As a twenty-something woman who believes every single person deserves the same rights, opportunities and freedoms—regardless of their gender identity—I’m a feminist. But in the midst of the current worldwide reckoning with racism and police brutality, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I’m using my privilege as a white woman to ensure that my feminism is inclusive and intersectional. (Coined in 1989 by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectional feminism is the understanding of how women's overlapping identities—including race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation—impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.)
So when I got the opportunity to connect with writer and diversity consultant Mikki Kendall, I jumped at the chance. Kendall’s work centers on intersectionality, policing, gender, sexual assault and more. Her most recent book, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That the Movement Forgot, is about how the focus of much of modern feminism is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. If that description hits a little too close to home, read on for four ways she says white feminists can better support women of color now and moving forward.
1. Be an Ally at Minimum and an Accomplice Whenever Possible
What does that look like? Per Kendall, “That means supporting Black friends and coworkers in their efforts, as well as—when asked—stepping up to do more than cheerlead.” (Emphasis on when asked—the white savior complex is a really bad look.) Depending on the situation, stepping up even further than being an ally could mean “[taking] the risk of being a witness, of being a barrier or of being the one that pushes back against authority.”
2. Don’t Expect Black Women to Be ‘My Friend Is Black So I Can't Be Racist’ Shields
The myth of “The Strong Black woman,” Kendall tells us, “does more harm than good, and fundamentally it isn't rooted in reality.” It’s not the job of Black women to shoulder the emotional burdens of others—even their friends. “Black women are people with the full range of facets and flaws that all humans have in their personalities. Skin color doesn't make you superhuman.” It can be upsetting to think about the ways Black women continue to be discriminated against, but Kendall stresses that it isn’t the responsibility of Black women to take care of your feelings about their oppression.
3. Get Involved in Local Politics
Oftentimes, change starts from the ground up. Kendall suggests getting involved in efforts “to defund police and fund programs for childcare, healthcare, food, housing, and anti-racism.” She adds, “Your voting rights aren't under attack yet—use them wisely and support initiatives to protect rights for everyone.” (HeadCount is a great resource for registering to vote and getting involved by helping others do the same.)
4. Donate Donate Donate
If you have the money to spare, donate it. Kendall says, “Donate to mutual aid funds, bail projects, any place where that cash could affect meaningful change for communities that may have less than yours.” (Here’s a list of 12 organizations that are supporting Black communities and furthering the Black Lives Matter movement.) Says Kendall, “You have power and privilege on your side, even if it seems like you don't have enough to change the world. We can do anything if we work together.” Let’s get to it.