After centuries, America still fails to care for its women of color 

Angela Davis, one of the most influential Black female political figures and scholars of all time, was wanted by the FBI for kidnapping and murder. Though she did not commit these crimes and was freed after her capture, this poster remains symbolic of the strength and influence of women of color in history.

Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Government, via Wikimedia Commons

Angela Davis, one of the most influential Black female political figures and scholars of all time, was wanted by the FBI for kidnapping and murder. Though she did not commit these crimes and was freed after her capture, this poster remains symbolic of the strength and influence of women of color in history.

Molly Rawat, Feature Editor

While society celebrates women’s history and the advancement of women’s rights in the month of March, women of color and their contributions to society are still overlooked. In all spheres of life, such as art and entertainment, politics, science, literature and more, women of color must be recognized and appreciated. 

The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution granted women the right to vote after years of protest. Unfortunately, while the efforts of these brave women deserve praise, this right was only given to white women. Women of color, specifically Black women, were continually denied the right to vote and to exercise other freedoms.

The disenfranchisement of women of color is no surprise – both discrimination based on gender and on color has existed since America’s inception and still runs rampant within today’s society. 

David Fincher’s famous film “Gone Girl” exemplifies part of this problem. A young, pretty white woman goes missing, and the public all across the nation is concerned due to the media attention her case gets. Known as missing white woman syndrome, this phenomenon occurs in the real world, such as how America reacted to Gabby Petito’s case

White women are prioritized, yet women of color who go missing – especially Black and Indigenous women – are forgotten and do not receive any media coverage. For example, 19-year-old Ruth George, a Black student at the University of Chicago, was sexually assaulted and murdered by a man whose advances she ignored, yet many have not heard of her story. The podcast “Crime Junkie” discusses and publicizes the stories of people of color that go unnoticed due to the victims’ race.

Junior Zehinabou Coulibaly commented on the issues. “Hate crimes against African women have gone up. A lot of deaths. When it comes to African American womens’ deaths, people think it’s suspicious,” she said. “Law enforcement and government label something like murder as suicide, when that is often not true at all.”

Another prime example of the exclusion women of color from feminism and women’s liberation was the riot grrrl movement. Alternative music movements, such as punk and grunge, have always been a space for members of society to rebel against unjust norms. As men were often at the forefront of these genres, women were left out and began a movement that promoted women’s liberation through radical punk rock. 

As expected, women of color were left out of this movement and their rights were never addressed. The only issues truly addressed were those faced by white women and barely, if at all, helped women of color. Additionally, when women of color try to voice their opinions, whether that be inside or outside the sphere of music, they are labeled as overemotional.

“When a Black woman stands up for themself, they are labeled as aggressive or violent, when we really aren’t. We are just trying to stand up for ourselves,” Coulibaly claimed. “Especially when it comes to racism: mostly people label black women as aggressive or angry when they are talking about race because they know those women are right.”

Even when it comes to legislation, women of color are not nearly as protected as white women, as explained by Coulibaly. “A lot of laws that have been passed are more associated with white women,” she said. “They do not affect black women, or women of any race, the same way they might help a white woman.”

The impact of colorism on women of color exhibits the intersection of two different identities – race and gender. Though it exists within communities of the same race, its roots lie in white colonialism. Both within America’s borders and outside of them, one’s proximity to whiteness determines their beauty. For centuries, a woman’s value has been based on her beauty. The further a woman is from being white, the less she is valued by society. 

With all of these issues and more, the conversation becomes difficult when people try to speak on issues that they have no firsthand experience with, especially when they are about gender and race. In literature, many teachers at PV have incorporated texts by women of color, but the job is far from done. The major of the staff at PV is white, so the perspectives it provides are bound to be limited. Even then, it is a problem around the entire nation. 

Senior Neda Bazaara noticed how most of the common English curriculum in America focuses on white authors. “In literature – especially literature about racism or gender inequality – you often see the experiences from a person that is not in the group they are commenting on,” she said. “Schools tend to adopt those pieces of literature to teach people about these problems, which is harmful for representation and can give off the wrong impression of the groups being discussed. Authors who write these texts profit off of it all.”

In “The Help,” a bestselling novel that many sophomores read for summer reading for Honors English 10, white author Kathryn Stockett writes about Black women’s issues during the Civil Rights Movement from a white woman’s perspective. She centers the story around a white female protagonist who gives a voice to Black maids, but the entire premise exudes a strong message of white saviorism

The author’s intentions may have been harmless, but a strong female lead does more harm than good when it promotes negative stereotypes and tropes. Women whose voices have been suppressed by a male-dominate society’s standards should be praised and taught about, but Stockett’s lead sends the message that white women have been at the forefront of women’s rights, and oppressed women of color need their help because they cannot be liberated without them.

Women of color have contributed much more to feminism and society in general than people realize yet are still treated poorly and left out of society in many aspects. This Women’s History Month and for many more to come, America must recognize and care for the history and rights of not only white women, but all women.