Intersectionality, a term coined by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, is used to define the ways in which multiple social issues are interconnected and multidimensional. Often used in the context of feminism, it can be used to describe the issues in which women can face multiple adversities other than gender, including but not limited to race, class, and sexual orientation. Intersectionality and its presence or lack thereof were especially important in the recent historically relevant Women’s March on Washington.
On the day after of the inauguration of Donald Trump into the office of the President of the United States, millions of Americans stepped out of bed and made their way to city centers to join the massive waves of colorful protesters uniting for a myriad of causes both relating to women’s rights and the rights of all human beings. In Atlanta, marchers were mobilizing in brightly colored raincoats and muddy boots at the Center for Civil and Human Rights for the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women.
The Women’s March took place on January 21, 2017 the day after the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. The march was organized by Teresa Shook, Bob Bland, and others and what began as a response to a newly elected president’s detrimental views on women’s rights, bloomed into a march garnering support from millions of people both in the United States and around the world, on all seven continents.
The beauty of the march was in just that. The mass unification of people from all different, races, classes, genders, and ideologies unifying for one single cause of uplifting human rights. People cheering and chanting in unison, complimenting and taking pictures of each other’s signs, helping other climb their way on top of hills to get a better view of the vast number of attendees marching in solidarity with one another. The feelings of love and community were undeniable.
However, I’m sure we can all agree that this space was not created for black people, more specifically black women. According to CNN exit polls 94% of black women voters cast their votes for Hillary Clinton, while the majority of white women (52%) elected Donald Trump. Despite these statistics, it was evident at both the march in Washington D.C. and the march here in Atlanta, did a deplorable job of giving black women the credit they deserved. However this was largely unsurprising to the black community. Maada Thomas, a Morehouse student who did not attend the march posits that “black women never get the recognition they deserve for anything.” While he wishes this was not the truth he recognizes that this is often the case with several victories that black women are responsible for.
This phenomena can be seen directly through the presence of police at the Women’s March in comparison to police presence at the numerous Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place. Sarah Rudewalker, a professor in the Department of English at Spelman College who attended the March last weekend, recounted that “being raised white in America, [she] was not taught to fear the police”. This was evident to be true for many other white protestors as they marched by cheering for police officers as they sat calmly on their bicycles waving. Rudewalker continues in explaining that the police presence is not only how he citizens view the police, but also how police view the citizens. Thus, a crowd of white women is not seen as intrinsically dangerous by police, whereas a crowd of black women are.
As an attendee of the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women I witness thousands of individuals advocating for a number of causes close to their heart. Not only marching for their sisters, mothers, and wives, but for the husbands, brothers, family members, loved ones, friends, and those forgotten by time. So in truth, the Women’s March did not stand for black women, and it did not focus on intersectionality. But although our strides for progress may not always be in the direction we would like, in the words of Clayborne Carson, “we must be ‘long distance’ runners and take pleasure in small victories.