Thursday, May 13, 2021

Traveling presenter breaks down white feminism

Images of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton stared out into the crowd of Plattsburgh State staff and students.  Their history of activism raises questions about white feminism in today’s world.

 Columbia Student Rachel Cargle presented the foundation on which the ideals of white feminism were based on.  She talked about the fight for women’s suffrage being the first wave of feminism. She pointed out that women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many more only fought for the advancement of white women while black women were excluded and discredited for the work they’ve done in the fight for women’s rights.

One of the most powerful things Cargle pointed out during the event was to examine how people view feminism and how they pursue the fight for equal rights. If a woman’s goal is to be equal to the white man, it is being done wrong.  This is because white men have gained all the power they have today by stepping on and oppressing others to climb to the top.

Rokhiya Ngom is a sophomore biomedical science major and the senator of student affairs & diversity.

“Black women were not allowed to march with white women,” Ngom said.  “So if this is supposed to be a woman’s march, why are you still segregating them?  

While covering the second wave of feminism, Cargle talked about “The Feminine Mystique”, a book written by Betty Friedan in 1963.  Cargle said that once again, Friedan only touches on the progression of the white woman, meaning that black women are continually being erased from the feminist movement throughout history.  

Cargle brought awareness to the fact that black women were taking care of white women’s children while they were out marching. 

“That means that only white women would be allowed to vote, not including women of color,” Ngom said. “I feel like sometimes the whole entire movement in this country revolves around white women because honestly, I’ve never been to a march because when I look at pictures it’s just white women marching all the time.  What are they marching for?  They’re not marching for all of us, they’re marching for themselves.” 

Shivangi Nakrani is a biology major and the senator of student service.

“We are going forward.  I see it,” Nakrani said.  “I believe that we are going forward but it’s a slow process.”

Kira Paulemon is a political science and latin american studies major and the vice president of student affairs and diversity.

“It’s a choice to call out or to engage in conversations around race, and it’s a choice not to do so,” Paulemon said. “So I think ignorance has its limits and then it becomes a choice at a certain point.” 

Cargle had PSUC students, faculty and staff participate in an activity to engage with others sitting at their tables. She asked the audience to answer the questions of who they speak about race with and how they would feel if they woke up as a white/black student on PSUC’s campus. They were also asked to identify what their culture is based on their race in addition to listing three things that are important to them.  

At the end of this activity, she asked all of the white people in the room to stand up and share their answers on how they would feel if they woke up as a black person on this campus. 

The feelings of being scared, afraid and invisible were the most common that were shared.  She expressed how she was near tears because this is how white people are telling black people how they should feel on PSUC’s campus.  She fervently expressed how it is their job as white people to advocate for the black people on campus and to be an active member in making the effort to make inclusive spaces.  

“I really hope all the white people in this room were really f–king uncomfortable,” Cargle said.

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