To My White Sisters Amongst the 48%

We feel good about yesterday. We woke up this morning feeling better than we have since before the election. We exerted ourselves and we marched in solidarity with millions of others around the globe. We thought we were alone in a dystopian fascist world, but now we know we aren’t. We feel better. More comfortable.

The march was so diverse, we are saying to one another. There weren’t just white people there. And wasn’t it nice that the cops were so supportive and smiley? No arrests. No violence.

I’m only talking about myself, but there is a reason we don’t like to be criticized. There is a reason we get so defensive when someone points out that maybe the reason the Women’s March didn’t result in any arrests wasn’t because our obedience was rewarded but because it was so heavily attended by white people. There is a reason we don’t want to answer when someone asks us where we were last Monday during the MLK marches and events in our cities, or why we didn’t post pics of our Black Lives Matter activism last summer when innocent lives were gunned down.

Talking about myself, women don’t like being criticized as grown ups because most of us grew up in crucibles of relentless criticism as girls. We weren’t thin enough, quiet enough, pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, or chaste enough, and we responded by being good girls. As good as we possibly could be. We were obedient, even when the authority kept changing its mind about what it wanted from us. Without a solid conviction of our inherent goodness, we don’t have much.

So now when we did such an obvious positive thing as get up early on a Saturday and march in the cold with millions of other people against fascism, we are not in the mood to be criticized about it.

I know how the white woman of the 48% in this country who didn’t vote for T**** feels. I am her. I’m embarrassed by the way the majority of white people voted in this country. Not all white people, okay? It wasn’t me.

But here’s another truth about me: I had an unusually heavy workload this past week and felt I had the time and energy for either the annual MLK march and rally in Sacramento last Monday or the Women’s March yesterday, and I chose the Women’s March. There was a Black Lives Matters community meeting last night and I didn’t go because I was exhausted. Through my actions of the past nine days, it would be difficult for me to defend my claim that the concerns of BLM are the center of my political life, which they are.

Look. When white women act as a group we make things happen in our country. After all, it was 52% of white women who voted T**** into office. I know it wasn’t you. It wasn’t me either. But it happened.

We have also all seen the archival photographs of white women marching for women’s suffrage before it was cool. I remind you that it was a white woman who started MADD, putting drunk driving into the center of our conversations with our teenagers. If it weren’t for Rachel Carson’s crusade against DDT, we wouldn’t have any birds of prey left today. It was also a white woman who worked to get most of humanity to stop thinking of whale flesh as appropriate commodity via the founding of Greenpeace. Yesterday’s Women’s March, which we  white women heavily populated, is going on record as the largest public protest in history, and was a solid punch in the face to the new administration.

But let’s also remember Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour. Don’t recognize their names? They are the co-chairs of the National Committee for the Women’s March on Washington. We have them to thank for getting the ball rolling on the event that has made us feel so much better about our country and ourselves.

And while we gather our political strength and activism, let’s also learn the stories of Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Let’s at least start there. Let’s at least know their names.

We went out of our “comfort zones” yesterday by taking to the streets. Let’s keep practicing our activism by also attending marches and events specifically geared towards the concerns of racial justice, equality in education, clean water, and immigration. Yes, we should have been doing it all along, but let’s start now anyway. Let’s extend ourselves further than we ever have before, and listen to to what our brothers and sisters of other races are saying without jumping to defense. Let’s dare to show up for everyone. After all, if we think fascism is new to the United States, I point to our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and Manifest Destiny and say no it isn’t. We have citizen brothers and sisters who have been facing death and destruction by government order for generations.

While we gather our political strength and activism, let’s widen our arms and gather also the lives of the children of our Black and Brown sisters. If we made their children’s lives as important to us as our white children’s lives, the whole country would shut down in the event of education injustice and wrongful death at the hands of police. Look at the momentum we have created in the fight for our own rights! The time is now to grow that wave, consciously and on purpose link arms with our sisters and brothers of other races, and work for the concerns of our entire American family.

I know we can do it. We are more powerful than we know. Let’s use that power for the good of all today. Black and Brown women and men have been fighting this fight all along. Let’s listen to them with our hearts and minds wide open. We’re brave enough. Let’s change everything.

All photo credit: Margaret Wanket


  1. Reblogged this on Cinthia Ritchie and commented:
    Love this post. And love all the women, and men, who showed up in all kinds of funky weather to march.


  2. […] “To My White Sisters Among the 48%,” Maureen O’Leary […]


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