Why I Stand With Tamika: The Women’s March Color Line Problem
As thousands made the trek back to Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March, the sad reality was, this gathering had already been marred due to a controversy that didn’t have to be. Call me cynical, but the blatant hypocrisy and ridiculous drama ignited by Women’s March Founder, Teresa Shook is exactly why Black women find it hard to trust what too often turns out to be white women’s inauthenticity when it comes to fostering supposed gender unity.
Instead of taking a victory lap following a historic mid-term election that resulted in a record number of women being elected to Congress, Shook chose to take a decidedly different path; spending the last several weeks attacking the current leadership of the now internationally known organization that grew out of her hastily-developed Facebook group.
Especially targeted has been Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory, the only Black woman in national leadership. At issue is Mallory’s refusal to publicly denounce Min. Louis Farrakhan after attending the Nation of Islam’s Savior’s Day event last Spring. Although Mallory has made it clear that she does not support or espouse anti-Semitic or homophobic views, and months ago explained why she stopped short of publicly denouncing the man or the organization he leads, the attacks against her have been relentless. And it’s this onslaught that is leading Black women across the country to question, are white women really here for ALL women, or just those whose views (and hue) perfectly align with theirs?
While Mallory and the rest of the Women’s March team have been busy doing the tremendously hard work it takes to strategically organize major nationwide protests, Shook has passed the time by leading the charge to undermine the legitimacy of her leadership. Going as far as to suggest that she should step down in order to “let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent.”
I’m a Black woman who lives in America. For me, original intent is never a good thing.
It’s worth remembering that a key reason why Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez, the only women of color* currently in national leadership, were added in the first place was because apparently Shook’s original intent was to construct an organization that lacked intersectionality and inclusivity. Initially, the Women’s March leadership was not only completely devoid of color, it’s platform too ignored a wide range of issues particularly relevant to women beyond the color spectrum of white, bright white, and ultra-white.
Still, Mallory, Sarsour and Perez brought more than diversity, relevancy, and broader legitimacy to a movement that sought to represent all women without reflecting all women. Most critically, they brought decades of rubber-to-the-road organizing experience to a concept that had only lived in the virtual idealism of a Facebook group. Make no mistake about it, it was their critical know-how that took the Women’s March from mere digital musings to the reality of organizing and executing the largest political protest in U.S. history.
If it’s Shook’s preference to take the organization back to its original all-white roots, then it seems her biases might be on even greater display than the guilt-by-association accusations she has so publicly projected onto Mallory.
At the heart of the matter here is the transgression of refusing to disassociate from someone who espouses repugnant beliefs. If that’s that standard, fair enough. But at least have the integrity to apply that same standard to everyone.
Moving forward then, it seems reasonable that anyone associated with the Women’s March should first publicly denounce and disassociate with all individuals or organizations that at minimum espouse racism or homophobia. In other words, if you attend a church that teaches gay people are going to hell, then you’re disqualified. If someone in your family not only failed to denounce, but actually voted for a person who takes delight in ripping Brown children away from their parents, brags openly about sexual assault, seeks to ban an entire religious group from the nation and also happens to believe that Nazis and KKK members are very fine people, then you’ve got to go. Matter of fact, if a family member said something suspect over the holidays and you sat there in silence, then clearly, you need not apply.
With this as the standard, who among us would qualify? All of us at least have someone within our circle who does not fully align with our belief system — or at least we should. How else are we to create change in the hearts of others if we only associate with those who see the world exactly as do we?
The truth of the matter is, you can hate every word that comes out of Farrakhan’s mouth if you want to. You have that right. But it seems to me, if complete ideological purity in all associations is now the standard, the time and outrage that has been relentlessly aimed Mallory’s way would be infinitely better spent targeting the complicity of far too many white women who have stood by silently as this nation endures a spike in hate crimes committed by this country’s leading group of domestic terrorists — white men.
So instead of attempting to publicly shame and sabotage the leadership and intersectional efforts of Tamika Mallory for failing to live up to a standard that millions of white women have shirked for centuries, Shook should be thanking her. It’s Mallory’s skill and hard work that has breathed life and legitimacy into her idea — an idea that would have never taken flight had she not stepped in to make it so.
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*Please note that Janaye Ingram, also a Black woman, served as the Logistics Coordinator for the 2017 Women’s March and is a former Board Member of the organization.