Recent events in this country that have been sparked in large part by the murder of George Floyd have caused the Board and staff of WomenNC to reflect once again on the persistence of systematic racism in this county. As June is Pride month, we are also reminded of other insidious ways stigma and oppression operate to harm the LGBTQ+ community. These are but two examples of the ways in which our multiple and intersecting identities have often led to immeasurable brutality by those who wield power against those whose fervent wish is to be free—from coercion, injustice and inequality—and free to flourish as individuals in community.
We believe that there is hope that feminism can bring to our current plight. As UNWomen notes: “Standing up for women’s rights means standing up against all forms of inequality, including discrimination based on gender, race, class, age, disability, sexuality or immigrant status. As a feminist organization, we always stand for and work towards a just, peaceful and equal world.” WomenNC understands feminism as an emancipatory project and is focused on researching and understanding the ways in which all women with their multiple identities are subjected to injustices and then providing policy solutions to ameliorate the situation.
We note the immense power that Black women’s voices bring to the understanding of this terrible moment. Perhaps we can hear their voices so clearly because they experience the intersection of race and gender that highlights the multiplicity of oppression in its many forms. Sometimes those voices are loud and angry,
as Marsha P. Johnson’s was in fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in the Stonewall riots more than 50 years ago. Sometimes those voices are quiet, persistent, but so prescient as Kimberlé Crenshaw’s has been in articulating the concept of intersectionality that helps to explain multifaceted oppression.
Too often those voices are unheard or muffled. Where was the sustained outcry and protest for Sandra Bland’s killing, why does Breonna Taylor’s death often seem like an afterthought in understanding police brutality? Why do the deaths of these women appear to be less important than those of men? The unheard cries of these women mirror those of untold numbers of domestic violence survivors whose pleas for help are often drowned out by other concerns, and of the underpaid female healthcare professionals and cleaners in this pandemic, who we know represent 70% of all such essential workers.
If our current crisis highlights a dire situation, that we have now come to celebrate Pride month gives us (if only) a glimmer of hope about the possibility for change. If the current crisis makes us lament the state of race relations in this country, then listen below to Professor Carol Anderson, Chair of Emory University’s African Studies Department, patiently explain in her measured, precise, eloquent and persuasive voice how much of America’s past can be seen as a series of deliberate policy choices by the White power structure systematically designed to oppress Black people. If knowledge can become power, then let this Black woman give us this wisdom to be a part of the change we want to see in the world.
WomenNC’s response to the crisis is twofold:
- To listen and learn from individuals whose existential knowledge of oppression provides those with privilege a way to understand and change the status quo.
- To highlight the voices of women who know, including those of our young scholars, of the oppression and the silence or hushed tones that accompany their call for equality.
Maria Murray Riemann, Executive Director
Board of Directors, WomenNC