A lot has happened in this country since Donald Trump's inauguration, and one of the most debatable events was the infamous Women's March on January 21, 2017. Now let me be clear, I am resoundingly pro-life for (almost) all intents and purposes, so the overall nature of the march was a bit difficult for me to grasp. It is not that I fail to recognize the importance of women's rights, quite the opposite actually. Despite my conservative beliefs regarding this topic, I do understand the necessity of keeping abortion legal (as it keeps women safer overall), but to march in a glorified pussy parade over my "oppression" seemed a bit far-fetched.
I am a twenty-three-year-old white woman who has been granted more privileges than there are stars in the sky. Even among the struggles that I have faced, I still have A LOT to be thankful for. I do believe that women are at a disadvantage in this society on certain levels, and I can acknowledge that we have some serious work to be done involving the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, rape culture, sex trafficking and so much more. But I do not view those as women's issues. Those are HUMAN issues. Men, women and individuals who identify as transgender can ALL be victims of assault, domestic violence, rape, trafficking and anything else.
While women have certain challenges to overcome, I think it is vital that we recognize exactly how much we have already overcome. Specifically, this country alone has done so much in helping women overcome these things. Whether today's feminists realize it or not, being born in the United States is a remarkable advantage that some women in other countries would literally die for (and many already have).
But unfortunately, this country has not done everything that they can for the African-American population. Which is why I feel like a Women's March is a waste of time during such a pressing interval in this great nation. Why are women flocking to the streets to promote their reproductive rights as if their lives depended on it, when we could be flocking to the streets to stand up for our black brothers and sisters WHOSE LIVES ARE ACTUALLY DEPENDANT ON IT? (White) women are buying pussycat hats by the hundred thousands, but (most) failed to purchase one Black Lives Matter shirt over the past few years, even with the appalling rise in police brutality. Women are angry due to a shortage of free contraceptives (among other seemingly minor things), meanwhile, African-American lives are at stake every day in this country (sometimes even at a standard traffic stop).
White women, I am looking at YOU. You can march in your parades and put on your silly pink hats all day long, but if you are still cuddling up next to your white privilege every night in your warm bed, I am calling you out. If you want to fight for those that are oppressed, you might want to take a look around first. Wake up (white) ladies, it isn't about you for once.
To tackle this demanding topic, I turned to some of the most inspiring, courageous and resilient over-comers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I turned to the beautiful black women in my life, and I asked them if they feel more oppression as a woman or as an African-American, to see once and for all whose struggle is worth marching for. And if marching is really the best way to "make a difference" at all.
All of the African-American women that I interviewed were in agreeance on one thing, and that is the harsh reality that it is a MUCH GREATER challenge to be black in the U.S. as opposed to simply being a woman.
*The names of the women interviewed have been changed for their personal privacy.*
Ayesha* grew up in a predominately white neighborhood in Colorado and disclosed to me that she first experienced racism as a child in grade school. She said "I got picked on a lot by other kids for being black, and I know it was because I was black, because they would make fun of me for things that only I had. I was always the only black kid, and the other kids were so brutal to me. Kicking me, literally kicking me in my stomach, [pulling me] off of swings, and pulling my hair. Oh, it was awful."
Taylor* was twelve years old when she first recalls being subjected to racial mistreatment. "I had just moved to Houston from New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. I was walking to the store with my mom and a red pickup truck pulled in front of us ... about three white men hung out of the window and made monkey noises. My mom flicked them off, and they laughed [as they] drove away. I was confused. I asked my mom what they were doing, but she didn't answer me. It was only years later that I realized what I had experienced."
When asked what was more challenging (being African American or being a woman), Drea* was confident in her answer saying this, "As an African American woman, I have two strikes against me. I believe that because (over 200 years ago), blacks were considered 3/5 of a person, [this allows] a host of people of other cultures to still believe that this is a fact ... I'm not sure I can even remember a specific time that I was discriminated against because of my sex. It's always seemed like it was [because of] race."
Taylor* has had different experiences regarding sexism. She says that her biggest challenge as a woman is, "not being taken seriously in the workplace.". She went on to say that the only effective way to be taken seriously is if she becomes "very assertive", but that comes with a steep price. "But [I can't be] too assertive, otherwise I will be labeled as 'bossy, mean or a bitch'. However, [for] men there is no penalty for being overly assertive." Taylor* says that she has encountered sexism on many occasions working in the service industry. In her experience, people feel as if they can come into her personal space. They get too comfortable and too vulgar too quickly, and it is all because she is a woman. Flirting and inappropriate comments (sometimes even from management) are also a continual problem.
Kyla* wholeheartedly believes that being an African American is a bigger challenge (than being a woman) in this country, because "in society ... they will always look at our roots". With that said, she explained to me that both have been huge disadvantages in her life. She feels like people have preconceived notions about both race and gender that are simply not true. "Just because I am a woman doesn't mean I'm not strong enough [and] just because I'm an African American doesn't mean I'm not smart enough". However, Kyla* says that she "loves empowering other women, no matter what color they are. We are all queens!" She fully understands that both race and gender can play a part in the discrimination that women (of all races) may go through.
Ayesha* (a mother of two) says that she fears for her children, and it all comes back to her race. "If I could have chosen the color of my own kid's skin, to be honest, it would not have been black. My sweet innocent babies were brought into a world where a group of people [will] hate them for something that myself and their father chose for them. They had no say in being black, and yet they will face a world who hates them for it."
But do protests like the Women's March or Black Lives Matter events really make a difference? Ayesha* doesn't think so. She says this, "I think back in the day things like that made a difference. But today, no..." Ayesha* tells me that she does not know if there is a real solution to racial or sexist injustices, as it is such a complex and controversial issue.
Drea* believes that the lack of public education on black history could be to blame for the overall mistreatment of blacks. She elaborates by saying, "It's terrible how the system has removed black history." Everything plays a part from the government, the school system, etc. The "prison to pipeline" is very real. "It's offensive to find out that the government literally has set blacks up to fail ... Not only have I seen these facts [and statistics], but I have lived them, too." Which in turn, makes it even more heartbreaking for her.
Kyla* shares Drea* beliefs. She disclosed to me that she has been incarcerated in the past, and feels as though that she has paid her "debt to society", but that just isn't enough. She said that her past is continually thrown in her face especially by law enforcement officers. "If I'm stopped for a traffic ticket, I'm always reminded of my past mistakes! I've had officers call me a n*gger, and these were people we trust to protect and serve! It leaves [me] in fear at times [even when] seeking medical attention. [I wonder] if they are going to care for me the same way that they would if I were a different race".
Lastly, Drea* says this regarding how she "handles" certain racial tensions and the rampant ignorance in the world, "My only relief is that I am a Believer. I know that in God's eyes [even though we are] individually unique ... he still loves EVERYONE that He has created. That is the peace which allows me to sleep at night when things are so unfair. God never promised fairness, but he is just. And in the end, we will all reap what we have sown."
So there you have it, guys. Whether you want to accept it or not, racial issues are a far greater beast than any gender issues that women might be facing in the year 2017 in the U.S. This is not to say that women (of any race) are free of problems. As we can see, women do experience hardships over things like reproductive rights, equal pay, sexual assault, rape culture, sex trafficking, and various mistreatment in the workplace. But the racial crisis is far greater than anything (us white women) could ever fully grasp. And to be an African-American woman is a challenge that I personally will never know firsthand.
All I can say is this, African-American women, although they are thrown hoop after hoop to jump through are some of the most inspiring individuals this society has ever seen, and we would be wise as a population to remember this in difficult times. Whether it be 1967 or 2017, African-American women truly are the hidden figures in our lives, our workplace, our justice system, our country and so much more. Thank a black woman today; for her patience, her poise and her unwavering strength. You have no idea of the trials that she has faced.