White women showing up. This has been a popular phrase amongst social justice circles to encourage white women to stand up with marginalized groups in our country. Activist Glennon Doyle has held talks in which she talks to white women encouraging them to address their white privilege head on. Yet even with the most noble intentions, the upset around Glennon’s free webinar aptly titled ‘White Women Showing Up’ shows white women still don’t get it.
Glennon partnered with Heather Cronk to create a free webinar that would be a space for women to ask questions about race in America. A few days after announcing the free webinar, Glennon cancelled it and apologized for the many issues that arose.
What interested me in this post was the comments section filled with supporters praising her apology. I scoured this section for a few minutes to read the responses and to my surprise, a majority of the praise came from white women.
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HELLO FRIENDS!! Questions for you: 1. Are you a white woman? 2. Are you confused about your place in the race conversation? 3. Are you interested in taking the first step toward getting involved in racial justice work? 4. Are you interested in learning about how to have awkward, helpful conversations with friends and family about race? 5. Do you feel overwhelmed by all the things you *could* do and unclear of what you *should* do? JOIN ME AND HEATHER (wonderful warrior from Showing Up for Racial Justice) — tomorrow night Nov 1 at 8 PM ET — for a conversation on white women and race in America. This is a free webinar for women brand-new to the race conversation — our intention is to provide a space to ask questions, listen and learn, find purposeful community, and link up with some current efforts to make these conversations real. REGISTER (for free) at the link in my bio above.
I did stumble across a few comments from people of color also supporting her apology. Yet the comment that made me question the whole issue was one in which a user asked why we are praising her for just being a decent person?
The truth of this comment really struck me. Why are we praising someone for simply admitting where they went wrong publicly?
Because no one does that anymore. No one wants to admit they were wrong.
Especially on such a sensitive topic. No matter who you are, whether you’re a public figure or a private citizen, we would rather silently bask in our mistakes rather than admitting it to even one person.
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UPDATE: My request of my community is this: One mistake I made was trying to create a safe space for white women to be heard. Here is the pivot: My intention is for this thread to be a safe place for women of color to speak & be heard without criticism, threat, dismissal or the violence I see here. I would turn off the comments, but that would erase the education & labor the teachers of color on this thread have invested. White women: Just listen to the women of color here. Feel your feelings, but do not express them here, on this thread. Here in this place, we are valuing the safety of women of color above the freedom of expression of us white women. 1. I joined a movement called Black Fridays-created and led by black, brown & indigenous women-which seeks to disrupt White Supremacist Patriarchy. I’ve been listening, learning and practicing my role as an amplifier & inviter. 2. On a call last week the leaders of the group -women of color- requested that I do 2 things: A) Open conversations with my white audience about white women learning, stepping up & speaking out. B) Raise funds for the Black Fridays Strike Fund – which financially supports black, brown & indigenous women activists & strikers. Tonight’s webinar was planned as a result of that call to action-a conversation with white women for white women with a monetary ask. 3. I now understand that the way I launched this strategy was hurtful to many including women of color whom I deeply respect. 4. I learned that using the words “safe space” for race conversations with white people is racist, fragile & problematic. White women do not need to be called to be safe, we need to be called to be BRAVE. Yes. 5. I was educated that a white woman offering a free webinar demeans the paid labor of women of color long engaged in this work. Yes. 6. I was told that the question to ask is: “Are your actions centering whiteness?” The answer is yes. My intentions don’t matter: the effect is that this seminar, as currently planned, centers whiteness. So, tonight’s webinar is not happening. I will do better next time.
I don’t know Glennon’s complete supporter demographic and am not going to claim that I get it when it comes to talks about race. It makes me uncomfortable to bring up race because I don’t want to offend anyone nor come across as ignorant.
But maybe we, as white women, need to admit our ignorance. Because there is a huge disconnect. White women still don’t get it. There could be many different reasons as to why we don’t get it. Some white women don’t care as long as they are okay. Some white women are also unsure of where to start because some of us are on the other side of this movement for the first time.
People of color and other marginalized communities have been fighting for civil rights for hundreds of years. They’ve succeed without our help and will continue to do so. But if white women showed up and actually did the work we say we want to do, we can cover more ground
Our goal in this isn’t to lead their causes or elevate it to the next level. It’s to support and to listen. Something we don’t typically do.
I understand what Glennon was trying to do. She wanted to create a discussion space in which white women felt comfortable to talk about race. Yet this webinar was criticized for centering whiteness, taking away from the broader issue and purpose.
We white women have a lot of stepping up to do. It isn’t our job to lead. We need to be voices in areas that have traditionally ignored people of color. We need to talk to each other and actually put in work. We’re quick to talk but we don’t back it up with our actions. It’s time for that to stop.
Cover image via The Cut1
Also published on Medium.