PROBLEM #1: Accusing Us of Not Being Sweet and Kind Enough
“You’re too angry and militant! No one will ever listen to you unless you’re nice.”
Translation: Your anger makes me uncomfortable because I’m unaccustomed to it. I don’t feel the need to get mad because I have less invested in the cause.
Let’s get one thing straight. Those who comprise the oppressive class have NO VESTED INTEREST in giving up their power over you. Pleading, cajoling, and asking very nicely for white people to stop exploiting people of colour gets us nowhere. History is the only place you need to look in order to confirm this. It took a war to even begin to start the halt of slavery in America. It took women sacrificing themselves, destroying property, starving themselves, assaulting police officers and much more before they were given the right to vote in England. It is because of strikes and protest and strong shows of discontent that workers have earned labor rights over the years. Nothing is ever gifted to us without a fight. Black women could talk all day and all night, placidly and peacefully with any of the racist white men in Congress and it wouldn’t change a thing. The process of change is sparked by conflict, it forces an undesirable situation that will only cease if demands are met. When white feminists ask us to temper ourselves, they are saying, “Give in to the status quo.” They are saying, “You have no right to meet your dehumanisation, exploitation, and oppression at the hands of white people with righteous anger. How dare you be visibly shaken!”. They are saying that they are more dismayed at our reactions to racism than with racism itself.
PROBLEM #2: Denying Their Own White Privilege
“How dare you accuse me of being oppressive because of my race? I’m can’t be privileged, I’m a woman!”
Translation: I feel attacked because I have never had to consider the ways in which my whiteness has aided me through life. I am experiencing barely-concealed rage because I’m being ascribed an attribute based on my skin colour and I am unhappy about it.”
Being made to face up to the ways in which you unknowingly aid and abet the system of racism is a difficult pill to swallow. That’s totally true. However, when white feminists kick back at Black feminists for pointing it out, all we really see is a baby throwing their toys out of the pram. Which is the more hurtful situation: (a) benefitting from racism; or (b) having your life detrimentally affected and stunted because of racism? Being white does not negate the oppression that white women face because of their gender, and that is not what we’re trying to say. However, being white DOES offer white women advantages that Black women cannot access. By pointing out to white feminists their racial privilege, we are not saying that their lives have been perfect, that they have never suffered, that they cannot also be working class. We are simply highlighting how one person can embody the experience of both the oppressed and the oppressor, as well as how they must recognise and try to minimise the harmful effects the latter category enables them to create.