Skip To Content

    "Dear White Women": An Open Letter From A Woman Of Color For Women's History Month

    This Women’s History Month, consider blowing the roof off the castle of white supremacy and getting to work on setting ALL of us women — Black, Indigenous, brown, and yes, you, white women — free.

    Dear white women during Women’s History Month:

    Let’s kick off the party with a bit of housekeeping. 

    1. Women’s History Month is, and has always been, for and about YOU. White women. A month explicitly dedicated to celebrating you, white women, sandwiched between all the other months de facto dedicated to celebrating you, white women.

    For you, it’s a month of marathon-watching white feminism, a compelling, dazzling, dizzying marathon of your achievements throughout time and space. White feminism, in short, is seeing everything through a gender lens, thereby erasing other marginalized identities, including race and ethnicity.

    Women’s History Month is actually White Women’s History and Present Month.

    Ergo for us, Black, Indigenous and brown women, it’s one gigantic reminder (or more aptly, one gigantic "fuck you") that we don’t count, aren’t your equals….aren’t even considered women by white society.

    2. While you rage against the machine of sexism and flaunt your legion accomplishments this month, you conveniently redact your role as oppressor, namely that of white supremacist.

    You conveniently ignore how you have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the benefits of having white skin in a white supremacist society. This necessarily comes at our expense: women who do not have white skin, women who are eaten alive by white supremacy culture and its executive branch — racism and xenophobia. At our expense by white men, of course, but also by you, white women.

    The women's suffrage movement was overwhelmingly white and fought for white women to gain the right to vote

    Now that we’ve grounded ourselves in the reality of what this month IS, let’s reimagine what it COULD BE: time for true, deep introspection about how you, white women, can empower yourselves to be better, do better.

    Set yourselves free.

    This requires you to (a) acknowledge where you sit in the hierarchy of American society, which is one tiny rung beneath white men, and mountains above all Black, Indigenous and brown folks, and to (b) do something about it.

    Beware, getting from (a) to (b) is a perilous journey. 

    White supremacy culture is a gigantic castle with oceans, rivers, tsunamis, mountains, jungles, floods, and fires surrounding it from every angle to ensure nothing can penetrate its hegemonic hold. These obstacles (after all, who besides white Jesus can move Mt. Everest or walk on water) are meant to make you feel overwhelmed and confused. These obstacles are meant to make you feel like you’ll drown, burn, choke, or freeze if you even attempt to get to the other side.

    These obstacles effectively ensure you believe the work is impossible

    This is not true. 

    The obstacles are created. They were made. By white men and women. They can be unmade. Unmade by you, the architects.

    These obstacles are a mirage — and by design, invisible. If you can’t see them, you can’t overcome them. And if you can’t overcome them, the status quo remains firmly intact. Which is how you pass down white supremacy culture to your kids, without even fully realizing it.

    Betty Friedan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique energized a new generation of white feminists, but overlooked the lives and experiences of women of color and the LGBTQ community.

    So, what are these obstacles?

    1. Oceans of denial that white supremacy hurts you too

    Steadfast denial that white supremacy is killing you, your children, your grandchildren. That white supremacy is killing humanity. If you truly believed this, you’d be spending a helluva lot more time fighting it than you are fighting those stubborn five pounds you gained last year.

    Assuming you can get past this and fully internalize that white supremacy is killing you too, we get to the next obstacle.

    2. Mountains of powerlessness

    White feminism requires you to singularly look through a gender lens, which enables you to see your gender oppression (noting the power you don’t have), while erasing your racial privilege (failing to note the white power you do have).  

    If you see yourself as powerless, that’s the end of the road. 

    Assuming you can get past this and fully internalize that you have a tremendous amount of power as a white person in this society, we get to the next obstacle.

    3. Tsunamis of imperfection

    The foundation of white womanhood is perfectionism, your need to be perfect. You won’t even dip your toes into waters where you might be less than perfect, and nothing is less perfect than (a) seeing yourself for what you are, a racist; (b) acknowledging you know less than us, Black and brown women, about your racism as you have to be the masterminds of everything; and (c) being held accountable for how you engage in anti-racism. 

    What do these obstacles look like together?

    It looks like a white woman telling me, "I acknowledge that I’m part of the problem, but you, Black and brown women, don’t get to tell me what my racism looks like as I obviously know myself better than you (you don’t) and my God, I’m being called out on Facebook for not deferring to you? THIS after I gave money to Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate. I’m done."

    This is your version of "don’t look a white gift horse in the mouth."

    The women's march movement that began after the election of former President Donald Trump has been widely criticized for excluding women of color.

    While many of you have fallen prey to one or all of these obstacles, plenty of you are coming through to the other side, namely the "do something about it" part.

    We know, because we work with you every day. We are seeing, in real life, in real time, white women waking up, internalizing how white supremacy is killing you, how you absolutely possess white power, and how you will not die by not doing anti-racism work perfectly, because you have realized that perfection doesn’t exist — and that it’s a trap meant to keep white women in your place, which is firmly right beneath white men.

    One example: Recently, a white woman who’d read White Women, a book I coauthored with Regina Jackson, posted a video on Instagram announcing the start of a new book club. She wanted 50 fellow white women to join her. Within 36 hours, she had more than 200 white women sign up, and the number is growing by the day. With just one social media post, she’s organized hundreds of white women committed to taking action against white supremacy, patriarchy's greatest tool. 

    Now that you are organizing in this fashion (and see how easy it was — one Instagram reel), imagine what you can do next. Organize to fight back against book bans, against the assault on our LGBTQ kids, against police brutality, against gun violence, against climate catastrophe.

    You can organize to elect people who will actually DO SOMETHING TOO.

    You can organize for healthcare, housing, education, renewable energy.

    You can organize to reclaim rights over your body.

    You can organize for YOUR liberation.

    Because you know, you deeply know, that you white women, like us Black and brown women, will never be liberated in this white supremacy culture.

    That your liberation is intricately tied to ours.

    That you will not be free if we are not free.

    And that spending an entire month throwing a parade for the white suffragettes and Ruth Bader Ginsburg might not be the greatest path to liberation.

    White women, your path to liberation lies within you, namely your ability, your courage to see yourselves for what you are — tools of white supremacy, tools of patriarchy, ergo tools of your own oppression.

    This Women’s History Month, instead of spending hours, days, weeks raising myriad roofs for Nancy Pelosi and Taylor Swift, consider blowing the roof off the castle of white supremacy and getting to work on setting ALL of us women — Black, Indigenous, brown, and yes, you, white women — free.