May 19, 2019

Lizz Winstead is a much nicer human being than I am. Let's just stipulate that right up front.

Winstead is co-creator of The Daily Show, and (to me) even more importantly, is founder of Lady Parts Justice League. As the sole white woman on Joy's panel discussion of the simultaneously psychotic and pathetic Republican march towards eliminating the protections of Roe v. Wade, Winstead offered the following advice to people wondering how they can help.

I've been to every single one of these [states,] I've been to Alabama four times, Georgia twice, Mississippi five times, Kentucky twice. the activists on the ground, and this is super important to realize, is that the activists on the ground are doing incredible work and a lot of this work legislatively, the abortion funds helping poor women are run by tremendously bad-@ss, if I can, women of color. So when these things happen, when people are like, "What can I do, what can I do?" the first thing you can do is just Google that state and find out where their abortion fund is, find out where those reproductive justice organizations are on the ground and donate to them first. Support them first.

Do we hear that, white ladies? Black women are already ON THIS. They have already mobilized, and have been for YEARS. Because white people did this to Black women FIRST. We have been for centuries. Name me a moment - just a MOMENT in American history when Black women had total control over their reproductive lives. I'll wait. (No, I won't — I have things to do.) White women are so blown away by the Handmaid's Tale, and meanwhile Black women are saying, "We've been living this for centuries."

Why else do I sound annoyed at us? Because over the last week when these thoroughly predictable bills were passed in these thoroughly regressive states, white women have seemed shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, and so many are flitting around helpless and clueless that we may as well be Republican women. Cue appropriation fever. See the privilege fly.

As soon as the Alabama law was signed by Republican female Governor Kay Ivey, comparisons to the Underground Railroad became so ubiquitous that #PinkRailroad was trending on Twitter and The Boston Globe was reporting on "The Auntie Network." Yes, white women thought they were so clever and helpful that they thought it'd be cool to steal the history of slaves for their own social media virility. What were they offering? Their spare bedrooms and "a hand to hold" if the women seeking abortions in the states where they were banned could manage to get themselves there.

Lemme explain something to my fellow melanin-deficient sisters. I'm still learning, I still f*ck up, and I'm still racist (don't look shocked if you know me. If you're white, you're racist. It's only a matter of degree.) But I know this much:

  • Use of the term "Underground Railroad" to offer your cushy basement bedroom to a woman seeking an abortion in your state where it is still legal is highly offensive and hard-core appropriation.
  • Use of the term "Auntie" is generally reserved for Black women.
  • The assumption that a person has the time and resources to travel out of state and take the necessary time off work, perhaps take children out of school, or arrange childcare for several days, simply because you're willing to let them stay in your spare bedroom the peak of privilege. You're no hero.

If you'd like to make this offer to people, great. It's very hospitable of you. But give it a different name, and also give yourselves different names. Unless you're a Black, Pakistani, or Indian woman, you don't get to call yourself "Auntie" without crossing insulting racial and cultural boundaries. (If you do choose to ignore this guidance, just be prepared to be called out on it.)

Also, where are the MEN? Make sure you're encouraging your male colleagues, friends, relatives, kids to speak up against this monstrous wave sweeping the states' legislatures, and the inevitable overturning of Roe. Do THAT hard work. And make sure you donate to not just Planned Parenthood and NARAL, but the Yellowhammer Fund, and other organizations that support independent family planning clinics, and do as Lizz Winstead said above - use the Google machine. It is free. Donate to organizations that already exist to aid women in the states WHERE THEY LIVE to help them safely get abortions. Chances are, those bad-ass organizations are run by Black women and/or Women of Color. Support THOSE orgs. They're waaaaaay ahead of you. Let them lead. Stop acting like you're so clever and original. If you have an idea, there's a really good chance a Black woman has had the idea and acted on it already, so Google the damn thing.

Now, I know the "Pink Railroad" network has heard the criticism and changed its name, apparently. That's great. I truly appreciate people who hear concerns non-defensively and adjust appropriately and plod on to do the work. But in this day and age, that so many of us still have to be TAUGHT that white women should not steal the history and the work of Black women is absolutely infuriating. We can do better.

Told ya Lizz Winstead was nicer than I am. But I am out of patience, and we don't have time for nice.

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