This is a big problem for white heterosexual men who have no moral status at all on the left. Their role is to shut up, to listen and to learn from others.
But even white feminist women are starting to be affected by all this. After all, they might be women but they are still white. And therefore "privileged oppressors".
So what does a white feminist do if she wants to be a leader? Well, she can promise "people of colour" that she will shut up all those other white feminists, thereby proving herself to be an "enlightened" leftist worthy of leadership.
That is the strategy pursued by Sally Boynton Brown, the Executive Director of the Democratic Party in Idaho. She is one of seven candidates vying to become the head of the Democratic National Convention. She said the following as part of her selection pitch:
Black lives matter and it makes me sad that we’re even having that conversation and that tells me that white leaders in our party have failed. We have to accept there is prejudice that exists within our own party and we have to be able to have these conversations. We cannot sweep that under the rug. We cannot continue to hide it. We cannot smash voices down when they are trying to scream, “Listen to me, you don’t get it.”
I’m a white woman. I don’t get it. I am pleased and honored to be here today to have the conversation. I am so excited that we’re here. And I am listening. Because that’s my job. My job is to listen to the issues. [Applause]
My job is to listen and be a voice and my job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt (laughter/applause). My job is to shut other white people down when they want to say, ‘Oh, no, i’m not prejudiced. I’m a Democrat. I’m accepting.” My job is to make sure that they get that they have privilege and until we shut our mouths and we listen to those people who don’t and we lift our people up...
This is not just rhetoric. This is life or death...I need schooling and I depend on you and the people around our community to do that so that I can go school the other white people. [ laughter ]
The problem with this strategy? If you lower yourself in moral status this much, then you lose the credibility to lead. If white people are privileged and "don't get it" and can't get it and have to be permanently "schooled" by people of colour - then why wouldn't you just give leadership to people of colour? Why bother with Sally Boynton Brown? Because she is willing to lower her status to the point of saying, "I don't get it"? Because she is willing to use her influence to "shut other white people down"? It's a fragile and desperate way to pitch yourself as still relevant.
And that's the thing. White women who choose to join the left as feminists are going to find not only that a considerable amount of self-effacement will be necessary, but, worse, that they will become increasingly irrelevant within the movement. Even when they are there to make up numbers they will be told to "constantly check their privilege".
|Sally Boynton Brown|