Whatcha mean "we", white girl?

by Cheryl Y. Hunt
"Pro-Life Womanist"

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily of Pregnant Pause.

Many times I have questioned and have been questioned about Black Women's role in the Feminist Movement. The most vivid time for me was the 1960's and 70's. But as we all must know the movement started a long time ago, before the end of slavery. As a matter of fact, back then women's rights and human rights were a divided issue. I cannot say that very much has changed.

Early feminists, attracted by the controversy and slow but steady success of the abolitionists, learned how to deal with due process and legislation from abolitionist leaders like Frederick Douglas. And when slaves were denied their basic human rights, many white women benefitted and were reluctant to decline a softer, more gentle lifestyle. So when blacks were not allowed to attend some of the most important meetings regarding women's voting rights and asked "Ain't I a Woman?", white women turned a blind eye.

The difference then was white women were fighting for the right to vote and black slaves were struggling for the right not to be beaten, murdered, raped, families parcelled out like livestock -- the right to be free.

These days the struggle continues but the goals remain entirely different. White women are looking for equality: equal pay for equal work, doors of opportunity to be open, and to be met with open arms and welcomed with scholarships, training, maternity leave, and low cost day-care. African-American women have been working for years in male-directed jobs. It's not equal pay we are looking for -- it's just more pay. More pay for doing more work, longer hours, worse shifs, shorter bathroom breaks, more pay for having fewer promotions but more seniority and productivity. And on a subliminal but very deliberate level, black women are fighting to be respected as living, breathing, caring females. Females with their own beauty and sensitivities rather than invisible asexual objects that are mere shadows of the white female image.

I compare our differences with the way minds clash with the abortion issue. Pro-Abortionists are concerned with the woman's freedom to do what she wants with her body. Pro-lifers concern is not with the woman's rights but with the child's right to live and not to be destroyed by the hand of her own mother. The Feminist Movement has always shown abortion to be a primary concern. I feel mast black women are against it, no matter how silent their protests. Having a child is blessing, but also a sacrifice.

Black women have learned the art of sacrifice. White women have learned the art of self.

I saw an example of the white woman's re-occuring blind eye disease recently when a black woman's children get taken away for leaving her kids home alone with the 15 year old in charge while the mother went to work. Then there was a fire in another unit of her low income apartment. "What a disgrace!", my colleagues cried. "She had no business leaving her kids alone." And on that same day, these two concerned mothers made arrangements for the one's 12 year old to watch the others' 3, 7, and 9 year olds while they went to play.

Until white women can understand, witness, and stop contributing to our daily obstacles we cannot ever hope to share a movement. As long as white Scarlett O'Hara wannabees can repeatedly watch a film like Gone with the Wind, and say how they would have loved to have lived back then, while the overt degradation of black people in the film makes black women such as myself so physically ill they cannot sit through the first 20 minutes, we will remain on opposite poles of true mutual respect. So when white feminists say we need to stick together, I say -- Whatcha mean "we"?

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Posted 14 Sep 2000.

Copyright 1997 by Blacks for Life.
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