Coretta Scott King Feminists

Rebecca Griffin, a columnist with Calcalist, has a message for Black feminists who are critical of their white counterparts: give white women their props.

After seeing a tweet from writer Ijeoma Oluo that read, “Lord be a twitter block to save me from White Feminism,” Griffin called Black women who criticize “white feminism” racist.

After being reminded that there have been many iterations of feminism and that the movement has at times excluded to women of color, Griffin doubled down on her stance.

Sigh. Where do I even begin? 

Griffin’s tweets are not only offensive to Black women like bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, Paula Giddings, and countless others who argued that white feminists have not always addressed the challenges specific to women of color, but it’s also factually inaccurate.

Griffin asserts white women are responsible for the women’s suffrage movement, and thus the reason Black women have rights, but she clearly needs a history lesson on the struggle of Black women for freedom and equality, particularly in the West. While white women fought to be seen as equal to their male counterparts, Black women and men were striving to be treated as humans—a fact that was never in question for white women.

Furthermore, when Griffin falsely argues white women alone made it possible for women of color to win equal rights she erases the contributions of Black women like Harriet Forten Purvis and her sister Margaretta Forten, founders of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first Black female newspaper editor in North America, who worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the National Woman Suffrage Association.

By asserting that solely white women laid the groundwork for the feminist movement Griffin eliminates the work of Mary Church Terrell of the National Association of Colored Women; Ida B. Wells, who not only railed against lynching, but also founded the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, a group that worked exclusively for women’s rights; and Sojourner Truth, whose powerful “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech confronted both racism and sexism at once.

While Griffin is right to proclaim that feminism is for everybody, marginalizing the longstanding work and concerns of Black women shows just how much she doesn’t know about the movement.

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