about white privilege, that not only calls out the operations of racism, but the particularly gendered operations of racism in the hands of these white women jurors? Where is the accountability? Where is the allyship? Why AGAIN do we have to ask you to show up? It is time for y’all to do the work. We refuse. We are tired. We are choosing to take care of ourselves and our communities.


Crunk Feminist Collective

From Feministing (and included in last week’s roundup): “White womanhood, protectionism, and complicity in injustice for Trayvon

But I am ashamed, and women like these women on the jury ARE white women’s problem.

They are our mother’s friends. They are our neighbors. We are in social circles with them. Many of them may be reading this now and think I’ve taken it too far. But we should be ashamed at our core.

We shouldn’t be too afraid and ashamed to act, though. We shouldn’t be afraid and ashamed to speak. We will misstep. We will mess up. And perhaps we can hold each other accountable for that so that once again feminists of color don’t have to bear the burden of teaching us the ways in which we hurt them.

Do not be the safe white woman that people can talk to about their racism. Strive to be something better. Follow the lead of people of color. Stand up. Even when you don’t do so perfectly. And above all else, listen.

Juror b37 and the racist complicity of white womanhood

Juror B37 is the monstrous specter of white womanhood, the plantation mistress, the mother who said My child’s school will not be integrated!, the woman who puts her whiteness over her humanity again and again.

I say this as a white person who generally reads as a woman and who cares deeply about gender equity: this is the failure of empathy that Black women, genderqueer people and other WOC/TWOC/QPOC have been telling us about for forever and a day. There is a history of white women in the Klan and other racist organizations. There is a history of white capital-F feminist organizations ignoring the specific stories, histories and contexts of women of color. It is something that persists to this day and beyond.

From Black Girl Dangerous, “We are NOT all Trayvon: Challenging Anti-Black Racism in POC Communities

This murder and this verdict are very specifically about anti-black racism – about the power of White supremacy and about what it means to have a black body in a White supremacist society.

And our inability to acknowledge these facts are hurting Black folks and African descended folks right now. This is not solidarity. This is not what solidarity can ever look like. It shouldn’t be that fucking hard to sit back and listen to the grieving voices of black people in this moment. It shouldn’t be this hard to not get defensive and keep your mouth shut and just listen.

From The Feminist Wire: “White Feminists and Trayvon Martin

Racism and sexism are intertwined, and we must fight them both.

Despite this, White women have traditionally been absent from the fight against lynching. Instead, we sometimes feed into the ideology of needing protection from violent Black men. Susan Brownmiller, a White second-wave feminist who wrote the famous Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, portrayed Black men as sexually violent and targeting White women. This type of discourse and lack of feminist attention toward lynching exposes some White feminist activism against gender-based violence as naïve and hypocritical.

From The Feminist Wire: ““We’re” Not Raising Trayvon: The Difference Whiteness Makes

On the heels of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin, I am again worried about white feminists’ silence in the face of brutality driven by racism (in the form of Zimmerman’s assault on Trayvon, delayed arrest, and sickening trial). But I’m deeply concerned about what white feminist non-silence in these moments often sounds like too.

“We’re feeling this exactly like you are.”

“Can we talk about how I can be a better anti-racist right now?”

“But not all white people see it that way.”

White feminist silence and bad allying are two sides of the same coin. Both responses are shaped by the very same problem. White feminists’ indifference and/or anxiety produces silence at the exact moment that solidarity is needed. And white feminists’ egoism and/or lack of empathy drives bad allying when deep listening is what is called for. In both cases, the perspective, emotion, or interests of white feminists trump Black women’s pressing needs.

From The Feminist Wire: “White Female Jurors and Florida Justice

If you are thinking “like a white female”—which would mean that you do not think you need to be self-conscious about this limitation for seeing and hearing and listening to the facts about an assault that involves racial profiling—then you are not able to see the difference between reasonable doubt and racism.  If you see “racially” to begin with, “like a white female” with no recognition of white privilege, then you won’t see the racial motivation in the killing.

(The above links from The Feminist Wire are part of a weeklong forum in the aftermath of the trial. All of the pieces in the forum can be found here.)

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: The Time Isn’t Right, But It Is Now: Processing Our Anger for Trayvon the Black Feminist Way

I know it may seem selfish for sisters to even suggest that our struggles matter in this moment. But if the treatment of Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend, has taught us anything, it is that we are in this shit together. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, has been an exemplar of Strong Black Womanhood throughout this ordeal. What other choice did she have? But while many folks may admire her strength and resolve, We Black feminists know that those regal robes of superwomanhood are much too heavy a load.

From The Frisky: “Mothers Of Sons Respond To The George Zimmerman Verdict

I agree that allies need to be willing to have the hard conversations and again be willing to be raggedy. That said, I think allies have to walk a fine line to make sure they don’t become the story. That said, for me the greatest thing an ally can do is speak up. If you see injustice, don’t let it slide. This may be painful because it can involve calling out people near and dear.

From XOJane: “Southern Trees Bear a Strange Fruit: Why People of Color Aren’t Surprised by the Trayvon Martin Verdict

A number of my very dear, liberal, white friends expressed the same sentiment as a result of the verdict; “Who would have thought that you could still be killed just for walking black?”

The answer is: black people. If you are black, you can be forgiven for adding “duh” to the end of that answer. We all thought that. We all live that. We have to. If we don’t live that way, we could die.

From RH Reality Check: “Eve Ensler Is Wrong That for Women and Trayvon Martin, ‘Our Struggles Are One’

With all due respect to Ensler, I don’t think a letter to Martin was the right place to push an agenda about her campaign to end violence against women, especially without first acknowledging the fear many people are taught to feel about men of color—a fear that is just as present in the women’s movement as it is in each of the United States of America. For many, the case against Zimmerman and his acquittal represented a symptom of the nation’s “unaddressed racism.” Ensler, then, had an opportunity to address this issue of race, particularly in the women’s movement, but she blew it.

Finally, check out this Justice for Trayvon Action Kit for white allies from Showing up for Racial Justice.