It should give us pause when the same networks that defended the president’s declaration that “very fine people” were among the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are celebrating a white woman tearing into an African American woman for anti-Semitism.
During the national Women’s March, I urged us – Jewish women and allies – to denounce the racism and sexism infecting the discourse about Tamika Mallory and the anti-Semitism within the Women’s March Inc.
We must continue building upon our successful, powerful and intersectional women’s movement.
If for some of us that means marching – even if we have have been hurt by the acts and omissions of the leaders in the Women’s March – then march. If it means joining a different march, then do that. If it means writing a letter to a legislator but not marching, then do that. Whatever we do, women are here to stay as a political force.
In a December op-ed, I joined a chorus of organizers distinguishing ourselves from the national Women’s March and condemning their board for failing to address their anti-Semitism.
I was one of the founding organizers of the Women’s March on Raleigh, an unaffiliated ad hoc group of volunteers, and I am Jewish. I called on the board of the National Women’s March to step down from leadership and come back in the tent to listen and to talk, including Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland.
Anti-Semitism has no place in the women’s movement, and neither does racism, but both of these repulsive forces are rearing their heads. Mallory has engaged in anti-Semitism, and she is still doing it. But make no mistake about it, the circus-like public persecution of her for anti-Semitism is not about condemning anti-Semitism, at all. It is about racism and white-nationalism in its most insidious form.
Mallory – an extraordinary leader in the battle against gun violence, (focusing on African American communities and Board Member of the National Women’s March) has openly struggled with anti-Semitism.
“I will continue to grapple with the complicated nature of working across ideological lines and the question of how to do so without causing harm to vulnerable people.” She first acknowledged when her praise of the Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan rocked the Women’s March. She has continued to trip down one anti-Semitic riddled path after another.
Most recently, on Jan. 14, Mallory stated that she “disagreed” with Farrakhan’s statements comparing Jews to termites, calling them wicked and making specious statements about homosexuality, but she refused to “condemn” his statements as requested by The View Co-Host Meghan McCain.
After the broadcast, the Democratic National Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Center withdrew their support of the National Women’s March. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, pundits excoriated Mallory almost gleefully, for her failure to condemn the anti-Semitism, and their manufactured outrage continues to feed the news cycle.
Interlaced with real consequences for anti-Semitism is an old and gross ruse that has nothing to do with fighting anti-Semitism and everything to do with racism and sexism. The same right-wing outlets lambasting Mallory for refusing to say “condemn” are silent or conciliatory when the Commander-In-Chief engages in worse behavior – think Charlottesville and opening some “very fine people” were among the Neo-Nazis.
Ditto with regard to his overtly racist and sexist statements and acts. It is nuanced and not as easy to talk about, but condemning anti-Semitism is being used as a subterfuge to foment racism and generate division among women.
Feminism itself has a long and ugly history of racism and classism, and it still struggles with it. By not calling out this specious and lopsided condemnation of Mallory by the radical right, well-meaning white women, white Jews and allies are perpetuating racism within the movement.
I believe the Board of the National Women’s March Inc. should step down because their struggles with anti-Semitism are distracting and detracting from the women’s movement, and they need to listen and talk with members of Jewish communities.
Part of embracing intersectionality is conscientiously listening, talking and helping address the wrongs we even commit against each other. The bait and switch of anti-Semitism with racism is part of the dialogue. While we work it out, or agree to disagree, even while we hurt each other, women will keep marching, voting, running for political office and winning. But I am also not fooled by the alleged solidarity of the right-wingers, their supposed indignation at anti-Semitism, or their malicious attacks on Tamika Mallory. I see their actions for what they are – racist and sexist and having nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
Shana Becker provided this piece as a guest commentary editorial on the decision of whether to march or not during the national Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19.