No one cares if your car needs an oil change. No one but you, that is. A few mechanics might show some interest but only because they can benefit financially. You are the one person on the planet truly concerned about your engine oil. This simple truth helps us understand the white women who turned out in record numbers to march the day after the inauguration. Friends asked me why those same women did not turn out for Sandra Bland and frankly, the question is a silly one. For the millions of white women who marched after Trump’s election, the death of a black woman in the custody of police had no personal impact. Waiting for them to care is like waiting for me to come change your oil. Self determination must be the goal, this is but a reminder.
More than 2 million women across the world marched in direct response to Trump’s election. Trump represents a step backward in women’s rights and as such, they marched. Did Sandra Bland’s killing–and that of the many black women who have died at the hands of police–not represent a step backward? Not for the majority of the white women who participated in the March. Those killings did not register as their problem. This could have been predicted. We should remember that Trump was not regarded as universally disgusting to women (read white women) when he launched his campaign, regularly insulting Muslims and Mexicans. It was only after Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault against white women that the “women’s vote” was assumed to be out of his reach. Muslims and Mexicans, your oil change, all the same.
You could argue that I should care about your oil change. Perhaps I will need a ride from you in the near future. If your engine fails while driving, I might end up in a fatal car accident with you. I should care about your oil change but I just don’t. Rather than wasting time trying to convince me to care about your car, you simply take the initiative to get your oil changed. This is precisely what black people must continue to do, daily. Allies are great but we should waste no time trying to convince people to care. Nothing in American history indicates that millions of white women would, collectively, turn out for a black woman who died at the hands of police. The challenges of black people–and black women in particular–have always been met with indifference and that will not change tomorrow. Therefore, we must commit to work toward self determination, today.
It is unfortunate that black women cannot count on their white counterparts to be consistent allies but I would be inconsistent if I did not point out that black men have also failed the ally test. If we are completely honest, we cannot fathom an entire movement being launched by the deaths of black women at the hands of police. That Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were men certainly helped other black men become active in the Black Lives Matter movement (which was largely launched by black women). As a black man, I struggle with the implications of this. Should we be lumped into the category of people black women cannot trust as true allies? This is the question black men must wrestle with and immediately answer. Until now, the question had scarcely been raised.