Most white feminists I know identify themselves as intersectional feminists or at least claim to have an intersectional lens. Yet when Michael Dunn’s first degree murder charge resulted in a mistrial last week, I heard few saying much about Jordan Davis. Most likely they were too busy with Saturday night plans and forgot that black kids are dying in the United States. I find it useful then at this point to call attention to why Stand Your Ground is a feminist issue, though I really shouldn’t have to.
When we claim to be intersectional, we are claiming to recognize the way in which all oppression is wrapped up together. We are claiming to understand that issues of race are connected to issues of gender and that we cannot solve any single issue without working to solve the rest. I discussed this issue in relation to respectability politics in a recent post. Put most simply, we cannot have gender equality so long as black women are more likely to be killed or go to jail than white women are.
Stand Your Ground laws in the U.S. allow for people to defend themselves by eliminating the duty to retreat when they are in reasonable fear for their lives. While this law seems to be written to protect victims, it is instead written to create them. Black people and black children especially have found themselves reasonably threatening more and more in states where Stand Your Ground is the law. People of all races (yes, even black people) find it reasonable to kill unarmed black children when they appear dangerous, which is all of the time. And juries seem to find it reasonable too.
It was more than reasonable to kill Renisha McBride, who came looking for help after a car crash and found herself with a bullet in the head. However it was not reasonable that Marissa Alexander claimed SYG after firing a warning shot that injured no one to defend herself against an abusive partner. She found herself with a twenty year sentence. This is the world black women are living in. This is the reality. The feminist movement is useless, unless it is prepared to do something about it.
Many black feminists might tell me to stop asking to be included in the mainstream feminist movement. But I am not asking that. What is at issue here is the way in which white feminists have taken a back seat in discussing the state sanctioned devaluation of black life, while simultaneously claiming to care about race. What I am asking is that white feminists take off their intersectional name badges unless they can start speaking Renisha and Marissa’s names. Unless they can start speaking Trayvon and Jordan’s names they are implicit in the same system that murdered them.
Allyship requires that we are active in dismantling systems of oppression. It does black people no good to have white allies who think silently to themselves about how sad it is that our children are dying. If feminists still believe in the political and social equality of people then Stand Your Ground is a feminist issue as much as it is a black issue.
Below are a few links that white feminists may find useful after reading.