Can The Women’s March Redeem Itself After Its Signs of Anti-Semitism?

The Women’s March that occurred the day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017 was the birth of a new wave feminist movement. Women of all races, religions, nationalities, sexualities, disabilities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds joined together to resist Trump’s fascist agenda on the first day of his job and an intersectional approach to this new women’s rights movement was born.

But the whole concept of “intersectionality” in the Women’s March seemed to dwindle after allegations of anti-semitism from the Women’s March organizations’ National co-chairs; Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez were brought to the attention of media outlets in March 2018. An article by The Atlantic reported on Mallory’s attendance of the Nation of Islams’ Saviours Day event in which notorious anti-semite Louis Farrakhan was leading the event. Mallory then preceded to post a picture on Instagram in which she referred to Farrakhan as the “G.O.A.T.” (the greatest of all time). 

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An investigative article by The Tablet reported on statements allegedly made by Mallory and Perez at a meeting in late November 2016 to an early member of the Women’s March board. Mallory and Perez said to Vanessa Wruble after she stated that she was Jewish that “Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people--and were known leaders of the American slave trade.” At a meeting a few months later in late January 2017, shortly after the Women’s March, Mallory allegedly said to Wruble “your people hold all the wealth.” A statement that holds deep anti-semitism and old age stereotypes about Jewish people & money. This prompted Wruble to leave and disaffiliate herself with the Women’s March organization and start her own branch of activism titled March On.   Along with the Women’s March exclusion of anti-semitism and Jewish women in their Unity Principles, it’s no question that this form of anti-semitism from the top ladder of the Women’s March organization has thrown them into some serious hot water. The Women’s March National Organization has released several statements denouncing anti-semitism and Farrakhan, but no individual statement from the four co-chairs (Mallory, Bland, Sarsour, & Perez). This prompted some women, Jewish and non-Jewish, to boycott the march this year. Progressive groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense of America disaffiliated themselves from the Women’s March due to the controversy. State and city chapters such as New Orleans and Chicago even canceled their marches this year due to this issue, and many state & local chapter leaders have asked the national co-chairs to step down. 

The big question after hearing all of this information does the Women’s March still have its momentum? You can’t deny the impact that this organization has had on modern-day women’s rights. With the emergence of the #MeToo movement and women speaking out on sexual assault. As well as a record number of over 100 women being elected into office, crediting the Women’s March as their inspiration to run. They’ve brought forth an intersectional approach to this new wave of a feminist movement, a contrast to the predominantly white liberal mainstream feminism of the past; one that excluded women of color, queer, disabled, trans, and poor women. But how intersectional really is it when they exclude Jewish women from their boards & committees and don’t recognize anti-semitism as a form of marginalization? 

Image result for womens march jewishAnti-semitism I’ve noticed isn’t as widely educated or recognized as a form of discrimination as racism or homophobia. Not to say the latter two aren’t as important to address, but some people on the left don’t consider Jewish people as part of the minority or oppressed because the majority of Jews are white, which is far from the truth. Even though white Jews do benefit from white privilege, that privilege didn’t protect 11 innocent Jewish people from being shot and killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue back in October. 

This unawareness of anti-semitism also erases Jews of color & queer Jews and the struggles they face as people of color/queer people and Jews. The prejudice they face in the queer, black/brown, and Jewish communities as well as the intersectionality of their identities. 

White Jews are a fascinating and unique group in America. They benefit from systemic white supremacy but are the constant targets of individual white supremacists. When a white Jewish man walks into a store, he won’t get followed around, but wearing a kippah in public or attending a synagogue makes him the target of white supremacists. They are both a beneficiary and a target at the same.  It’s an incredibly important distinction that I believe activists and wider society needs to start recognizing. 

Tamika Mallory on a recent episode of The View stated “I don’t agree with these statements. To be very clear, it’s not my language, it’s not the way that I speak. It’s not how I organize ... I should never be judged through the lens of a man.” And on her Instagram post calling Farrakhan the ‘GOAT,’ “I didn’t call him the greatest of all time because of his rhetoric, I called him the greatest of all time because of what he’s done in black communities.” 

Image result for women's march leadersMallory refused to condemn Farrakhan and the anti-semitic statements he made, which frankly, is disappointing. Yes, she has a point of not being judged through the eyes of a man, but you can’t help it when that man has wished violence and oppression upon Jews, queer people, and women. 

There are conflicting opinions over whether Mallory, Sarsour, Bland, and Perez should step down and if the Women’s March could come back from this. I’ve been a supporter of the Women’s March ever since its inception, the National Co-Chairs and their activism work. Bringing attention to the struggles of people of color, intersectionality, and the most marginalized of communities. 

Mallory has a point of admiring someone even though you don’t agree with everything they say. I look up to activists who have done revolutionary things, but I don’t agree with everything they say, it is possible to do that. But there is a difference between not agreeing with someone and condemning a very offensive thing that they said. Mallory has failed to do that with Farrakhan.

Image result for womens march jewishIn activist movements and social media, “canceled culture” is a very toxic thing to perpetrate. We cannot “cancel” someone out based on one problematic thing or mistake that they’ve made. If that applied to everyone, we’d all be canceled out. I believe that the four National co-chairs should take this has an opportunity to own up to what they’ve done. Listen and learn from Jewish people and women, talk to rabbis and Jewish activists. Educate themselves on anti-semitism and prejudice against Jewish people in America. It’s something nobody can excuse or ignore since anti-semitic hate crimes rose 57% in 2017. All of them need to take this as an opportunity to learn and grow like they expect white women to do as women of color. If they don’t do this as leaders of an influential activist movement, then they will have to step down eventually. 

The Women’s March movement needs to be a movement free of all bigotry and bias. If their version of a “movement” includes excluding Jewish women and anti-semitism, then their movement is indeed problematic. I encourage them and hope that they listen, learn, and grow from this deep problem that they have. 

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Source(s):

The Women's March Has a Farrakhan Problem by The Atlantic - https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/womens-march/555122/

Is the Women's March Melting Down? by Tablet Magazine - https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/276694/is-the-womens-...

A Timeline of the Women's March Controversey by Glamour Magazine - https://www.glamour.com/story/timeline-womens-march-controversy 

Women's March Roiled by Accusations of Anti-Semitism by The New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/23/us/womens-march-anti-semitism.html

Women's March Controversy: Anti-Semitism Allegations and Farrakhan Ties - https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/12/21/18145176/feminism-womens-march...