When I first became a committed feminist there were several books I read that really influenced my development. The first was Personal Politics by Sara Evans. From that book I learned that the second wave of feminism was an explosion of female rage against sexist oppression in the New Left and particularly in the Civil Rights movement. Women were dedicating their lives to causes that weren’t female-specific and were become increasingly aware of the contempt men had for them, even as “comrades”. The birth of second wave feminism was directly a result of the organizing of black women against the sexist oppression they were experiencing.
Around the US as well, many women of color were involved in legalizing abortion alongside ending forced sterilization before Roe v. Wade.
Another book that influenced me greatly was Angela Davis’ Women, Race and Class. She went further than Sara Evans, looking at what sparked the first wave. Again, abolitionist women were the driving force behind the suffragist movement. What struck me most was how involved black women were in the suffragist movement, a history pretty much ignored today.
I’m writing this because time and time again I hear black and white liberals refer to feminism as a white supremacist movement. I hear white women say that black men are better allies than white women (setting oneself up for failure I must say) and thats why women of color “aren’t involved” in feminism en masse. (as if men of color don’t beat, rape and subjugate women of color just like white men do)
Its liberal, racist erasure of a huge portion of feminism from the public eye and its BULLSHIT. I am not denying the intense racism of many reactionaries that have been elevated to public status in our movement. Certainly the focus on liberal reforms in feminist history has meant that opportunists come in and try to stifle the revolutionary potential of women’s awakening. But liberal bourgeois feminists are not representative of actual feminism that has transformed women’s lives.
I don’t doubt that some say things like this out of a misguided desire to sound empathetic to the intense struggle of women of color but feeling sorry for women does not make the situation better. Instead use the resources you have to give a hand up. Its also important to remember that when you do say things like that you erase a huge part of feminist history. My life as a white woman has been made infinitely better because of the sacrifices and struggles waged by non-white women in the US. They deserve to be remembered instead of being whitewashed from our history.