Tears. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I can feel the heaviness of anger, frustration, sadness, and above all, extreme exhaustion coursing through my body. It feels like sludge. Pink pussy sludge.
It’s been three days since the monumental parade that brought people into the streets in a way our nation hasn’t seen in decades. In Seattle alone, there was an estimated 150,000 marchers in this weekend’s womxn’s parade. And as you can imagine, with a parade of this size, the aftermath and clean up is of equal proportion (if not greater).
I’m sorry, have I been calling it a parade? My bad. I meant a parade. Hmm, I mean, parade. Whoops, let me try that one more time, the women’s parade. Nope. Guess I really do mean a parade.
Never, in the history of direct actions that I’ve showed up to, have I left feeling so drained, disheartened, and above all, marginalized. In fact, my reasons for marching has often been to combat those exact things, which I experience as a womxn of color on a daily basis. But such is the irony of this Saturday’s action. Such is the reason why I refuse to call it a march–because it did nothing for me except to wear me down and remind me that white feminism will always take precedent over my oppression and the oppression of other marginalized identities.
This exhaustion that I speak of is something that seems to be resonating throughout the POC spaces I have access to. Before, during, and especially after the parade I was inundated with stories from my black and brown sistars (no that’s not a spelling error) about the macro- and microaggressive interactions they were fielding from non-POC womxn and men. Stories of being shamed for choosing not to attend the march, accused of not supporting womxn, and called hypercritical for speaking their truths of valid and legitimate anxiety around this action (which was, in fact, actualized). And in every instance, the WOC was responsible for educating their oppressor, defending their humanity, and internalizing the physical and/or emotional violence enacted upon them. See Lakeshia Robinson’s story of being physically accosted by a pink pussy punk:
“I have never felt free enough to touch a white woman. I am scared of white women, if I’m being honest. And for good reason. White women’s tears get people who look like me killed (or best case fired).” -Lakeshia Robinson
Walking in the parade was a whole other energetic ordeal. My family and I were fortunate enough to have found the womxn and families of color constituency organized by Got Green, FOCS, Gabriela Seattle, SURGE NW, Powerful Voices, NAPAWF, and Anakbayan. As we slowly but surely made our way through the streets, chanting and vocalizing our pain and solidarity, I couldn’t help but notice the sea of white folks, mostly womxn, standing on the sidelines, blocking our procession while they snapped photos of us. Only a handful participated in the call and response as we chanted “black lives matter,” in contrast to their POC counterparts who joined in with ease. It all felt too fishbowl-y. At one point, I had to interject a conversation between two white womxn who were complaining that our call and responses where disrupting the silent protest and not aligned with the mission of unity. After only six blocks, we decided to peel off and head home. Both my and my husband’s anxiety was too high and caring for ourselves and our baby was priority number one.
It wasn’t until I got home and hopped on social media that I realized why exactly we felt so unsettled. Across the nation, womxn of color were sharing the same experiences of feeling gawked at, excluded, and silenced. @Sydnerain shares here story as an indigenous womxn holding a prayer circle at DC’s parade:
“You could hear what the WW (white womxn) said. “They’re real Indians.” “They’re still here?” “I think they’re faking it.” “Why do they look like that?”-@sydnerain
And then Desiree Lynn Adaway pointed out the stark difference in police presence between Saturday’s action and a BLM march, followed by an acknowledgement of the “festival-y” culture:
You see, as heartening as it was to to have so many folks come together as a response to a fascist regime, the utter lack of intersectionality and co-opting of a method of resistance that has historically belonged to POC and other oppressed groups was deafening. The level of self-congratulation, as evidenced by the inundation of pink pussy selfies on my Instagram feed, and need for public affirmation of allyship reeked of irony. Here we were at a social justice event where my black any brown sistars were lost in the middle of the white sea, rather than leading the movement; where trans identities were silenced by pictures of vaginas and rhetoric around womxn having pussies; and where the end goal seemed to be who could come up with the most clever poster slogan and get the most likes on social media. Case in point:
This, my friends, is a quote by the fictional character “Cher,” the rich, blonde, white girl from the movie “Clueless” and a perfect example of how this parade screamed white feminism. Another sign held by a white-presenting man read:
“Loyalty to country always, loyalty to government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain
Setting aside the fact that Mark Twain was a known bigot and racist, the ability to claim loyalty to a country that’s enacted oppression on billions and literally came to be through the rape, genocide, and enslavement of black and brown bodies is a true demonstration of the lack of intersectionality on this day. Thankfully, our black and brown brothers and sisters were out in full force to keep the parade honest and call white womxn into the true work that needs to be down to liberate all people.
Rudy Espinosa’s photo of actor Amir Talai also led me to question why, six days earlier, turnout for the 35th annual MLK Day march and rally paled in comparison. Which, let’s be honest, we know the answer to:
Angela People’s viral image of the juxtaposition between self-congratulatory white feminism and intersectionality is nothing short of powerful, as is her analysis shared in an article published by The Root. It is these folks who are doing true solidarity work, not only during the parade, but every damn day, by making visible and validating the experiences that many POC had. These folks have put into words the feelings I don’t have the energy or clarity to articulate myself.
And this work hasn’t stopped now that the parade has passed and we’re back to business as usual. In the days following the parade, I and other POC have had to exhaustively process the oppression we experienced from Saturday, field questions from “well intentioned” white folks about what the next steps are, and combat defensiveness and claims of “divisiveness” from men and non-POCs whose white/male fragility is threatened when we vocalize our pain, all while seeing our fascist regime burn down our government in ways that we know will disproportionately affect POC, LGBTQ, poor, and undocumented folks. This is also on top of the daily stressors of being a POC. It’s no wonder why were so worn down and fed up. It’s no wonder why we’re not able to squeal in delight and celebrate a “peaceful” protest. For many POC, there was nothing peaceful about that day.
Picking up the pieces from this parade has been a job in and of itself, which as Jaclynn Lam highlights is disproportionately and unjustly left for womxn and communities of color.
Not only has this action left a wake of emotional labor for WOC to manage, but the environmental and economic impact of having 150,000 people flood the CD and Chinatown/International District is also has a disproportionate negative effect on the low-income, immigrant community. The local middle school along the parade route, which is predominately low income, POC, and under-resourced was turned into a mud pit with no accountability from parade organizers about who will spend the time and money to fix the grounds. On what should have been the most profitable weekend of the year–the weekend before the Lunar New Year–the API businesses were left with disappointing sales. From a Facebook post circulating:
“Calling all Seattle folks who marched this weekend!!
Remember when I posted about how the march was impacting all the immigrant owned small businesses in Little Saigon and the Chinatown/International District? HERE’S YOUR CALL TO ACTION.
“Hearing from small business owners in the Seattle International District, and while some protesters did stop by to eat and/or purchase groceries, overall, the weekend was dismal. Normally, the Saturday before Lunar New Year is a big sales day for all the grocery stores and restaurants in the area.”
“Reminder: your right to dissent is an amazing, beautiful thing. Don’t trample upon marginalized communities in your fit of passion and harm the people you’re marching for.”
“Easy fix: eat out once or twice this week in the International District. Trust me, it’s not expensive. Purchase some groceries – winter vegetables can be depressing in chain grocery stores; try pea vines, a-choy, winter melon, or any number of things.”
“If you can’t make it this week, try next week. If you can’t make it next week, try again the week following.
They’ll still be there.”
Quoted text via SPOCS and Indivisible WA
As someone who works in C/ID, who sees the intense levels of marginalization and orientalizing that residents and business owners take on, this is one of the most painful impacts of Saturday. Knowing the long term effects this will have on our community and not trusting the due diligence will be put in to undo this over a long term period is heartbreaking.
So that’s where we are. Three days later and feeling so beat down. But I know it will pass. And I know I will stay as committed as I always have been, if not more. Because unlike the Beckys who used Saturday as their “get out of doing the real grunt work free” card, my life and the life of my brothers and sistars depends on staying focused, vocal, and radical as fuck. I’ll leave you all with these three tweets from @sydnerain and @apihtawikosisan, which speak my truth better than I can: