Racism and Feminism: Are They Really the Same?

by laeti.y.felix on September 29, 2014 - 11:23pm

            Uproar of powerful emotions from the general public has arisen after the unarmed shooting of Michael Brown from Ferguson, Missouri.  But this time, feminists have stepped up to the plate on talking about racism.  In the article ‘Feminists Take on Race and Police Conduct Post-Ferguson’ written by Ruth Tam (published in the Washington Post on September 1st), it explains how Caucasian feminists are beginning to realize and acknowledge how much race has an impact on women’s lives.  Before, Caucasian feminists have put an extreme emphasis on gender inequality and income inequality between men and women.  The focal point then drastically shifted from gender issues towards how race puts a definitive strain on both men and women, especially those in visible minority groups.  But not only has the shooting of Brown created a widespread reaction amongst Caucasian feminists, it has also given confidence to feminists in visible minority groups to voice their opinions and values.

            The article elaborates a lot on what feminism was seen as previously, especially through the eyes of Caucasians but does not explain in depth on what ‘race’ is (or what the author’s definition of ‘race’ is).  People define race in many different ways; some people define race as different skin colours, others believe race, ethnicity and culture are one in the same, and other people claim to not even believe in race at all.  Does the author understand what race is in a biological term?  Does she understand it as a clear skin colour/tone issue?  In scientific perspectives, race is separate from an individual’s biological make up.  Someone cannot tell what someone’s skin colour used to be from looking at a skeleton.  So where do we draw the line of how black you have to be in order to qualify to be a victim of racism and discrimination?

            I must agree with the author that nowadays, in our contemporary and modern world, that men and women of visible minority have never had the chance or courage to speak up and speak out about their experience of being targeted in many different ways.  Women of colour may have a harder time than Caucasian women to obtain a job or career, not only because they are women but because of their skin colour.  Men and women of colour have been expected to accept that their lives will be hard because of their skin colour, to move on and not complain about it.  Only now, in the last few years, have individuals from different minority groups begin to bring attention to their difficult experiences.  What kind of difficult experiences?  Difficulties like lack of job opportunities, less programs of support, immigration laws, domestic violence and etc.

            I have so many unresolved questions that are being toiled in my mind about our society’s current situation.  First off, no one has a clear understanding of what ‘race’, ‘ethnicity’, and ‘culture’ are. No one is on the same page.  And because of this, no one can really start a good conversation or debate about what racism is and what it does to people.  And does it take this long to give courage to women of colour to come out of their shell to talk about their experiences; it takes a shooting for it to happen?  Does it take a young unarmed man to die at the hands of armed policemen for Caucasian women to realize the full depth of how much skin colour really plays into what happens to the lives of so many people who aren’t of the same skin colour?

            The public needs to be educated about all aspects of the spectrum.  People need to understand what racism truly is and how the negative associations we have built up in our heads are truly our imagination; people need to experience what it is like to be discriminated against in order to help speak out against racism and discrimination.  If people keep saying that it is wrong to be racist and it should not be done, but have never been discriminated against, are these people ignorant?  Maybe, but maybe not.  They are maybe ignorant in the sense that they don’t know how it feels to be in the victim’s shoes but in attempt to speak out against racism, they probably have good intentions in their actions.  The same thing has to be done with feminism.  People must be educated in what the true essence of what feminism is, what its goals are as a whole, and etc.  Many people believe that feminism is solely about giving more power to women and making women equal in all aspects to men.  But feminism is not only about this.  There is unequal footing between both men and women that must be levelled out.  Feminism is not only dealing with the gender of individuals, but it also deals with the background of individuals, the race and culture of individuals, and many other things that play along with it.  For example if an African American women goes in for a job interview with the right requirements for the job, but does not get offered the job, there may be several reasons why.  The simplest reason may be that she was not what the employers were looking for.  Other factors may have played a role.  She may have been victim to the double jeopardy card.  What is double jeopardy?  The employer may not have liked women and may not have liked African Americans, and the fact that she was both may have been the reason why she did not get the job.

            The fact the women of colour are beginning to come out of their shell to also raise awareness about feminism is a great stride in the positive direction, but it has unfortunately taken this long to gain a good traction.  It has taken an extreme push into that direction for that to happen, that one catalyst moment was when they saw a young unarmed man of a visible minority being shot and killed in the open for everyone to see.  So what else needs to be done? Are things at a satisfactory level?  Who will have even more courage to educate the public about what racism and feminism is?  We have come this far to raise awareness about race and feminism, but where do we go from here?

Comments

First off I would like to state that I agree with what your trying to say here. How the difference in discrimination isn't the problem its the simple fact that racism and sexism are still alive and well in today's society, especially considering it is the 21 century.
In class we learned about intersectionality, which is what you are stating about the racism and feminism summed up into one word. It means that no one form of discrimination stands alone. That groups of people,these being minorities, have more than one aspect to be discriminated against and therefore suffer more than a white middle class woman, who ironically, makes up the majority of feminist representation. Women suffer from discrimination that fact is irrefutable, but black women are twice as likely to be discriminated against based sole on the fact that they are members of two minority groups. As you stated, minorities need to start speaking up if they want to be heard but it is also the responsibility of the less effected women (i.e. white middle class) to support their fellow feminists in being heard, and to make an effort as to not over shadow anyone since they are at the forefront when it comes to being acknowledged. Why this is such an issue is the fact that you can't target one group of discrimination if you expect to resolve the actual problem. You need to target discrimination as a whole since people are multifaceted and don't sole fit into one of these categories. Until this subject is approached on a larger scale and not picked at by different minorities things are going to stay the same for quite some time.
If you would like to read more about intersectionality, here is a link.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10572435/Intersectional-fem...

I really enjoyed reading your point of view. I have noticed similarities in racism and sexism in the past, but what you said about "double jeopardy" in regard to individuals who happen to be female and non-white is something I hadn't considered before. I think that you are correct in saying that women of colour are judged much more than white women or men of colour in the workplace, and certainly much more than the caucasian male. Some may say that it is hard to generalize and difficult to know if the real reason why a woman of colour may be denied job opportunities etc. is due to her sex and colour, but there have been enough known instances of such things happening that it is still a very real problem. Thank you for your post!

I sincerely enjoyed the details in your post. There are many points that I agree with in regards to your points of view on feminism and race. Intersectionality is a real issue still. Although feminism has helped women in general come a long way, being a woman of a different race, sexual orientation, religion and/or even class can heavily play on how the world views a person. There is something that is called Privilege; which is what some people (mainly straight white men) have above all others. The concept is that these people possess privilege that allows them to navigate throughout all social systems. This article gives you an idea of what male privilege is http://amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/ . Similarly, white women have more Privilege over women of color, or of different sexual orientation, etc. It is sad that it took a shooting for Caucasian feminists to realise there is something wrong, as it should have always been part of their plight. I understand that women in general were fighting for equality as a whole; however, discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes. I am glad that minority groups are beginning to speak out more, but much like you stated, is this enough? How else can and should we push these issues to make sure that the general public understands that there is still so much inequality and unfairness in the world?

First off I would like to say that you have some great points that are very interesting! I am in a gendered world views class and this topic relates very closely to both racism and feminism. Women and visible minorities are both effected when it comes to work, just because of their race and gender. This rises the topic of intersectionality; how both race and gender overlap and emphasizes the idea that race and gender tend to justify and support one another by reinforcing one another. Amoung this is privilege. Privilege is an unearned asset that helps people navigate through any and all social systems more easily, in this case that would dependant on your gender and race.