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Home Resources Anti-Oppression Race White Female Liberals a.k.a. ?Progressives?
White Female Liberals a.k.a. ?Progressives? PDF Print E-mail
As a black man that has been working in the non-profit, activist, academic world for the better part of the last decade I?ve become increasingly disappointed and angered by the inability of the progressive white women to acknowledge their continued oppression of peoples of color and the defense mechanisms they use the deflect attention away from themselves.

 

My area of expertise is race relations and the sociological impact of racism on society and one of the most common and difficult problems to overcome is the peculiar oppressor/oppressed mindset of the white female which often stifles or derails any useful conversation about the state of race relations.

 

Let me say that we live in a white supremacist, patriarchal, homophobic, capitalist society that oppresses the majority of its citizens along at least one of these lines of praxis.

 

However as a person of color the most salient factor in terms of success in life and the amount of oppression one experiences is White Racial and Cultural Supremacy.

 

This causes a particular conundrum for white women because on the one hand they are part of the dominant group and therefore are complicit with white supremacy and on the other hand they are oppressed themselves as women.

 

In eight years of holding anti racism workshops for people of color and white people I can say from experience that this leads to white women seeking to escape the uncomfortable light being shown on their own privilege by using class and gender to derail the conversation and to ingratiate themselves to any people (especially women) of color by attempting to shift the conversation from race to ?the patriarchy.?

 

This overlooks the fact that white women have been beneficiaries of both the efforts of white men who control the patriarchy as well as efforts on the part of people of color to overturn oppressive and unjust power distributions within the American system.

 

The history of the role of white women in liberation struggles has been in the main to side with white men (rulers of the patriarchy) against any other women, whatever their color. Any attempt to portray their role anything else doesn?t stand up to scrutiny. This makes the common refrains of ?the suffering of women? look extremely self-serving in spite of the fact of the continued oppression.

 

This is not designed to challenge the validity of the critique of a male dominated society but to be clear that the US has not traditionally been male dominated ?it has been White male dominated and therefore the best target for the rage of white women would be these men?.their fathers, sons and husbands.

 

Unfortunately many white women have been socialized to be non-confrontational which in many activist spaces  limits the usefulness of their critiques against any white men in the room. However, in spite of their (white male imposed) communication style they seem to be much better able to try and distance themselves from the evils of white men by portraying an image of themselves as ?allies of the oppressed.?

 

The reality is that white women represent the second most privileged category of human in the US. In spite of the reality of sexism no category of man of color has the level of wealth, power, privilege, education, or control as white women. This is a fact which many white women seem to want to overlook.

 

In addition, the sense of themselves as being ?in solidarity with?...or more accurately??the SUPERIOR best educated representatives of? woman-ness causes many of them to speak on behalf of women of color in the US and abroad as if white women had ever been more concerned with women of any hue more than the interests of white men. This dynamic also, whether they will admit it or not, parallels the white supremacy of their male counterparts because they speak out of the same paternalistic (maternalistic?) mindset which legitimizes their supremacy by arrogantly assuming their ability to speak on behalf of other women?.or that these women would necessarily agree with their assessments or welcome them as ?allies? and their chosen spokespeople.

 

When one looks at the historical realities, whenever white women have had the choice of siding with people of color or to be more specific, Women of Color, they have chosen instead to do what?s best for their own best interests ?.which has also normally been what was in the best interests of white men.

 

White feminists are quick to discuss the sexism among communities of color (?machismo? in Latino culture, ?male domination? in Arab culture, sexism and Black power etc?) and among the leaders during the civil rights era. While these are valid topics of discussion the fact that white women continually raise them in the midst of conversations about race and seem much more hesitant to direct it at the white men that actually have the power to oppress them makes it seem self-serving.

 

The wealth gap between white society and non-whites has actually GROWN since the 60?s civil rights victories. The biggest reason for this increase is the continued sub urbanization of the major cities in the US which continues to widen the wealth gap by the greater accrued equity in the value of (mostly white) suburban homes.

 

The second major factor for the widening inequality is not the greater oppression on the part of white men?. but the greater presence of white women in education and in the workforce which has added to the household income of the white family.

 

On one hand this is good because everyone should have the ability to pursue an education and work but we also need to be clear about how this occurred.

 

Many of these gains have been not the result of the feminist movement but instead on the backs of the Civil Rights gains and the fight for greater and equal access. Statistically the largest beneficiaries of the Affirmative Action programs won during the 60?s and 70?s ?.have been white women who have used them to go to college in greater numbers and increase their investment in the US capitalist system.

 

White women fail to acknowledge that many of them their got their educations on the backs of these same African Americans and other Peoples of Color who fought the system for greater equality.

 

Discussion of the sexism in the sixties movements seems even more self serving when one realizes that White Women have often been conspicuously absent from the fight to protect the Affirmative Action programs over the last several years?which they have overwhelmingly benefited from.

 

We do live in a sexist society but it?s a fact that one can?t ever seem to stay on topic during a discussion about race because a white woman feels uncomfortable and raises objections designed to deflect attention from their own complicit ness with oppression. How many of you have heard these examples before?.

 

?What about class? How does this affect the problem of race??

Answer: Yes, but family history and your race remains the largest factor in what class you end up in. Stay on topic?

 

?What about capitalism??

Answer: Yes but white people have controlled the capitalist system and have doled out the benefits along the lines of race. Stay on topic?

 

?What about sexism? Men have controlled the system.?

Answer: White men have controlled the system which has benefited their wives and children who were also white and have normally supported them. Therefore, it?s still about race. Stay on topic?.

 

?What about power?I don?t have any??

Answer: the only group that has more power and money than white women is white men?.so you have more power than anyone else does. Stay on point?.

 

?I?m oppressed too?.why cant we discuss that here?.I feel delegitamized.?

Answer: It?s not necessary to have every oppression discussed in every space and the reality is that there are many other places for white women to commiserate but precious few for people of color to come together in the same way. Within the context of an anti racism training it is almost unavoidable that you must try and reign in the white women that are present.

 

Stay on point?.

 

?Women have suffered for thousands of years?what about that?

Answer: True. Have white women ever stood up in numbers on behalf of ANY of these women of color EVER? How about when black women were having their children sold from them during slavery?.or when the indigenous people were having their children slaughtered as heathens. What about the masses of women of color that suffer in our inner cities while white progressive women march past them in the streets protesting everything ELSE? Except for a few outliers history doesn?t support your claims of solidarity. Stay on point?..

 

?But I?m different!!!!?

Answer: Assuming that?s true?.so what!? Asking for praise for doing the right thing is like praising a man for NOT beating his wife. Its ridiculous and a tremendous imposition on the oppressed. Stay on point?..

 

I raise these issues not to deny the reality of the continued oppression of women but to illustrate how it is also used as a shield to protect white women and to stifle discussion about other forms of oppression.

 

Unfortunately its an all to common occurrence since white women continue to dominate activist and non-profit spaces and are many times just as supremacist as their male counterparts when  it comes to working across the race line in spite of the psychological comforting they give themselves as good ?allies? or advocates of the oppressed.

 

 

Justice requires work and scrutiny ?not false solidarity and brother (or sister) hood.

Food for thought?.

 

For justice and struggle

Darren Parker

 

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