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How successful a person become is mostly up to the person, however, the sad truth of today is that success also depends on how a person is perceived by others physically. For those who are invested in watching the news and politics, it is no question that women of color especially those who are running in politics are still very much underrepresented in and/or by the media. When I honestly picture the word successful, the first thing that comes up to mind is either a white male CEO or an attractive, skinny blonde-haired woman because that’s mainly what the media serves and/or presents to my generation through movies, television shows and news. However, I do know that this male and white female supremacy had started way back even before I was born.
In Audre Lorde’s Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference, she argues that it is not the differences that creates the gap between individuals but the “refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation” (115). This statement given by Lorde not only targets the issue of racism towards black people but also with feminism towards women and how these two factors heavily co-exist in the lives of black women in general. For example, John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat, both of whom are white political candidates that has been represented massively by the media to a point where both have become the face of the Mayoral race in Toronto, excluding all 33 candidates and one of them is Saron Gebresellasi, a black woman and a human rights lawyer of African descent.
The racism that co-exists within the feminist movement is definitely one of the main reason black women are still excluded from social, economic and political aspects of life. This is done by using discriminatory actions and/or developing exclusive ‘white’ organizations. How the media highlighted John Tory and ignored Saron Gebresellasi goes back to how black women and white people established feminism as a cultural possession of white women. Instead of discussing and rectifying this belief, white women specifically choose not to address this issue because there is this underlying power and ownership that is generated from this act of omission. As a consequence, it is perceived as normal and typical for black women to be excluded from feminist conversations and only recognize white women as worthy competitors for men because of the unchecked privilege of white supremacy by white feminists. Following this, how the media highlighted Jenniffer Keesmat and ignored Saron Gebresellasi demonstrates how the root of white supremacy still operates within feminism and uses racism as its underlying foundation.
In Bell hooks’ Black Women Shaping Feminist Theory, she states that “Racism abounds in the writing of white feminists, reinforcing white supremacy and negating the mobility that women will bond politically across ethic and racial boundaries” (3). For a very long time, white supremacy dominated the principles of feminist literatures together with racism being at the core of these feminist conversations. Since these values are only for influence and are not required and/or ordered, white women can intentionally choose not to discuss racism in their movement. However, the voices of black women and women of color caused an uproar which forced white women, out of ignorance rather than understanding, to acknowledge and implement both white supremacy and racism on contemporary feminism, presently known as intersectionality. Bell Hooks argues that may feminists, men and/or women, are still in denial that white supremacy was a tool that was used for exclusion (Hooks 3).
For white feminists, white supremacy is a way to develop their agenda but for others, like Black feminists, white supremacy and racism both excludes them and their agenda from feminism. Within the case of the Mayoral race in Toronto, the media and the voters used both gender and race as factors in excluding and/or failing to recognize Saron Gebresellasi even though she’s politically fit for the job. From Lorde and Hooks’ combined perspectives, it is all about the voters and the media’s refusal to accept the belief that gender and race defines everything about who a female person is. Perhaps, intersectionality hasn’t yet generated a strong forcible impact on feminist movement because until now, racism and sexism are still very much operating especially on the lives of black women.
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