February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments of Black Americans throughout history. It is also a time where we should consider our own role in the fight for racial justice and equality in this country.
Feminism is rooted in the idea of equality: that men and women should be equal, and that women should be afforded the same basic rights as men. While gender equality is an important aspect of feminism, it isn’t and should not be the only one. We should also strive for equality for women of color, women with disabilities and LGBTQ women as well. After all, we cannot achieve true equality or justice if ALL of our sisters are not included.
“Ally” has become somewhat of a loaded term, with people across the political spectrum deriding it for various reasons. But no matter what word is used, standing together to fight for equality and justice should be something that we all aspire to — regardless of whether or not we are personally impacted by a particular issue.
The first key to being a successful ally is to view the word as a verb, not as an adjective. Take active steps, like speaking out against racial injustice, donating to groups that are doing the necessary work, and contacting your legislators to ask them to support laws that will make our society a more just place.
When it comes to racial justice, you can start becoming a true ally by listening to women of color. Hear their stories and their experiences, and resist the temptation to put yourself at center stage. Listen to understand, not to respond. And then do what is being asked of you, whether it is lending your voice or your time to a particular cause, or to simply continue to listen.
Next, expand your worldview by actively seeking out works by women of color. Read books by bell hooks, Audre Lorde and Angela Davis. Seek out the writings of Kimberlé Crenshaw, the Columbia Law School professor who coined the term intersectionality. We cannot understand the experiences of our Black sisters if we don’t read about it or learn from them.
Finally, make sure that your feminism is intersectional. This means that you will need to consider how the different elements of a person’s identity intersect and connect to form different layers of both privilege and oppression. In other words, when you are thinking about a feminist issue, consider it from a broader aspect: how does this impact Black women? Latina women? Asian women? By viewing these issues from the perspective of others, we will be better able to work towards our goal of true equality for ALL women.
This Black History Month, we are asking you to get on board with intersectional feminism and to make a commitment to being an ally for racial justice. We can learn and grow together in our strength to achieve our goal of equality for all.