By Stephanie Younger •
Demanding labor from Black youth is rooted the anti-Black idea that our worthiness relies on what we do and how much we do, which affects the fight for our liberation. White feminists often bully young Black feminists into electing our way towards liberation. There are so many Black youth like myself who can’t gloss over the fact that conservatives and liberals alike are champions for the carceral state and policing. Instead of fighting voter suppression, white feminists demand labor from young Black feminists, by telling us to “just vote,” during a revolution that calls for the abolition of policing and incarceration and divests from obstacles in the fight for Black liberation, such as electoral politics. Instead of organizing 53% of white female voters who helped Trump win in 2016 into not electing him for another term, white feminists choose to blame young Black feminists for Trump, over our criticisms of Joe Biden. So who are white feminists to blame Black feminists for Trump over our critiques?
Most recently, white feminists are bullying young Black feminists into conveniently glossing over Biden’s actions, and they even expect us to do so when they tokenize Black women who are maintaining what we’re fighting. I see it as a type of feminism that idolizes politicians like Kamala Harris, who has bragged about sending Black youth through the school-to-prison pipeline and locking up their parents, and who has degraded people who advocate for schools, not prisons. I see it as type of feminism that silences the critiques of Black people affected by Kamala Harris’ actions and who are fighting what she maintains. When white feminists silence Black youth by telling us to “just vote” our way towards liberation, they are demanding that we make it easier for them to avoid even the thought of white supremacy existing. They are okay with the existence of white supremacy, as long as its enforcers are politicians they idolize at the expense of Black youth. What Trump does has opened a lot of people’s eyes, yet white feminists are apathetic towards acknowledge and fight oppression when it doesn’t affect them.
To put this apathy and shaming into perspective, many white women were entitled to the point where they spoke down to Black Feminist Collective and its supporters when it wasn’t convenient. Black Feminist Collective is a platform that I built when I was 14 years old, and a platform I built for us–Black womanists and Black feminists. Our comment sections were becoming a platform where white women co-opted Black Feminist Collective as a self-improvement space for them, and that co-optation came in full force when I called out Joe Biden’s comments against protestors on Black Feminist Collective’s Facebook page. I quoted Kirsten West Savali, who wrote an op-ed for Essence last year called “Joe Biden is the White Moderate Dr. King Warned Us About.” Many people responded to the post by saying that I’m just mad that Bernie Sanders dropped out, that I want “4 more years of Trump,” and one white woman said to “cut the sh*t.” However, there were two comments that stuck out to me:
“It’s Trump or Biden. Which do you prefer? I think some things he says are taken out of context. Sounds like disgruntled Bernie peeps again. You have one vote and two choices. Period. End. I guarantee he will have black and POC in his administration. Look at the big picture.”
Her responses to Black people who replied to her comment:
“Some might read this as a sign to not vote at all which would be a serious mistake. He is collaborating with a lot of different progressive groups. Save it for after the election.”
“Social media call outs [aren’t] going to send any kind of message to Biden. He is working with Black and POC groups already to get input and feedback. Maybe work within one of those groups to make your voice heard? I’m trying to understand. Sorry if I offended anyone.”
“He wants to hold people that break the law accountable. How tf is that controversial?”
LET’S UNPACK WHY THESE COMMENTS PROVE MLK’S POINT.
Over 57 years ago, MLK warned us of white moderates and their stances on Black freedom and Black liberation. In articles that I wrote earlier this year, I have quoted MLK and analyzed how this excerpt manifests nowadays.
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in their stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”
When Black youth criticize Joe Biden for being an obstacle in the fight for our liberation, white liberals silence us by telling us to “wait after the election,” for our liberation and “we can hold Biden accountable after we vote Trump out.” This embodies the white moderates “who constantly advise the Negro to ‘wait a more convenient season.'” However, they will be a lot more comfortable with the existence of white supremacy as long as the person maintaining it isn’t Trump. The white woman who questioned why Joe Biden’s calling for arrests is harmful is an embodiment of the white moderates “who [are] more devoted to order than to justice” and “who constantly [say]: “I agree with you in the goal that you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.”” Not only do individual people make these comments, but the media and politicians are complicit in policing the way Black people respond to anti-Black violence. Let alone calling for the arrests of protestors, co-authoring the 1994 Crime Bill, calling Black youth “predators on our streets,” Biden has said that he plans to increase funding for the police in an interview, and stated that he is in fact, against defunding the police in the first Presidential debate. A couple of weeks ago, he tweeted his support to the Louisville police and told protestors that “violence is not the answer.” Earlier this week, Biden tweeted that he doesn’t “believe we have to choose between law and order and racial justice in America.” White moderates have shown that they are not concerned about anti-Black violence, but that they are concerned about the way Black people respond to anti-Black violence.
As white liberals attempt to silence Black people, they enable each other to co-opt Black people’s struggles and the fight for our liberation. At my house, we like to call this co-optation “visiting Blackness,” which refers to white liberals who convince Black people that they’re “here to help,” and “here to listen.” “Visiting Blackness” also refers to white liberals who expect to be congratulated for doing the bare minimum and get overwhelming support from their communities just for calling themselves “activists” alone. On top of that, they get even more support for picking and choosing what they find convenient about Black people and our liberation, and walking away from our communities to benefit from that.
Instead of redistributing their wealth and giving reparations to Black people, and protecting us from white supremacists online, white liberals posted a black square on Instagram. Instead of protecting Black people from the police who are targeting us, white liberals who showed up to protests were often there for nice photo ops, and for cool points to benefit their businesses and their “well-meaning” nonprofits. Instead of extending their support to Black people when we are in pain, white liberals (who were previously a big source of my stress in the work that I do) demanded that I keep them “updated” on the fight for Black lives. White liberals who refused to accomplice themselves with Black liberation and degraded me for not putting any of my hopes into politicians who don’t care for Black people, suddenly want to be a part of conversations for and by Black people about our liberation. My Blackness is not for white improvement or consumption. I can’t take a break from my Blackness, and I cannot wait for my liberation by putting all of my hopes into politicians every four years.
Since creating Black Feminist Collective in 2017, Stephanie Younger has been passionate about womanism, and she is an 18-year-old who fights for a world free of prisons, without the police and systems of policing.