White Women: Let's Stop Giving Each Other Awards
For the white people out there: nobody but Black, Indigenous, people of color leaders should be leading anti-racist, equity and inclusion initiatives. Recently, Camber Outdoors erased Teresa Baker’s work, the equity leader behind the CEO Diversity Pledge, and announced their own diversity pledge, despite Baker reaching out to them to ask if Camber wanted to collaborate. This is a “don’t” of anti-racism 101, but this is what happens when we keep our conversations at the surface level of “diversity” and we fail to address the structure of white supremacy. Camber Outdoors issued an apology via Instagram stating, “We have a responsibility to do better, to understand cultural and racial sensitivities and to move forward in a manner that is inclusive.”
This isn’t about being “culturally and racially insensitive.” This is about white supremacy and how we white women keep our positions of power and comfort by co-opting the work of Black women, Indigenous women, and women of color. What are we doing to interrogate and dismantle our commitment to white supremacy? That is a question we need to #neverstopexploring because we keep maintaining the status quo even when we say we are “dedicated” and “committed” to inclusion. White feminist empowertisement is not the answer. Following the lead of radical indigenous women, Black women, and women of color who have been working to dismantle systemic injustice for centuries is. We need to examine our commitment to whiteness.
As a white woman myself I have been guilty of co-opting Black women’s work. I wrote an entire essay about my childhood and relationship with nature by inserting bell hooks quotes throughout as if I could liken my cishet, white suburban upbringing to her uniquely queer, Black woman experience. This is absolutely not okay. It is this kind of erasure, entitlement, and co-optation that keeps white supremacy intact. The only way to stop ourselves from co-opting the work of Black, Indigenous, women of color if we take the time to examine our commitment to the construct of whiteness. What will it take for us to step aside and give up our power?