Let’s Talk About White Women
We stand at a puzzling intersection of privilege and marginalization
It is somewhat ridiculous, of course, to talk about white women. We are as diverse as any other intersection of race and gender, representing a broad spectrum of political, professional, and personal identities.
That said, there are some things that white women in the United States have in common. To varying degrees, we have all been marginalized because of our gender. And to varying degrees, we have all enjoyed privileges because of our race.
Throughout most of recent human history, we have had to answer to white men, and throughout most of recent human history, we have also helped white men maintain the status quo.
We have been their adversaries and their sycophants. We have fought them for the right to vote, the right to participate in public life, the right to earn our own living, the right to make decisions about our own bodies.
We have also, when push comes to shove, helped them maintain power. For a recent reference point, see: the 2016 presidential election.
My partner, a Black man, has a complicated relationship with white women. Most of his supervisors have been white women. Most of the HR personnel he’s dealt with have been white women. Most of his teachers were white women. Back when he was living in the margins, most of his public defenders and social workers were white women. He obtained his doctorate degree in a field that is 75% white women.
And yes, his wife is also a white woman.
Because we are not a monolith, his experiences with white women have, of course, been varied. But there is one crucial distinction. White women, when compared to other intersections of gender and race, are highly prevalent in middle management, human resources, education, nursing, social work, mental health, and even public defense. As such, my partner has often found himself in situations in which white women hold some degree of power over his mental, physical, and/or financial well-being.
Many, though not all, of these relationships start out on a positive note. Quite a few white women have seen his potential, positioned themselves as allies and mentors, and have…