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Women’s March 2019: Is there a place for Black Jewish feminists in this evolving national movement?

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Women's March Co-ChairwomenWomen’s March Co-Chairwomen (L-R) Bob Bland, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Tamika D. Mallory converse through the Women’s March “Power to the Polls” voter registration tour launch on January 21, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photograph by Ethan Miller/Getty Photographs)

The 2019  Ladies’s March is as we speak and hundreds are anticipated to collect in Washington, D.C. and lots of extra in affiliated marches throughout the nation.  This yr’s mass demonstration will probably be a smaller affair than the record-setting preliminary gathering in 2017. Sustained expenses of anti-Semitism leveled towards Ladies’s March organizers accounts for a number of the dampened enthusiasm. Key sponsors, together with the NAACP and DNC, have pulled their help in current weeks and a few sister marches have been cancelled by organizers involved with these allegations.

Strain has been mounting since Ladies’s March national co-chair Tamika Mallory, attended the annual Saviour’s Day occasion of the Nation of Islam. At that occasion, Nation of Islam chief, Minister Louis Farrakhan assailed the viewers with hateful depictions of Jews together with decrying Jews as “the mother and father of apartheid.” Many in Jewish communities have been appalled when Mallory posted a photograph with Minister Farrakhan to her Instagram web page, labelling him the “G.O.A.T.” 

In October, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs and armed an AR-15 murdered 11 congregants on the Tree of Life synagogue. The brutal hate crime clarified the lethal penalties at stake in public declarations of hate towards Jews. Within the aftermath, the Ladies’s March got here underneath renewed criticism.

In December 2018, Leah McSweeney and Jacob Siegel writing for The Pill requested, “Is the Women’s March Melting Down?”  Marshaling proof from insider interviews, the authors leveled far reaching critiques of the Ladies’s March and its leaders together with fiscal mismanagement, organizational failures, and anti-Semitism. By their very own admission, responses to anti-Semitism considerations by Ladies’s March national management have been sluggish and unsatisfying to many Jewish people and communities. Mallory’s look on ABC’s The View earlier this week in which she selected to separate Minister Farrakhan from his message, which is emblematic of the mounting tensions.

Throughout a roundtable interview for Elle with a number of of the Ladies’s March management, co-chair Carmen Perez mirrored, “building an intersectional movement is not easy, but we must believe in it and work toward it.”

Intersectionality is multi-faceted- working as a theoretical device of study, a descriptive time period of political complexity, and a software of authorized follow and social motion. In apply, intersectionality seeks to prioritize the considerations of those that expertise a number of, overlapping inequalities.  At its greatest, organizing by intersectional rules permits all to profit by specializing in these with the best want. At its worst, intersectional organizing can spark off a counterproductive “oppression Olympics” as marginalized id teams compete to be heard. The painful rift in the Ladies’s March seems fueled—in half—by the latter.

Tamika Mallory is open to criticism and to progress, however insists her expertise as a Black lady with a totally different view of Minister Farrakhan is legitimate and deserving of consideration. White Jewish ladies inside and past the Ladies’s March level to the lethal penalties of anti-Semitism and demand that their considerations take middle stage.

After which there are these on the intersection on the coronary heart of this state of affairs—Black, Jewish, and feminist.

I used to be first launched to the intersection of Black, Jewish feminism by Rebecca Walker’s bestselling 2001 memoir, “Black, White, Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self.” Walker spent a childhood shapeshifting between her father’s primarily Jewish group in the Riverdale part of the Bronx and her mom’s (writer Alice Walker) Black enclave in San Francisco, all of the whereas creating an mental and political standpoint that helped provoke feminism’s third wave.   

Working intently with author Collier Myerson throughout our shared time at MSNBC provided the chance to watch a millennial, Black Jewish feminist navigate the difficult panorama of American politics and id with instruments inherited from earlier generations and cast anew in the modern second.  

Because the Ladies’s March takes place throughout the nation at this time amid critical allegations of anti-Semitism, I as soon as once more sought out insights from those that really perceive the implications of being Black and Jewish in America.

Right here is my dialog with Adam Serwer, employees author for The Atlantic, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy and Core School Member in Ladies’s Research on the College of New Hampshire, and filmmaker, activist, and journalist, Rebecca Pierce. Whereas three voices alone can’t converse for whole communities with lengthy, assorted histories and experiences, this is in reality a place to start out.

Black jewish experience thegrio.comServing to to set the report straight on the Black and Jewish American expertise are (l-r) Employees Author for The Atlantic, Adam Serwer, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Core School Member in Ladies’s Research on the College of New Hampshire, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, and Filmmaker, Activist, and Journalist, Rebecca Pierce. (Photographs courtesy of Serwer, Prescod-Weinstein, Pierce)


theGrio: Within the wake of mounting allegations of anti-Semitism inside the management of The Ladies’s March, native organizations have cancelled marches and high-profile sponsors have backed out of supporting in the present day’s occasion. Is this the fitting factor to do?  

Adam Serwer: If Jewish ladies really feel their considerations about anti-Semitism aren’t being taken significantly by the Ladies’s March leaders, then they’re completely inside their rights to not help them. A part of being inside a numerous coalition is the give-and-take over totally different group’s priorities, and in the event you really feel like rather more is being taken than given, then you must discover another person to work with. 

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Chanda Prescod-Weinstein: The Ladies’s March was by no means my bag for a number of causes, however proper now this entire state of affairs feels a little bit like a highschool reputation contest. The Ladies’s March was the “in” factor to do for a couple of years, and now they’re on the outs as a result of, sure, coalition constructing is tough, but in addition due to accusations of anti-Semitism, which have virtually solely come from white Jews. 

theGrio: Some previously supportive people and organizations are avoiding the Ladies’s March this yr. For instance, it appears not one of the seven Democratic presidential hopeful will attend. Does participation in at present’s occasion quantity to implicit help of anti-Semitic beliefs?

Adam Serwer: I wouldn’t say that, however I perceive why individuals are upset that the Ladies’s March management gained’t distance themselves from Farrakhan or the Nation would really feel that method.

Rebecca Pierce: This example with the Ladies’s March is a actually essential alternative for all communities concerned to work collectively and study from one another. Coalition work is difficult, however the present political second requires that we face these challenges head on. From what I’ve seen, there is a lot of willingness on the a part of the Ladies’s March management to study from a number of the previous errors comprised of a place of defensiveness.  It’s necessary to help the organizing popping out of this area and never dismiss the Ladies’s March solely or deal with these concerned as disposable. That is one thing want I might see extra of in my very own Black and Jewish communities the place we nonetheless wrestle with most of the similar points.

Activist and filmmaker Rebecca Pierce

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein: I actually assume the suggestion that participation in the occasion alerts that one holds anti-Semitic beliefs is ridiculous. Let’s say that I agree that the Ladies’s March organizers are responsible of anti-Semitism, which I don’t. Even then, I consider the actual menace to Jews are the individuals propping up the present Presidential administration, together with Senate leaders in addition to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who’re successfully appearing as this administration’s Jewish shields. The present commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces is a white nationalist. I can’t consider something extra threatening to Jews than that, but individuals appear obsessive about Tamika Mallory’s views, despite the fact that she’s by no means threatened anybody.  

theGrio: What did the Ladies’s March management get flawed in their response? What are they nonetheless getting fallacious?  

Adam Serwer: It’s a completely affordable to ask for a extra forceful and particular rejection of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism and I don’t begrudge anybody who feels that they will’t work with the Ladies’s March with out that. On the similar time, if individuals need to maintain giving them the good thing about the doubt, or see a chance to assist them perceive why so many Jews really feel so strongly about this, that’s completely reputable.

Adam Serwer: thegrio.comJournalist Adam Serwer

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein: Tamika Mallory has put a number of actions in danger together with her refusal to denounce the anti-Semitic patriarch opportunist Louis Farrakhan. By persevering with to publicly help him, she is sharing her feminist platform with a homophobic, pro-Scientologist misogynist who can also be deeply dedicated to anti-Semitism. Whilst I perceive why Mallory feels personally indebted to him, there are extra individuals concerned in her decisions than simply her household now.

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Rebecca Pierce: There have been situations the place the rightful critique of Farrakhan was lowered to guilt by affiliation techniques used to dismiss the voices of each Black and Palestinian ladies wholesale, in a approach that harms all of us who wrestle for justice. Black and Palestinian communities have deep and longstanding relationships that can’t be decreased to easily anti-Semitism or help for Farrakhan. Whereas this could be difficult to see for some in the Jewish group, the pitting of our communities towards one another helps nobody.

theGrio: Every of you reside and work on the intersection of a number of identities as Black, Jewish, feminists. What do we have to perceive about this intersection to tell progressive efforts?

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein: Anti-Semitism is anti-Black. Black Jews exist. Black Jews by start exist; Black Jews by selection exist. We come in all shades. We’re Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Ethiopian, and lots of different ethnic and national heritages. Whenever you speak about “The Jews” you’re speaking about Black individuals too, whether or not you meant it or not. Any assault on Jewish individuals is an assault on Black Jews too. Black Jewish ladies have been particularly caught in the center in these discussions, focused particularly in the press and on social media.

Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

We, greater than our male counterparts, are having our Jewishness referred to as into query, having our Blackness referred to as into query, and having our dedication to a significant feminism referred to as into query. I’ve began calling this phenomenon antisemigynoir, a portmanteau of “misogynoir” and “anti-Semitism.”

Adam Serwer: In any numerous coalition there goes to be friction, as a result of totally different teams of individuals have totally different fears, wishes, priorities and traumas. The truth that battle exists doesn’t imply that it could’t be resolved, so long as individuals are prepared to work together in good religion with one another.

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Rebecca Pierce: Within the Jewish group, we’ve a lot of our personal struggles, debates, and flawed leaders who depart many people behind for the sake of previous prejudices and straightforward methods out. As Jews of Colour achieve extra of a voice we additionally see a pushback to that which seeks to keep away from asking the troublesome questions of inclusion and discrimination in our communities. I see coalitions just like the Ladies’s March as being wealthy with the potential for all of us to help and study from one another. No one can get free alone, but when we will study to face complexity with grace and accountability, we may be a lot stronger collectively.


Melissa Harris-Perry, PhD. is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest College and the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Middle. She can also be founder and co-director of the revolutionary bi-partisan program, Wake the Vote. Apart from being the editor-at-large for Elle.com, Perry has additionally contributed her writing to the Wall Road Journal, New York Occasions, Chicago Tribune, and lots of different print and digital venues. Comply with her on Twitter at .