What The Reaction To Sandra Bland's Case Reveals About White Feminism
Sandra Bland, an African-American woman arrested for failing to use her turn signal, was found dead in her jail cell three days after her arrest in July. On Wednesday, December 23, a Texas grand jury presiding over the case decided not to indict anyone in relation to Bland’s death and protesters — who had previously called for justice in this case — began anew.
Yet a seemingly important group that should presumably also oppose this injustice has seemed to remain quiet: mainstream feminist groups. While activists associated with groups like #BlackLivesMatter have lined the streets, groups focused on gender equality seem to view the issue of police brutality as one related to race and therefore irrelevant. The choice to do so is not just problematic in relation to Sandra Bland's specific case, but evidence of a larger issue at hand: white feminism.
White feminism is essentially feminism that doesn't take into account intersectionality, which is defined as a “frame that recognizes the multiple aspects of identity that enrich our lives and experiences and that compound and complicate oppressions and marginalizations" according to Jarune Uwujaren and Jamie Utt of Everyday Feminism. Put more simply, it’s the idea that gender and race can't be considered separate issues: A movement that seeks to achieve equality must do so for everybody. Anybody who calls themselves a "feminist," who believes in equality, should believe all women should have the same rights and be entitled to the same voice no matter their race, gender-identity, or any other factor.
Intersectionality also recognizes that women who don't identify as cisgender and/or white face unique obstacles based on their identities that can't be ignored, either. Women of color, transgender women, women living with disabilities and others undeniably face unique forms of discrimination that their cis- and white counterparts do not. This reality is evident in women's everyday experiences — like microagressions — as well as in the highest ranks of our society. For example, out of the 98 women serving in Congress—already a low number when you total in both the number of Congressmen serving in the House of Representatives—only fourteen are African-American women.
Ultimately, the reaction to Sandra Bland's case demonstrates yet again how white feminism delegitimizes the feminist movement as a whole. A movement that fails to acknowledge serious violence and discrimination faced by some women — like Sandra Bland and women who have face similar police brutality — can't truly fight for the end of these phenomenon more broadly. We can, and should, do better.
More articles by Category: Feminism, Misogyny, Race/Ethnicity, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexism, Sexualized violence, Racism, Intersectionality, White supremacy, Women of color