Colussi: How the Women’s March excludes women of color

The second annual Women’s March took place around the country on January 20; over 300,000 people marched in Chicago alone. The first Women’s March came under fire for excluding women of color and other marginalized groups due to lack of focus on issues affecting women of color, and while organizers said they would try to make the 2018 march more inclusive, they fell short. Some women of color boycotted the march again this year, which led white feminists to blame them for “dividing” the Women’s March.

The first Women’s March on Washington was originally called the Million Woman March, but the name was quickly changed after the head organizers were made aware that there was a protest in 1997 called the Million Woman March. That march centered around black women’s right to self-determination, and raising awareness of the issues facing black women. The 2017 march was then renamed the Women’s March on Washington.

The national Women’s March organizers also brought in several veteran activists, non-white women, to help increase intersectionality in the event and released a statement voicing support for expanding intersectionality within the march as a whole. Predictably, some white women were not pleased. One woman commented “Every woman in our culture is a 2nd class citizen period, whatever your race. You’re no better than Trump voters with that statement.” The inability of white women to recognize their privilege over women of color poses a huge problem to the Women’s March, since its mission statement aims to “harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.”

Women of color continue to voice the exclusion they feel. Columnist Jamilah Lemieux says, “I don’t know that I serve my own mental health needs by putting my body on the line to feign solidarity with women who by and large didn’t have my back prior to November.” The Black Lives Matter group in Cincinnati put out a statement titled “The Women’s March is Not Feminism: Why BLMC will not go to the 2018 Cincinnati Women’s March.” It reads, “Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati would like to be part of a march for women’s liberation, but we know the 2018 Cincinnati Women’s March is not it…Once the current theme was proposed, our organization as well as several other local leaders who are women of color raised our concerns… with organizers of the Cincinnati Women’s March. Our concerns were pushed aside. Our only request was to change the theme from ‘Vote’ to ‘Voice.’”

White feminists blatantly disregarding women of color is not a new thing. Women’s suffrage icon Susan B. Anthony said, “The old anti-slavery school says women must stand back and wait until the negroes shall be recognized. But we say, if you will not give the whole loaf of suffrage to the entire people, give it to the most intelligent first.” In the words of Jazmine Walker, a woman who specializes in reproductive justice and solidarity economy movements, “The war on women does not resonate with communities of color because we’ve never stopping being under attack.” 53 percent of white women voted for Trump; 95 percent of black women voted for Clinton. For women of color to be excluded from one of the biggest protests in American history by white women, the majority of whom voted for Trump, is reprehensible.

Coalitions have to be formed to fight, and they won’t be if women of color are ignored. Remember: it isn’t feminism if it isn’t intersectional.

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Elaina Colussi

Elaina Colussi