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Earlier this week, I was going through my twitter and come to find out the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, which was created by @Karnythia to take a pointed jab at how feminism in general is not really for all women but mainly framed for White women and their problems, thus thoroughly ignoring the intersection of race and gender and the issues those intersections create. Of course, when the hashtag had hit mainstream media, mainly White women were asked to talk about the hashtag and to talk for minority women, as if they had any clue. And not once was Karnythia ever asked to attend these major media events. If anything, she’s consistently silenced. The most recent (and definitely not surprising) offender is Feministing.

This is wildly problematic.

I remarked on Twitter about this but I’ll say it again: Whitewashing is a very common problem in activist communities and parades under the notion of being colorblind. Maintaining Whiteness and equality activism does not mix. At all.

Let’s start with the whole “But I’m colorblind!” bit since that’s what this form of erasure moves under most commonly.

Calling yourself colorblind is a bad idea because it is usually used to cover up or diminish the extensive and longstanding pain of historically marginalized groups (I like this term a lot better than “people of color”) because the default person in Western culture is White. To say you’re colorblind means you don’t see me nor my history and to you, it doesn’t really matter. One should not claim to be colorblind as a way to say “I don’t judge based on race” because to be honest, if you’re White, you most likely do, even without even knowing it, because that’s just how our culture is structured. To be colorblind is to fall back on the default of Whiteness because the notion of Whiteness isn’t being challenged at all and it’s a terrible attempt to run away from all the generational horrors the notion of Whiteness has caused. Besides, who said I didn’t want you to see my Blackness? My Black identity is very important to me (it’s half this blog’s name for a reason), the problem is when you think my Blackness is a reason to treat me poorly or to think that my opinions are invalid somehow.

Whitewashing is a form of colorblindness. It’s the Janelle Monae Covergirl ads that will praise Monae for being a brilliant, Black woman….but will lighten her skin, not showcase a shade for brown women and forever use White models around her to pimp their wares. Note below:

Notice where Covergirl could have casted two Black dancers behind Monae, they pulled a “colorblind classic” and got two White girls instead. Y’know, to offset the one Black girl that’s front and center. Because it isn’t diversity unless you squeeze random White people in there somewhere, huh? Some White feminist could say “This is feminism!” but it really it isn’t because you’re still marginalizing the impact Janelle Monae could have on others via tokenizing her. Namely, the others being Black girls, who are consistently forgotten or disregarded in makeup advertisement. Even Covergirl, despite saying they have a diverse pick of women to represent them, seem to really just want to continually push the image of White or White-passing girls. They may say their color blind but it’s clear they show that they’re moreso snowblind because it’s not a mistake that they keep lightening their browner models in advertisements, do not make extensive products for darker women, do not keep darker girls ads running as long as their lighter counterparts and do not continually pick darker minorities to put at the forefront. Almost as if they’re still trying to maintain the status quo of Whiteness but try to throw out a bone to everyone else now and again.

This is just one example of many. How about the meme’s that even White Feminists had tout: “I’m a strong, independent Black woman that don’t need no man!” Or how about the movie The Help, which pretty much was White Savorism just in the gender of girl. Or the fact that White feminists were okay with someone holding up a quote from wife beater singer John Lennon saying “Woman is the n****r of the world” at a Slutwalk a couple years ago. They were not only okay with it, some went as far as to defend it, completely forgetting that Black folks can be women too.

Instead of pretending a terrible history did not happen at the hands of forcing the ideal of Whiteness, try to acknowledge and offset it. That means being aware of the fact that minorities are forever running into institutionalized racism and bigotry, which is what the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is about. The hashtag was to highlight how minority women, even in the throes of Feminism, are constantly forgotten, erased or told to pipe down. Back when White women were trying to prove that they could handle having a job and that they weren’t dainty princesses needing to be coddled and protected, Black women were forced as day workers, mammies, to have jobs taking care of White women because being stuck at home was not an option. Especially since Black women weren’t even seen as human on the same level as White women…which still occurs today. Think this is all recent chatter? Nah, Sojourner Truth talked about this, here’s a clickable excerpt below:

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

This is from the 1851, everyone. It’s currently 2013, going onto 2014. Talk about outdated and overdue.

I just do not feel that anyone who is an activist can do so while trying to uphold Whiteness because the both can’t coexist. You can’t fight for equality between genders but then display a passive form of racism through erasure to those that are supposed to be in your own ranks. Or a more active form of racism and crash into someone else’s space to claim as your own, which is what happened to the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. It’s important for minority women to have their own spaces to talk about their issues, injecting White opinions won’t help anyone because nothing gets fixed and the idea of Whiteness is still left unchecked. This shows that we’re not even allowed even the smallest, most minute-appearing spaces (such as a Twitter tag) because, just like the appearance of Janelle Monae’s visage in a commercial for a brand that notoriously does not pitch to minority women fairly, it is somehow perceived as a threat to Whiteness and in an act of maintaining “colorblindedness”, is to be watered down as much as possible until it’s practically all White with a slight hint of “other”.

To say “Let’s be colorblind” can seem like saying “let’s forget alllllllllll about all the things oppression has done and let’s start fresh. Let’s keep it all White, but throw in a couple tokens. Worked for SNL.” It’s not taking a look at history, it’s not dismantling anything, it’s just saying, “Let’s move on because it makes me, the privileged party, feel uncomfortable.”

But hey, I guess one can still be an activist and still maintain Whiteness. I mean, the Tea Party and the Ku Klux Klan showcase that pretty effectively. No one is going to see you as progressive but hey, you’ll be fighting for something. Just not equality.