women’s march founder surfaces to condemn leaders

November 21, 2018
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Teresa Shook, the original founder of the Women’s March, has called for the movement’s leadership to step down in the wake of Mallory, Perez and Sarsour’s ties to Louis Farrakhan and his anti-Semitism and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. HuffPost reported on a Facebook post written by Shook, all the way from Hawaii, calling Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland to renounce their roles for allowing “anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA+ sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs,” according to her Facebook press release.

This news follows Alyssa Milano’s declaration that she would not support the Women’s March if it continued to associate itself with Farrakhan, who described the “powerful Jews” as his enemy at a banquet attended by Tamika Mallory. Farrakhan being a problematic figure is not news but the extreme nature of Shook’s reply speaks to a culture within White Feminism that scapegoats feminists of color.

Mary-Pat Hector described it perfectly in her open letter to Shook and Milano: “You cannot single-handedly decide when a movement of free-thinking diverse women throws its leadership away.” Sarsour, Perez, Mallory and Bland are a diverse group of activists who labored to build this movement into the force that it is today. In a statement addressing Shook’s post, the leaders spoke on Farrakhan, stating, “We have been CLEAR that Minister Farrakhan has said hateful and hurtful things and that he does not align with our Unity Principles of the Women’s March that were created by Women of Color.”

So quick are White Feminists to throw away the work of women of color before attending to the problem of the 53%. Why has Shook not spoken about certain white women voting for Trump one week and donning pink pussy hats the next? When will Shook address the troves of white women voting their rights away by choosing whiteness over womanhood? When can we have that national outcry?

“We are imperfect,” responded the Women’s March Leaders in a Facebook post. “We don’t know everything and we have caused harm. At times we have responded with hurt. But we are committed to learning,” the post went on.  “We are grateful for people who HAVE been with us for the past two years, wrestling with the challenges and opportunities of what we are trying to build. Our ongoing work speaks for itself. That’s our focus, not armchair critiques from those who want to take credit for our labor.” Bloop.

The issue here is nuance. Conflating ties to Farrakhan with him being associated with the movement (he is not) is disingenuous and telling. The next Women’s March is months away and this seems like an unnecessary move towards factionalism in the hopes of yielding power within the movement back to white women. There’s nothing productive about asking a diverse leadership to step down so Shook can come back to “unify” according to her Facebook post. Where were she to begin with?