Feminism is a movement meant to benefit all women, not just white women. Over the years, feminism has started the process of morphing into a more inclusive movement in order to encompass equality among people of all colors, sexual orientations, races, religions, and beliefs. Unfortunately, there are still racist tendencies that linger in feminism that need to be addressed. Here are six things that every white feminist needs to understand in order to become a more inclusive feminist:
1. You are white and we are not
Many white women grow up in communities that are fairly homogenous in socio-economic status as well as color. Conversely, people of color frequently do not grow up in communities of people who only look like them. We inadvertently learn about people who look differently than us from simply going to school or playing with the kid that lives next door. As a person of color growing up, my neighbors were an Indian family, a family from Jordan, a white family, and a black family. By just talking to other people who did not look like me and going into their homes, I learned about different people. When I got to high school and started dating a white boy, the first time he came to my home was the first time he’d ever been to a black person’s house. That is not to say that as a black person, my home is completely different, but I do have slightly different practices that need to be recognized and need to be understood. It is important to recognize the subtle, but important, differences that I have as a person of color that you do not have so you do not offend me or people who are like me.
2. You need to recognize the disadvantages we have because we are people of color.
While I grew up in a safe home with good parents and a father who made a good living, there have been times when I have suffered from racism and you will never suffer from those disadvantages. There have been times when my Muslim friends were teased in school for not eating during Ramadan and there have been times when teachers did not understand their desire to pray during the school day. There have also been times when other children didn’t understand my hair or made fun of my dark skin. You need to recognize that being a person of color comes with its challenges.
3. We don’t need you to pity us; we’re quite proud of who we are.
While there are challenges that come with being a person of color, many people of color hold their cultures and practices very dear and love them. While we dislike the struggles that our people, and many times even ourselves, have suffered, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that many of us would give them up, sacrificing our heritage along with it. We love our people and we love our practices.
4. Not all of us are poor.
While there are many people of color who struggle with poverty, not every single person of color is poor. We don’t always need your help. I am a person of color and my father is a private practice doctor and my mother is a lawyer. White feminists, for whatever reason, can sometimes conflate being a person of color with being poor. Many of us are professionals with several degrees and give back to our communities. Many of us gross hundreds of thousands of dollars every single year. Being a person of color is not synonymous to being poverty stricken.
5. Being race blind is another form of being a racist.
Being race blind is failing to acknowledge that other people have differences. That’s racist and should stop immediately. By failing to recognize that it exists, you are ignoring it and assuming that your racial and cultural practices are the norm. This is damaging to communities of color. You must recognize our differences. We don’t fail to recognize that you’re white, don’t fail to recognize that we aren’t.
6. We think of ourselves as fundamentally different from you, but many of us still want to be your sisters.
We don’t think we’re the same. Unfortunately, in the United States, melanin has caused us to think of ourselves as very different people. That said, we do want to be part of the movement. We do want to be your friends. We do want to work with you. We even want to be part of your sisterhood.
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