There is no place for Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati in the 2018 Cincinnati Women’s March. Despite our unshaken belief that women’s liberation is essential to black liberation, our political principles are at odds with the “Hear Our Vote” theme for this year’s march. Furthermore, we recognize that the national event and its sister marches (like one in Cincinnati) have pushed aside the concerns of women of color from its inception. Therefore, while thousands plan to march on January 20, 2018 with intention of supporting women’s, our organization will not be among them.
Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati would like to be part of a march for women’s liberation, but we know the 2018 Cincinnati Women’s March is not it. Prior to the 2018 “Hear Our Vote” theme being publicly announced, we were interested in attending and speaking at the event. Once the current theme was proposed, our organization as well as several other local leaders who are women of color raised our concerns about the theme with organizers of the Cincinnati Women’s March. Our concerns were pushed aside. Our only request was to change the theme from “Vote” to “Voice.”
It is extremely telling that the Cincinnati Women’s March were approached by women of color and their concerns were ignored. This action fits the narrative that unfolded with the inaugural national Women’s March in 2017. The response of this year’s organizers suggests that ignoring and silencing people of color is not a rookie mistake, but a code of conduct.
Our organization operates based on 11 political principles, the ninth principle explicitly states that we support mass action and do not believe that deep-going changes will be made through the ballot box. We do not respond to calls to action that filter the power of our community down to casting votes.
The Women’s March is a gathering and a display of power, but it is also a poorly veiled campaign to elect more Democrats to “resist Trump.” The main demand being made of marchers is to register to vote and the “take back the polls.” We believe this is the weakest demand possible and the tacked on broader demands have little meaning when the main message is to “pull a lever.” The main demand not only disenfranchises countless black women and women of color, but also totally misses the point of women’s liberation. Everyone in the United States does not have a vote – whether because of immigration status, age, prior criminal convictions, access to official identification, transportation issues – but everyone does have a voice. Even if all women could vote, the electoral system does not let anyone vote their way to liberation from oppression.
The fight for women’s liberation has never been led by the Democratic party or any other party that props up and supports this social system – at best these parties have tailed public sentiments and given lip service. If women’s liberation was crucial to any of these parties it would be unthinkable that women are still being denied access to safe, affordable abortions or lacking essential preventative and curative healthcare all together. If women’s liberation was a priority to Democrats or any political party of the rich, it would be unthinkable that non-binary and transgender people are still struggling for accommodations in all public arenas – since ability to determine your gender identity and expressions is another facet of women’s liberation from oppression. With these realities in mind, we reject the idea that the Democratic Party is somehow serving up women’s liberation.
The 2017 Women’s March was initially named the Million Woman March – the name of a momentous 1997 Philadelphia march led for and by black women. Countless black women spoke out against the co-opting of the 1997 march and only then was the name changed to the Women’s March (known as the Women’s March on Washington before it was set to take place in other cities).
After the name change, women of color still had to fight for different representations of womanhood and the struggles we face. The event organizers positioned the march as reaction to the threat of Donald Trump’s crudeness. However, many women of color are aware that the fear and hatred that he provokes is nothing new. When organizers were challenged to be more intersectional, women of color were attacked for being “divisive” and overly sensitive by online commenters and high profile women activists. Somehow, the event that claimed to support all women adopted the viewpoint that liberal politics focused on the non-working class white women experience was more important than listening to the voices of women of color.
On the day of event, women of color were also silenced at the main march in Washington D.C. Several members of mostly white crowd shouted “march” throughout the speeches by some women of color. Finally, in the wake of event, many attendees touted how kindly the marchers were treated by police and remarked that no one was arrested – completely ignoring that the sheer whiteness of the event (and politics that threaten nothing) had shielded attendees. The naïve protest goers claimed the reaction of the police was simply because the Women’s March was nonviolent – not unlike many protests against police brutality that ended in dozens of arrests.
In 2018, Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati will not be silenced or pressured into supporting electoral politics by Women’s March organizers. We will not participate and encourage our supporters to do the same. In response to the politics of this year’s march we will be holding our own political event for women’s liberation on January 20, 2018 at 3pm.
We urge you not to stand by and let women of color and working-class women be sold out once again by the Democratic Party. The Women’s March is not feminism, it’s liberalism and liberalism doesn’t liberate anyone.