susan b

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Black feminists deserve to be honored this Election Day, too

Women are leaving their “I Voted” stickers on suffragist Susan B. Anthony’s tombstone in Rochester, New York. But Evette Dionne, a senior editor at Revelist, is asking them to save some of these stickers for Ida B. Wells and other black women who paved the way for women’s rights.

Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist and pioneering intersectional feminist, who fought for women’s right to vote and against the lynching of black men. Susan B. Anthony was an undeniable leader for white suffragettes, but also had a real history of racism.

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“I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.“ - Susan B. Anthony

I hate having to explain jokes, but yes the 15th amendment gave Black men the *legal* right to vote. No women were able to vote at the time. The full promise of the 15th Amendment wasn’t realized until almost a century later, with the Voting Rights Act. Black men had the legal right to vote then, but trust that they weren’t waltzing into any Southern polling stations. The fight continues.

An Open Letter to America

Dear true America,

Fight back. He won. But it’s not over. It cannot be over with so much on the line. I know you want to give up. I know you want to lose all hope. I’m having an anxiety attack on my morning bus as I write this: so, what does this tell us? Does this tell us that giving up and losing hope is going to help us? We can’t afford it not to. I feel like I’m having a heart attack. I will not let it stay.

So fight back. Fight back with all you can. Fight back, and stay safe in the meantime. Don’t you think about hurting yourself over this. I assure you, it’s not the right choice, or even the helpful one. We can fucking do this. Think of John Laurens and the other abolitionists; think of Susan B. Anthony and the other feminists and activists; think of Hamilton and other immigrants who came and made this country their own and never gave up, ever. Think of all the people you have got on your side. I am on your side. My anxiety-ridden ass with fight with you. Bonus points if I can aim my vomit at the enemy.

Think of all the power you have got in you. You are more important than you realize. You are a being of fingernails and teeth and scars and fight, and you will not be taken down so easily. I know you. I know. You are stronger than this fear; love is always stronger than fear; we have got something worth fighting for. They have nothing but hate. Love wins against hate in the end. Love wins.

I know it’s hard to believe in anything I’m saying. I’m trying to believe in anything I’m saying. I’m on my way to high school in the country, where people ride tractors to school and have Confederate flags attached to their trucks and wear WhiteLivesMatter shirts for the hell of it. To a high school where I am the president of the GSA. I am so afraid.

But I do not fight depression and OCD and anxiety and anorexia to give up over a terrorist and a bigot. I do not fight every day to give up over this. This isn’t a mess I made, but I will sweep it up. And when I burn the ashes, you better believe something spectacular is going to rise.

America the privileged is a country of comfortable white men. But America the true nation is a country of brave minorities and allies and fighters. We are a people who have not given up since white men first came over. Ask the Native Americans who still fight to this day for basic human rights, ask them if you should give up. Ask them if, for one damn second, they have given up since white men came over. You think they could have afforded to? You think my ancestors escaped Italy and were faced with racism and bigotry here, just to give up in the face of it? You think the slaves who died and fought and rebelled would condone you giving up? You think the activists we know and love would give up?? You think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi and Angelica Schuyler and Susan B. Anthony would? Anthony died without the right to vote, but she died fighting for what she knew was right. Dr. King might have died before he saw the fruits of his labor, but he died creating hope and belief and fight in the brave black people of this country. He died changing history.

You can be that person. A tiny white gay girl from Columbus. A trans black man from Philly. A Muslim woman from New York City. You are all Dr. Kings and Gandhis and Schuylers and Anthonys waiting to happen. You have all the power. And we have all the power if we band together.

It is not unbelievable. We grew up reading about heroes with swords and dragons, heroes who fight for what was right no matter how young they were. We grew up imagining battles against evil. We fell in love with Liberty’s Kids and Hamilton and Les Mis and The Hunger Games. Now is the time for you to join the revolution you always yearned for.

Hear the people sing. The song of angry men. And women. And others.

The song of humanity.

Hear the people sing. The song of humanity. A humanity that will not be slaves again.

Sincerely,

The pan Italian queer girl from buttfuck Hicksville

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As Susan B. Anthony’s name trends on Twitter — and as people blanket her Rochester, New York, grave in “I Voted” stickers — it’s worth remembering that Anthony’s legacy is a paragon of white feminism. Anthony’s pursuit of women’s rights came with a hefty dose of racism. On its website, the National Women’s History Museum is careful to emphasize that Anthony’s problem wasn’t with black men voting, per se.

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I hear women are putting their “I Voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s gravestone. However, today I urge you to think about Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Piper Ensley, and all the other incredible Black women who fought just as hard for women’s suffrage–despite facing racism from Susan B. Anthony and her white followers. Anthony made great strides for white women, but she wasn’t looking out for women of color.

As women, as voters, we need to do better. Looking forward, I hope these next 4 years allow for progress, compassion, and intersectionality.

Today, I am proud and grateful to be voting in my first Presidential election. And I owe that fundamental right to so many women who do not get the respect and honor they deserve.

It is a lie that women have been able to vote since 1920. 

White women have been able to vote since 1920. All Native American women couldn’t vote until 1924. All Asian women couldn’t vote until 1952. All Black women couldn’t vote until 1964.  

In five years there is probably going to be some big centennial celebration of women’s suffrage. But that will be a whitewashing of history. It will be an event that erases the struggles of non-white women. It will be an event that will try to hide the fact that white feminists heros like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton actively argued against the rights of people of color in order to advance their own goals. 

As a presidential candidate, Clinton was vanquished. But as a feminist icon, she lives on. She’s the women who withstand the painful misogyny of American society. She’s telling your daughter to raise her hand in class, even if the boys make fun of her. She’s pantsuits and she’s the more than 3 million members of the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. She’s every qualified woman who had an unqualified man beat her out for a job. She’s the “I Voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave. She’s the cracks in the glass ceiling that didn’t break. She’s what could’ve been. She’s the promise of what someday will be.
—  Caitlin Frazier, “The Iconic Hillary Clinton”

Why do people start treating black people like we’re stupid if we remind people that their whitewashed version of their historical fave isn’t the real version?  They always say things like, “Oh a person said things that are offensive to modern Americans!  Well guess what Lincoln was racist!”  Like we’re worshiping Lincoln and don’t know our own history.  Are we supposed to like and respect Susan B. Anthony because she said her bullshit “back then” instead of in 2016? Oh its okay, it was only black people BACK THEN who were expendable so its not like her brand of white feminism hasn’t harmed people TODAY.  Right?  Are you kidding me? And hell, it was offensive back then because black people existed back then and were offended by it.  You can’t use white people as the only standard for what’s offensive and whether or not people are oversensitive today. 

Guess what?  If she had her way (like nearly every other white suffragette), people like me wouldn’t have any voting rights what so ever and you’d be in the hands of only white men and women so where would we be then?  You think Hilary would win? Please. 

So maybe don’t use her as an example in the first place and don’t be so quick to get defensive.  Don’t just dismiss and talk down to black people and others who aren’t going to blindly worship old racist women just because their sanitized version is more convenient for white feminists.