…With Liberty and Justice for All

NPR has been doing a series on the March on Washington, which took place 50 years ago this month. It’s a fascinating look at a powerful movement in our country, and, I think, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Voters Rights Act, extremely relevant.

The 1963 March on Washington (officially the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and also called The Great March on Washington) was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in the United States. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech. According to Wikipedia, the March on Washington is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

I suggest you listen to some of the stories on NPR. They’re very powerful.

I was especially struck yesterday by the story of Bayard Rustin, who is credited with organizing the march. He’s posthumously receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. Two things about Rustin: he was black, and he was gay. For awhile he was discredited in the Civil Rights movement for the latter fact.

You should go listen to the story if you haven’t already.

This particular story caught my attention because earlier this week, a black feminist on Twitter started a hashtag: #Solidarityisforwhitewomen. As I read through the tweets, I was mystified by what I was seeing. Namely, the idea that mainstream feminism is racist.

Now, I’m not going to argue that that’s not true. If white women feminists are excluding other feminists of color, or races, or orientations, then I’ll be the first to say they are doing it wrong.

I guess I just want to say: I don’t think that solidarity is for white women only. I’ve been wanting to write about this, and unsure what to say. Fortunately, this woman said it for me, much better. To quote a part of her piece: “We cannot succeed… if we do it divided. There is a reality where oppression is so great that it creates tunnel vision to the causes of others.” Read the whole post.

So a black man who is gay has to fight for black rights before he can fight for gay rights. And maybe the movement for gay rights in this country has made other orientations feel even more marginalized. And maybe feminists have marginalized women of color. This whole brouhaha was started when a writer I’d never heard of decided to “quit the Internet”. In his rise as a male, white, feminist writer, he apparently was a ruthless asshole. (It’s kind of fascinating in the way a train wreck is.)

Marginalizing one group (or more than one group) to fight for equal rights doesn’t make sense. Advocating for equal rights should mean advocating for human rights regardless of sex, orientation, color, race, or religion. I suppose I sound naive or idealistic. And, again, it’s not being *blind* to those things. It is seeing those things clearly, and not caring. It’s understanding that even though people are different — and I think it’s pretty awesome that people are different — we should not treat them differently.