That five-word question must be answered before Black women can even consider participating in vvhite-centered spaces (especially political and feminist-based). That same five-word question can get you kicked out. It’s what happened to me when I asked the admins of Global Feminist Perspectives.
I’m always ready for the response I’m greeted with when I ask, “Is this an intersectional space?” — whether it’s welcoming and informative, or saturated in white fragility and gaslighting. The question is as close as a Black woman can get to asking, “What’s the likelihood that I’ll be humiliated and harassed here because of bias towards Black women?”
“I suggest you go back to the ‘about’ section of our group and read more so that you understand who we are,” Sheila responded. She’s one of three admin for Global Feminist Perspectives, a Facebook group with a modest 2,000 members. I was on the verge of reading her like a church mother on Easter Sunday when she followed with, “I would think that after a year of being a member here, you would have done that already.” And then had the nerve to tell me she hoped she’d been of some ‘help’.
It was clear she deserved to experience the thrill of a pot upside her head. Still, I calmly explained that the dangers and misogynoir attached to my intersection force me to ask that question. When I hit send, the screen refreshed, my post disappeared, and I was quickly removed from the group. For asking if it was intersectional.
A simple no would have sufficed.
Black Women: America’s Blind Spot
The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. Every race and ethnicity of people face stereotypes, but Black women bear consequences that affect us on a societal, emotional, financial, physical, and psychological level as well. Society is insistent on programming Black women to believe that we are divisive, problematic, angry, uneducated, irrelevant, unattractive, incompetent, unruly, and unfit for society. Despite the fact that none of that is true for Black American women as a collective, as long as white women continue to believe it, they will continue to feel entitled to treat us as though we’re inferior.
What happened to me in Global Feminist Perspectives is no different than what happens to Black women every time we enter white-centered spaces. It happened when I joined Pantsuit Nation. It’s what lead to that horrendous feud with Rise and Resist. Or the time I called out another Facebook feminist group for their misogynoir and white feminism. Or, the time myself and members of SWA ran out of a local Together We Will meeting because the exclusion was unbearable. The groups and people change, but the demands of Black women are consistent:
- Knock it off with the bias against Black women
- Stop using racial tropes and weaponized respectability to dismiss and disrespect Black women.
White Girl Power
When words like ‘global’, ‘sisterhood’, and ‘united’ are paired with feminism, a faux illusion is created that suggests unconditional inclusion. These words are bumper stickers on the asses of white feminists who attempt to convince Black women that, “Just because we don’t like you, look down at you, and you’re smarter than us doesn’t mean that we’re against you!” This works out very well… for white women. They have the entitlement to navigate through society without ever brushing arms with Black women, yet, give the illusion that they ‘stand in solidarity’ with us. My Sis, and America’s go-to when they’re ready to unpack their white feminism, Rachel Cargle, refers to it as ‘White supremacy in heels’.
White women who drink from the well of feminism have no clue the role Black women played on the gender equality home front. Most don’t know the difference from bell hooks to Tinkerbell! In their world, the #MeToo movement was choreographed by the original cast of Charmed, the patriarchy can be smashed like a pumpkin, and white supremacy can be dismantled like Lego pieces.
It’s much, much different for Sisters.
While white women are still waking up to the reality that their pussy hats and safety pins will not shatter any glass ceilings, Black women are exceeding political and academic standards. It’s why we are the intellectual Olympians we are, despite the racial tropes which challenge us.
After going back and forth with Sheila via Private Messenger , I did the most therapeutic thing I could do after rolling around in white feminist mud; I retreated to designated safe spaces for Black women. I wasn’t prepared for so many who had their own negative experiences with Global Feminist Perspectives:
“That is one of the biggest TERF groups I’ve ever known!”
“They treat Black women like that all the time.”
“Those admin will do anything to silence Black women and trans women!”
“Something like that happened to my friend when she asked about intersection there.”
By the end of the day it was found out that not only did Global Feminist Perspectives exclude Black women, but they also excluded trans women, and surely don’t think too highly of the Latinx community. Sheila was not a ringleader, rather just a member of the herd. Co-admins Alexia and Gretchen are also known for trans exclusion, bias against Black women, and nothing but apathy for Black people.
In the presence of white supremacy, there will be an absence of Black liberation. For Black women who want to know if an organization or group is intersectional and find out that it is not, it needs to be understood that that organization or group is not safe, productive, or welcoming to Black women.
Tamela J. Gordon is a New York based writer. She’s the creator of the women’s empowerment group, Sisters with Aspiration, as well as SWA’s Black Feminists Book Club, an online space for all women and non-men to explore the literary and creative works of Black women and women of color (yes, white women can join). You can gift books for readers , or contribute to Tamela’s work and future projects HERE. Follow her on Patreon! To contact Tamela for speaking engagements or creating your own women’s empowerment group, email email@example.com