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. Liberals have been demanding labor from young Black feminists to electing our way towards Black liberation. There are so many Black youth 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, liberals 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 electoral system. Instead of organizing 52% of white female voters who helped Trump win in 2016 into not electing him for another term, white feminists are choosing to blame young Black feminists for Trump, over our criticisms of Joe Biden. Who are white feminists to do so?
More recently, white liberal feminists have been 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 for the abolition of what she maintains, which is the prison industrial complex. 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 white supremacy as long as the enforcers of its existence are politicians they idolize at the expense of Black youth. What Trump does has opened a lot of people’s eyes, yet white feminists remain apathetic towards oppression when it doesn’t affects them, and when it’s not being enforced by the politician of their liking.
To put this apathy and shaming into perspective, many white liberal women were entitled to the point where they were co-opting Black Feminist Collective as their own self-improvement space. That co-optation came in full force when I called out Joe Biden’s comments against “violent” protestors on Black Feminist Collective’s Facebook page in August. I quoted Kirsten West Savali, who wrote an op-ed for Essence Magazine last year entitled, “Joe Biden is the White Moderate Dr. King Warned Us About.” Black Feminist Collective is a platform that I built when I was 14 years old for us; Black womanists and Black feminists. White liberal feminists were bullying me and supporters of Black Feminist Collective in our own space, over our critiques of the Democratic party. Many people responded to the post by saying that I’m “mad” that Bernie Sanders ended his campaign, that I want “4 more years of Trump.” One white woman said she “suggests cutting the sh*t.” However, there were two responses that stood out to me:
1) “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.”
These were her responses to Black folks who called her out for talking down to them:
“Good to hear. But I’m not sure the point then? 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 isn’t going to send any kind of message to Biden. He is working with progressive and Black and POC groups already to get input and feedback. Maybe work within one of those groups to have your voice heard? He wants to listen. I’m trying to understand. Sorry if I offended anyone.”
2) “He wants to hold people who 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 critiqued their stances on Black liberation. In an article about the 2020 election I wrote earlier this year, I have analyzed how MLK’s critiques of the white moderate is relevant today. Liberals embody the white moderate by advising Black people to “save it for after the election,” during a global uprising in Black life calling to defund and abolish the police.
“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 the 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.”– Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” (1963)
When Black youth criticize Biden for being an obstacle in the fight for our liberation, liberals set the timetable for our liberation and silence us by saying, “wait after the election and then we can hold them accountable.” This embodies the white moderates “who constantly advise the Negro to ‘wait for a more convenient season.’ However, they will be a lot more complacent with the existence of white supremacy as long as the President maintaining it isn’t Trump. The white woman who questioned why Biden’s calling for arrests of protestors is harmful embodies that of the white moderate ‘who is more devoted to order than to justice’ and ‘who constantly says: “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 co-authoring the 1994 Crime Bill and calling Black youth “predators on our streets,” Biden has said that he plans to increase funding for the police in an interview. In the first Presidential debate, he stated that he is, in fact, against defunding, let alone abolishing the police. A couple of weeks ago, Biden and Harris tweeted in support of 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 in the least concerned about anti-Black violence, but that they are concerned about the way Black people respond to anti-Black violence.
As liberals attempt to silence Black people by setting the timetable for our liberation, they enable each other to co-opt Black struggle. At my house, my family likes to call this co-optation “visiting Blackness,” which specifically 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 us to congratulate them for doing the bare minimum, and white liberals who idolize each other 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 struggle, and walking away from our communities to capitalize on our trauma.
Instead of redistributing their wealth to Black people, and protecting us from white supremacists online, white liberals extended their “solidarity” by posting a black square on Instagram during the uprisings in defense of Black life. Instead of protecting Black people from the police in riot gear targeting us at protests, white liberals who showed up to protests were often there for photo ops, and using those photo ops to capitalize on Black trauma by promoting their businesses and their “well-meaning” nonprofits. Instead of extending their support to Black people when we are in pain, white liberals, some 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 Black people who don’t seek freedom from the electoral system, assume that spaces exist for their consumption and intervene in our conversations. My Blackness is not for white self-improvement or white consumption. I can’t take a break from my Blackness, and I cannot wait for my liberation by looking to the electoral system for freedom.
Stephanie Younger is 18-year-old student who created Black Feminist Collective in 2017, and fights for a world abolished of prisons, police and systems of policing, and is passionate about its intersections with womanism.