Why I’m Skipping The Women’s March on Washington [Op-Ed]

By Jamilah Lemieux Jan 18, 2017

I’ve never felt any thing remotely resembling sisterhood with White women. Friendship, affinity, fondness, love—sure. Sisterhood? Nah. That sense of loyalty, interconnectedness, accountability and shared struggle simply isn’t there.

That lack of sisterhood haunted me at times during the 2016 election season. As Election Day approached and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged as the frontrunner, I waited to feel something. Some sort of connection between her and me, some sort of emotion tied to the likelihood that a person who shares my gender expression would be the "leader of the free world." It never came. 

However, the absence of that sisterhood never felt more real for me than it did when I learned that 53 percent of White female voters cast a ballot for a man whose bigotry was, perhaps, his greatest selling point. I never expected that White women by-and-large would favor Clinton over Donald Trump because she promised criminal justice reform or would do more to protect the rights of people of color than her opponent. But I did believe that Trump’s incredibly public misogyny—manifested in attacks on women’s looks, a boast about “pussy” grabbing and promises to prosecute people who seek abortions—would have made him less than favorable. Silly me to expect self-preservation to take priority over racism, I suppose.

Of course, much of the post-election news cycle was dominated by White folks wringing their hands: How could this happen? Why did it happen? There was lots of weeping and wailing from women who could get the answers to those questions by simply asking their relatives, friends and partners who put Trump in power. As fearful as I am for the lives that are most vulnerable in the wake of a Trump presidency (including immigrants of color, Muslims, LGBT people and, of course, Black folks), there was a tiny, tiny part of me that felt a tiny, tiny bit of satisfaction at seeing how sad many White women were. Finally, they got to know some semblance of the pain and anguish that accompanies our lives in this country.

But when I learned that some of those women had decided to channel their disappointment into a “Million Women March,” my twisted moment of pleasure quickly gave way to a familiar sense of annoyance. Once again, the labors of Black folks (in this case, the 1995 Million Man March and the 1997 Million Woman March organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam) were being co-opted and erased by clueless White ones. And just what would this “million” women be coming together to march about—their mothers, sisters, homegirls and friends who elected Trump in the first place? 

The name of the march did quickly change and a group of women of color that I deeply admire signed on as co-chairs. They are now the face of the event and among its lead organizers. For me, this sparks a few conflicting feelings. On one hand, I think of Tamika Mallory (former executive director of National Action Network), Carmen Perez (executive director The Gathering for Justice), and Linda Sarsour (executive director of the Arab American Association of New York) as living and breathing superheroes. They are the closest our shared home of New York City has to Wonder Woman, Storm and Misty Knight. People who are open to hearing from them and who allow them to lead will benefit from doing so.

On the other hand, I’m really tired of Black and Brown women routinely being tasked with fixing White folks’ messes. I’m tired of being the moral compass of the United States. Many of the White women who will attend the march are committed activists, sure. But for those new-to-it White women who just decided that they care about social issues? I’m not invested in sharing space with them at this point in history.

Will the Women’s March on Washington be a space filled primarily with participants who believe that Black lives matter? I’m not sure, especially considering the attitudes of some who have publicly stated that they don’t want to hear calls for attendees to check their White privilege at the proverbial door.

Thus, I am affording myself the emotional frailty usually reserved for White women and tapping out this time. I’m not saying that I will never stand in solidarity with masses of White women under the umbrella of our gender, but it won’t be this weekend. Managing my depression is a complicated daily task, one that will certainly be exacerbated by the presidential inauguration festivities. It won’t serve my own mental health needs to put my body on the line (a body that I believe will invite more violence from Trump supporters than paler attendees) to feign solidarity with women who by and large didn’t have my back prior to November. Not yet. Eventually? Perhaps. But not now.

I’d like to see a million White women march to the grave of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth or Audre Lorde, or perhaps to the campus of Spelman College to offer a formal apology to Black women. It’s time for White women to come together and tell the world how their crimes against Black women, Black men and Black children have been no less devastating than the ones committed by their male counterparts. Perhaps the Women’s March on Washington will provide the grounds for the level of catharsis required to make that happen. If anyone can plant the seed, it’s Mallory, Perez, Sarsour and Janaye Ingram, the march’s head of logistics. But I just can’t make my way to Washington D.C. this weekend to find out.

Maybe next time.

Jamilah Lemieux is a writer and the vice president of Men’s and News Programming for InteractiveOne. Follow her on Twitter: @jamilahlemieux