The Women’s March on Washington solidarity march in Lexington was inter-generational, peaceful and kid-friendly. The weather was great, and people came from cities all over Kentucky. Turnout estimates are in the thousands, more than any I’ve heard or seen at a protest in Lexington.
What made this march different from others?
I began thinking about the MLK Day march, the marches for racial justice and the protests against the perpetuation of racist imagery at Cheapside. Why was this women’s solidarity march greater in attendance and held so much more citywide excitement?
White women may feel that these other marches don’t apply to us. We may feel they are important but we do not make the time in our schedules or the same impassioned Facebook posts for these protests.
For Saturday’s march, we showed up because we experience sexism daily and it hurts. We are victims of sexual assault and are made to feel powerless. The government is limiting our reproductive rights and we are outraged.
These are legitimate reasons to protest and raise our voices together. However, we are not as strong as we think we are. For us to show up on Saturday but not ask ourselves why we are absent at the protests for racial justice, undermines our movement.
It keeps our conversations only about us, even if that is not what we are intending. If we are absent at the marches and organizations which actually fight for justice for our sisters of color, our words ring hollow, however loud they may have sounded to us.
So, again, what made this march different? It was different because we haven’t realized that the system which is limiting our bodily autonomy is the very same system which has always oppressed people of color.
It is the same system which resulted in 53 percent of white women voting for Donald Trump, as opposed to the 94 percent of black women and 68 percent of Latina women who voted for Clinton. We need to ask why.
When we feel the rage at a male senator dictating choices we can make while pregnant, there should also be rage against the system which oppresses our sisters of color, discriminates against and criminalizes their families and produces a necessity for them to fight for justice in many dimensions in their daily lives — not just on a Saturday in January.
Fighting for reproductive rights and women’s health rights is inextricably linked to the fights for racial justice (such as Black Lives Matter and Taking Back Cheapside), fights for opportunity for children and families of immigrants (such as supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals bill), indigenous and Native American rights (such as the Dakota Access Pipeline fight), and the fight for transgender rights.
Saturday showed us that we are motivated and we are many. But we are only as strong as our entire communities, only as strong as when we are “intersectional feminists,” meaning we are inclusive and supportive of all women, recognizing that, historically, “feminism” has left people behind.
So what can we do?
We can put all the anger and energy we felt Saturday into support for the other protests and movements which, really, aren’t so “other” at all.
Let’s attend a meeting of the Lexington chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Let’s listen to the speeches and read the writings of people of color to better understand.
Let’s begin the process of unlearning harmful racial bias by recognizing it and rejecting it. Let’s talk about this and become stronger in doing so.
Laura Greenfield, a farmer in Paris, is a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.