Black women shared mixed feelings about the Women's March on Washington

The march was organized to protest of the rhetoric used in the past election cycle, that threatened- immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault. On January 21st, women all over the world spent the day marching to in the biggest inaugural protests in U.S. history. In Los Angeles about 500,000 protesters emerged, with NYC and Chicago gathering over 400,000 and 150,000 supporters. The international protest brought  the participation numbers to total of 2.5 million women worldwide.

Photo: Womens march 

Photo: Womens march 

The rally for the march featured actresses such as America Ferrera, Ashley Judd and Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and many more. "It’s been a heart-wrenching time to be a woman and an immigrant in this country ― a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday," Ferrera told the protesters. "But the president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America."  Ashley Judd gave a powerful reading of a poem, written by 19-year-old Nina Donovan. "I'm not nasty, like the combo of Trump and Pence being served up to me in my voting booth. I'm nasty like the battles my grandmothers fought to get me into that voting booth," she said.


While women from all walks of life marched on Saturday, it is important to note that these women may have all had their own reasons for doing so. Many Black women feminists chose not to participate in the march because they find it difficult to stand in solidarity with white women while 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump and often refuse to show solidarity for native women, black women, women of color and trans women. Journalist and editor Jamilah Lemieux shared her opinion on ColorLines explaining why she chose to skip the march: 


The absence of that sisterhood never felt more real for me than it did when I learned that 53 percent of White female voters cast a ballot for a man whose bigotry was, perhaps, his greatest selling point. I never expected that White women by-and-large would favor Clinton over Donald Trump because she promised criminal justice reform or would do more to protect the rights of people of color than her opponent. But I did believe that Trump’s incredibly public misogyny—manifested in attacks on women’s looks, a boast about “pussy” grabbing and promises to prosecute people who seek abortions—would have made him less than favorable. Silly me to expect self-preservation to take priority over racism, I suppose.”


Civil rights activist and the co-founder of Campaign Zero, Johnetta Elzie shared the questions many black women need answers to before they perform sisterhood and solidarity: 


"Where were you when Mike Brown, Jr. was killed, and we took to the streets of Ferguson to honor his life?

When your husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers left their homes to point M-16s at black women and their babies for protesting?

When your coworker, or partner said Mike deserved it?

Where were you?


Elzie continued,


‘Where were you when we asked you to #SayHerName?

When Rekia Boyd was killed while playing at the park with her friends?

When Tanisha Anderson, Sandra Bland, Shantel Davis, and others died at the hands of police, with little media attention?

When our trans sisters — Brandi Bledsoe, Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee

Whigham — were also murdered and also forgotten?

Where were you?"


These mixed feelings on whether to support “the resistance” by black women and women of color are both to be expected and completely valid. This is a question of accountability. Before white women can request solidarity and sisterhood the numbers suggest they should be having conversations with their close friends and relatives who support the man they elected to the highest office in the land. Many black women and women of color still marched in spite of the questionable actions or lack thereof  by white women.


While these conversations may be difficult and often seen as divisive they provide great opportunities for all of us to learn. For example, intersectionality a term that coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 was a recurring theme at the center of the conversation. Intersectionality is the overlapping or intersecting of social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. For example, black women exists at the intersection of race and gender. While white women may have the privilege of ignoring racism, black women don’t have that privilege. While white women may be disenfranchised by their gender, black women are disenfranchised by both their race and gender. It also can’t be ignored that white women often benefit from racism and systematic structures that harm black women and children.

Every  woman didn’t show up to the march, and it wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of accessibility to Washington, but a lack of connection to the cause.  While many women of color signed on to plan and support the march, much of the frustration stems from the fact that 94% of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton while 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. It’s great that inspirational leaders such as Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour were an instrumental part of the march’s success, but their involvement doesn’t erase the lack of sisterhood and solidarity that Black women and women of color experience from white women.