Last night I had a conversation with Sally Bergesen, the founder and CEO of Oiselle, about why we both made the decision to use our company Instagram accounts to speak out against the Ahmed Aubrey murder. It’s not something that most businesses do—publicly address racial inequality, and more importantly, white supremacy.
But for us, as white women with privilege who founded companies based on tackling inequality in sport and the outdoors, we recognize that we have a responsibility to take action against all inequality. For far too long white feminists have ignored the issues that impact Women of Color, and the murder of Black men is one of those issues. Furthermore, white men have invoked the protection and safety of white women and communities as justification for murdering Black men for centuries. Read more about that here.
One actionable step that we both knew we could take immediately was speaking out because remaining silent is to be complicit in white supremacy. Now before you bristle and send me an email about how white supremacy isn’t a thing unless you’re a member of the KKK or a Nazi, I want you to read this, this, and this. And after you read everything and then spend some time Googling white fragility, if you still disagree, ask yourself why you are so challenged by this concept.
Beyond the racially motivated murders that have dominated the news cycle the past week, we also are witnessing white supremacy culture at a national level in response to COVID-19. Yet we still can’t call it what it is. “Liberating” America and demanding that the country opens back up is rooted in white entitlement. Prioritizing individual freedom over communal freedom is one way that slaveholders justified slavery. Those protests aren’t about COVID-19—they are about maintaining power and privilege and doing so with no regard for the people who are most adversely affected.
This article written by Ibram X. Kendi has really spoken to me, and in it, he says this:
“From the beginning of the American project, the powerful individual has been battling for his constitutional freedom to harm, and the vulnerable community has been battling for its constitutional freedom from harm. Both freedoms were inscribed into the U.S. Constitution, into the American psyche. The history of the United States, the history of Americans, is the history of reconciling the unreconcilable: individual freedom and community freedom. There is no way to reconcile the enduring psyche of the slaveholder with the enduring psyche of the enslaved.”
Sally and I both know that using our voices and platforms is only one thing we can do in the fight against racism and inequality, and we will be doing more. We want to encourage you to use your voice and have the difficult conversations that are imperative if you consider yourself a feminist or an ally or a non-racist. And if you don't, here's our message to you:
#DearWhiteWomen*, your silence is heard. Your silence makes you complicit. Your silence cannot continue.
*We use this hashtag to share the work of Rachel Cargle that reminds modern white feminists about their relationship with Black women throughout time.