Dear White Women, Here’s Your New Year’s Resolution
White women, it's time to make some changes in 2018. By now we're well aware of the stats: the 53 percent of white women who voted for Donald Trump last November, and over 60 percent who voted for Roy Moore this year. But it's not just the voting records: it's the social movements that, despite their best efforts, continue to put white feminism front and center, from the Women's March to #MeToo. And these are just the large-scale, macro-aggressions women of color see play out in the news near-daily. If you asked most people of color about the micro-aggressions they face on a regular basis, you would probably get a serious wake-up call. That's why in 2018, there are a few New Year's resolutions white women can make to be better allies to people of color.
If you feel defensive at the idea of making a specific resolution, or that white women are being singled out, know that it's not done in condemnation; it's an opportunity to get educated, and to do better by the folks you're allied with. You may not personally have voted for Trump or Moore. You may have been leading the charge to make your local feminist space more intersectional and accessible. That's a great start. But even the wokest white ally can unknowingly perpetuate pretty problematic behaviors, and part of the process of understanding privilege, marginalization, and the way they intersect is to listen.
Here are three things white women can do in 2018 to unlearn problematic behavior, and do better by women of color.
1. Treat Women Of Color Like Humans
"Black Girl Magic" is one of my favorite viral movements because it centers Black girls and women, and reminds the world just how powerful we are. But when it's misinterpreted and misused, it can become troubling. As Doreen St. Félix wrote in a brilliant New Yorker essay after Black women were deified for voting for Doug Jones in overwhelming numbers, "The selective rhetorical elevation of black women acts as a sort of overcorrection." St. Félix spoke specifically to the idea that Black women have a maternal, selfless instinct that others lack, but it's something to consider on a larger scale. When I'm praised by a white woman for my name or physical attributes, it's an uncomfortable experience. Understand that women of color are not just magic — we're human.
2. Call Out Your Fellow White People So WOC Don't Have To
All women deal with the societal pressures of emotional labor, but women of color are especially susceptible. As a Black woman who spends a lot of time in majority-white spaces, I'm sometimes the only person in a room who speaks up when something problematic is said. I get it if you're afraid it'll seem like you're talking over women of color, but one of the easiest ways to actually be an ally is to call people out — even if it's uncomfortable. Whether it's a face-to-face conversation or a social media comment, let your acquaintances know that racism, whether overt or subtle, isn't appropriate.
3. Don't Expect Praise For Basic Decency
If you're a white women who does fight for intersectionality and the destruction of white supremacy, that's great! But don't expect people of color to fall over ourselves thanking you for your efforts. I appreciate the help, but systemic racism wasn't something people of color ever asked for. It's kind of like setting a fire and then wanting praise for putting it out — when white people created this mess, should they really receive high praise from people of color for trying to fix it?
You're allowed to have fun New Year's resolutions for 2018 — and I hope you do prioritize yourself, healthy relationships, and self-care during the next 12 months. But as you consider your resolutions for the new year, think about the changes you can make to become a better ally and stand with women of color.