In a nation with several significant minority populations, you would expect these marginalized groups to support each other and unite for their rights. However, America has long witnessed minority groups pitted against each other, division within the same demographic, and ethnic separation that take supreme court rulings to break apart.
Since the late 19th century in the United States when the first feminist movement strove to win suffrage for womxn, a large method of gaining support to the movement was by comparing the political rights of black men to those of womxn. The circling question was something like this: why should black men have the right to vote but not womxn?, which generally suggests that white womxn believed they were “above” black men. However, others would argue that womxn simply want equality. Yet, this brings up a few questions: To what extent was the movement problematic for mentioning that black men had suffrage but not womxn? Is rhetoric as important as intent/purpose? And at the same time, we must keep in mind that the first two feminist movements were led by largely white womxn.
Although the current (third) feminist movement focuses more on intersectionality and partnering with other minority movements, there is still debate about whether or not certain language is anti-black. Recently I witnessed a similar situation in my own life, except on a much smaller scale. In high school debate, there is a system of “speaker points” which awards debaters who presented themselves very well with points that can help their team in their placement. After the biggest tournament on the west coast, someone posted to the debate Facebook group chat about how the top 18 speakers were all male, or “male appearing”, which meant to point to the gender imbalance in speaker awards.
However, another person in the comments brought up two flaws in the post. 1) “Male appearing” is actually problematic because it assumes that there are certain traits that a male should follow. 2) More importantly, the top speaker at the tournament achieved a legendary accomplishment and received perfect scores for all the rounds, and was black (black folk are extremely rare in the debate community, even more so than female debaters). The post would therefore, be complaining about the accomplishments of a black debater.
Yet, the Facebook post never mentioned anything specifically discriminatory towards black folk. Is it then reasonable to say that the Facebook post was anti-black, even if there were no blatantly racist intentions? Additionally, the writer of the Facebook post could have easily added one extra sentence to celebrate the black debater’s success. But are they responsible to point the success of racial minorities out?
There is no doubt that modern society often focuses on one movement as separate from other movements, but at the same time the question of race and gender are not mutually exclusive. Instead, perhaps a social justice advocate should learn and respect both gender and ethnic theories to avoid awkward situations that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.
Ultimately, I myself am still conflicted as to whether or not calling out something that has good purpose for another marginalized group, followed by a long argument over language and intention, is productive. Should the calling out continue until feminists force themselves to recognize that their arguments are anti-black? Or should we just be cautious altogether and hurry and find a compromise to stop the fighting between minority groups? (And does this fighting slow down the success of these movements?) Meanwhile, the white, cis, heterosexual male patriarch laughs in the background…
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