An intersectional conversation about racial trauma and violence against women of colour is necessary to to move beyond white feminismand build female solidarity says Sabina Basi
As a keen yogi, I am a huge believer in body intelligence. My body often intuits things my mind fails to recognise. This week my body reacted to events before my brain could catch up.
After a breathless, sweaty, tearful panic, I realised that something was very wrong. My rational mind still resisted. I asked myself a string of self-doubting questions such as; “Am I overreacting?”, “Am I being anti-feminist?”, “Am I the only one feeling this?”.
However, I firmly trusted my body intelligence and I spoke out.
The distress that I am describing is how I, and many other women of colour I have spoken to this week -have felt about the disproportionate media attention that has been thrown on the disappearance of Sarah Everard in the UK.
I have felt deeply hurt and frustrated that the only event this week that is considered to be worthy of endless news stories, of a viral social media campaign, of a call to action, of an all-staff email, was the disappearance of a white woman from Clapham. In contrast, when a mixed race woman spoke out about being driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of racism in British institutions, the media and the public tore her character and her integrity to shreds.
I am a young woman who has felt scared whilst walking the streets of London on my own on multiple occasions over the last decade. I was chased by a man once. I regularly ask my friends to text me when they get home and I am glad to know there is an emergency SOS button on my iphone. My heart goes out to Sarah’s family and friends and I cannot begin to imagine the pain and grief they must be feeling right now. I am disgusted at the way the police have treated women who took to the streets to have their voices heard.
But as a British Indian woman, this is not my only truth. Racism terrifies me even more. I have felt unsafe because of my gender AND my race. I have felt unsafe in places where white women feel safe, simply because of my race.”
So when reading and listening to the news about Sarah’s disappearance this week, yes I felt upset, but I have also felt confused and forgotten.
In a week when intersecting issues of race and feminism were brought to the fore in the news, why did we miss the opportunity to have an intersectional national conversation about violence against ALL women, which recognises that women of colour are affected by violence differently and this violence is reported differently in the media.
Why did so many white woke people claim to be shocked about Meghan’s revelations about racism in the British media and then fail to see this same racism play out before their eyes with the coverage of Sarah Everard’s disappearance versus the murder of black and brown women?”
Why did we talk so much about male allyship and forget how to be a white ally?
These are not rhetorical questions. I urge you, in despair, to think about WHY?
I feel tired writing this, but I feel even more exhausted trying to explain myself multiple times to people who I thought understood. But I have come to accept that white women simply can’t have an emotional, bodily reaction to racism in the same way I do. Racial trauma does not exist in their bodies, in the way that it does for many women of colour. I feel the need to say that this is not a criticism, it’s just a fact. Similarly, my body and my mind cannot really know what it feels like to be a trans woman in Uganda who risks violence on a daily basis.
I’m not pitting one woman’s worth against another. This black female protestor from Sistah Space who took part in the women’s vigil in London this week sums it up perfectly when she asks white feminists; “where were you??” and before hesitating to hear their reply, calls out; “I am coming out for you, whether you’re coming out for me or not, I am coming out for you, because that is the right thing to do.”
THAT is female solidarity. And that is all women of colour ask for; to be remembered, to be supported and to be valued equally to white women.
Sabina is an avid yoga, fitness and music fan who describes herself as an intersectional feminist with a passion for social justice. She attended a Girls Grammar School in Birmingham before studying a French & Spanish degree at the University of Bristol. After a year of travelling and working in South, Central and North America - including a job as a dance teacher in Buenos Aires and a waitress in Brooklyn - she moved to London to take up an Executive Assistant role at American Express. During this time she studied for a Masters degree in International Development at Birkbeck College in her spare time over 2 years. After a challenging 12 month period of failed job interviews, she finally joined Restless Development - a youth development charity - in 2013.
Sabina has worked at Restless Development for 7 years during which period she has held 3 roles and worked in London and Uganda. She is a programme development expert with extensive experience of cultivating partnerships, relationship-management, programme design, innovation, proposal development, programme management and monitoring and evaluation. She is a values-driven and authentic leader committed to inspiring and coaching people from diverse backgrounds to realise their full potential.