Saturday, September 20, 2008

On Prisons, Borders, Safety, and Privilege: An Open Letter to White Feminists

Borders (or, Who Crosses, and Who Cares)

"Prominent white feminists often say they are organizing against violence, for safety. So where have they been while working-class immigrant women have been pulled from their homes and workplaces, often separated from their young children, in immigration raids across the United States in recent months?

Brownfemipower of Women of Color Blog has written extensively about how popular white feminist bloggers failed to quickly and substantially cover the specific damage done to women during a major immigration raid in New Bedford, Massachusetts, early last year. New Bedford was not an anomaly: immigration raids -- many of them marked by multiple forms of violence, including surprise attack; immediate separation of parents and their young children; racist and sexist abuse of people held in binary-gender-segregated immigration-detention facilities; deportation itself; and the creation of the constant fear that the next one could happen anywhere, anytime -- are happening all the time, all over the United States.

Immigrant communities are living in near-constant fear, with little "safety"; women and trans and gender-nonconforming people are suffering gender-based violence at the hands of federal immigration officials; and the movement for immigration-policy reform is arguably the largest mass movement in the United States today.

Where are white feminists?

As far as I can tell, white feminists' "solidarity" with the immigrants' rights movement amounts to occasionally featuring a woman who works at an immigrants' rights nonprofit in a publication or panel, and occasionally mentioning a sensational case of violence against a particular immigrant woman on a blog. I was at the mass May Day marches for immigrants' rights in 2006 and 2007 in Los Angeles, and I saw no notable presence of any of the major U.S.-based feminist organizations. In 2007, I could find no mentions of the upcoming marches, or report-backs the next day, on popular feminist blogs. Hundreds of -- some places millions -- of people were on the streets for social justice. Where were white feminists?"

This is an excerpt from a powerful piece written for Make/Shift by Jessica Hoffman.

I just subscribed and ordered all the back issues. I will post more soon, but wanted to post this today because it feels urgent.


Tobi Vail said...

something that stirred me in reading this--immigration issues as FEMINIST issues, not just as immigration issues. that is really essential. while i have gone to some may day/immigration rally's here, it's been awhile, and to be honest, i am not clued in enough to know when/where this organizing is happening in my community. this is not the case as far as reproductive justice issues are concerned. i am on the mailing lists, the newsletters i read cover the issues. i also feel i am aware of a lot of domestic violence, sexual assault and other 'safety' issues in oly. so i will take this to heart and see what i can do. i actually do know a bit about immigration issues locally, but that's because of taking feminisms: local to global with therese salibe & lin nelson and 50+ students who made immigration a part of the curriculum.
if we really believe that feminism is largely a critique of power and that our analysis cannot isolate gender from race, class or nationality, then clearly IMMIGRATION (AND PRISON) ISSUES ARE FEMINIST ISSUES.
i am so glad Make/Shift exists

Tobi Vail said...

the new issue of make/shift came in th email today

Tobi Vail said...

i mean, the MAIL not via email sorry for the confusion. we just saw tussle and it's almost 2AM after waking up at 7 then work yoga work spanish etc