An Open Letter to My Fellow White Women

Dear white women, 

I am beyond overjoyed that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected as the 46th president and vice president of the United States. The sheer sense of relief I felt when I heard the news was overpowering. Relief that Trump hadn’t eked out another win on a technicality, relief that science was going to be listened to again, relief that the hateful impulses of this country had not prevailed. 

But this victory was too close. 70 million people voted for Donald Trump, a man endorsed by the leader of the KKK, who refused to denounce white supremacy, who ran a campaign based entirely on hate and fear of people who are “Not Us”. He was defeated not by the grace of God, but thanks to the hard work of black organizers, specifically black women, like Stacey Abrams and Nse Ufot

57% of white people voted for Trump, according to the New York Times’ exit poll, and that includes 55% of white women. The rhetoric of girl power and feminism that’s taken over in the past few years has not taken hold in any meaningful way. Our feminism is not intersectional. We are ignoring the oppression of people of color in this country, and we’re selling them out to support our own way of life. We can’t talk about what it means for mothers to be more present in the workplace without talking about the pay inequities that make it harder for women of color to find someone to watch their children. A record number of Republican women were elected this year, but having that seat at the table doesn’t mean anything if you’re not going to leave the door open and pull out another chair. 

White women, we have to do better. In the immortal words of Audre Lorde, we “are not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from [our] own.” It’s certainly easier to continue to side with the oppressor, to reinforce the entangled systems of patriarchy and white supremacy that are the backbone of this country because they give us the scraps. But I can assure you that this is flawed logic. While we may be better off than people of color, we are not free, and we will not be free until we work to dismantle the systems of oppression that keep us all shackled. 

We continue to rely on black women to do the work. Why do we only care about injustice when it affects us? We must empathize and mobilize, without waiting to be told that racism is happening, for it to be explained to us that it is dangerous to be a black person in this country. We have to believe our sisters of color when they cry out, and we need to listen when they speak. Joe Biden is not a perfect president. His policies often do not go far enough, and we all know how hard it is to get a single thing passed in the House and Senate. So we have to keep pushing. 

We need to use our white privilege to hold doors open, to reach down from the top and pull other women up the ladder to shatter the glass ceiling with us. And yes, I said privilege. Just because things are hard for you as a woman doesn’t mean that you don’t have advantages in other places. Take the wage gap. Though women make 80¢ for every dollar a white man makes, black women make only 61¢, and the gap gets larger and larger if you’re Hispanic, Asian, or Native. People of color are doing twice the work with half the resources. 

We can no longer ally ourselves with racist white men, with those who would leave us behind the second it was more advantageous than placating us. We can’t keep ourselves afloat by balancing on the bodies of people of color. We must give space to black voices, give money to black businesses, give our time to black causes. The Biden-Harris presidency is an opportunity, and it’s one that we can’t squander. Let us use the next four years to think about people other than ourselves. There was an Instagram story going around that suggested we vote in the interest of the most vulnerable person we know. Well, we need to go farther than that. Voting is a starting place, not a stopping place. Let’s surround ourselves with people who believe in fighting the good fight, and continue advancing the rights and protections of the most vulnerable people we know. It’s not too late to dismantle the system we helped to build. I look forward to the future of fighting together.