Recently, our country witnessed events fueled by racism, hatred and bigotry in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis, waving flags and torches, marched through the streets chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. Heather Heyer, protesting peacefully against these hateful messages, lost her life, as did two Virginia State Police officers.
Heyer, who died standing up for racial justice in Charlottesville, Virginia, is being remembered as strong, capable, and passionate about fighting against oppression and for equality. But, on white supremacist websites, writers and commenters taunted her grieving family members calling her derogatory names and writing that she was a “useless” woman because she, at 32, had no children. This is just the latest example of the clear link between white supremacy and racism and sexism, and why liberation for all requires both gender and racial justice.
White supremacists will assemble in the Bay Area this weekend, flying banners of terrorism that purport that people with “white blood” have a birthright claim over United States soil. This is not new – nor is it a problem in some other area of the country. In fact, this story is as old as the United States. White supremacists have long tried to lay claim to land that was never theirs, and in California alone there are 79 hate groups organized to terrorize and eliminate people of color, women, and transgender people, and those who would defend our humanity and our right to exist.
It is particularly ironic for this moment that August 26, when white supremacists are planning a rally at Crissy Field in San Francisco, is also Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates an early moment in women’s suffrage when women secured the right to vote after decades of organizing. Even as we mark this occasion, however, we cannot ignore the impact of white supremacy on this historical milestone. Back in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, only white women could exercise that right to vote. Many women, black, brown and white, fought and died — not for the Nineteenth Amendment to be passed, but for meaningful participation in the political process. But it wasn’t until another 45 years, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, that Black women finally earned the full right to vote. With voter suppression and systemic racism still standing in the way of true equity, this work continues today, especially since misogyny and sexism are a core organizing principle for the white supremacist movement.
Although best known for its white nationalist brand of racist ideology, patriarchal politics are central to the white supremacist movement, which advocates not just white supremacy but white male supremacy–where women are subordinate. White supremacists believe that gender roles are based on innate differences between males and females and need to be aggressively enforced. They believe it is natural and right for men to hold power over women, and that a woman’s main function is to provide men with support, care, and to bear and raise children.
That’s why it is critical that in this resurgence of white supremacy, we carefully examine the way race and gender intersect to produce deep structural and systemic barriers to safety, health, and economic security for women, trans people, and families across this country. We must call on white women, women’s organizations, and the gender and racial justice movements to truly advance racial and gender justice by calling out racism and sexism when we see it.
We must band together as a community to show the power and necessity of our hard-won multicultural and diverse society. We must show the world that the values of freedom and equity are paramount. We must work toward a day when there are no further victims of white supremacy. That is why the Women’s Foundation of California is marking Women’s Equality Day by co-sponsoring the Bay Area Rally Against Hate in Berkeley on August 27 with more than 100 other social justice organizations. If we aim to end white supremacy, we must all stand together, acknowledging the intersectional nature of our experience. Only by being united in resistance across issues and identities will we succeed in making sure we are all treated with the respect and dignity we deserve. Together, we can, and we will end white supremacist patriarchy.
Join us at the Bay Area Rally Against Hate on August 27.