The “first wave” of American feminism is often cited as beginning with the suffrage movement around the turn of the 20th Century. However, a worthy scholar will search a little farther back to the benevolent societies which were established even before the Civil War. Though there were abolitionist associations which allowed membership regardless of race, class, or gender, the benevolent societies, begun and led by middle-class, white women, were segregated for the most part, especially in the South.
Consequently, in the wake of the freedoms newly obtained, a whole new weight of burdens following the war prompted black women to organize their own benevolent societies in order to meet the unique needs of their own race. Black women’s societies continued to be snubbed by their white counterparts all throughout the first half of the new century, even the YWCA.
There was hope that the “second wave” of feminism, led by Betty Friedan, would bring a merging of the black and white feminists. However, clashes between them continued through the 70s until, it appears, they eventually branched off in different directions and have since been seeking their own separate agendas.
Neither group will openly admit the feelings of betrayal and mistrust which flow just below the surface, though Jill Nelson comes close when she laments the fact that when NOW was asked to comment regarding the Duke lacrosse rape allegations, they didn’t choose a black representative to give an answer:
The side-stepping of this division is nowhere more evident than when Oprah is asked directly about Senator Hillary Clinton. You will notice that she is very careful about what she says. She makes sure that her audience understands that she is not against Clinton; she is only for Obama.
Don’t these people know any feminists of color whom they could suggest might be better suited to speak to the topic than themselves?
That sounds very nice on the surface. However, have you noticed the song which was playing in the background when Oprah stepped out on the stage at the Obama rally in Iowa? After viewing Oprah’s speech on YouTube, I did a Google search to try and figure out what song that was. I heard snatches of “freedom, freedom,” and assumed they were black activist lyrics. I was never more surprised to find that it was none other than the 1968 Aretha Franklin feminist anthem, Think.
Whoa, what was this? You cannot convince me that the song they picked had nothing to do with any underlying message. It just could not be a coincidence that this song was chosen for an introduction to the endorsement of a candidate by one of the nation’s most popular black feminists. Then, it occurred to me that this was the opportunity of a lifetime for Oprah to avenge her sisters in the black feminist movement.
Is there a little jealousy among black women against Hillary Clinton, the middle-class, white feminist? Could Senator Clinton embody everything they see wrong with how they have been snubbed and mistreated by their white Sisters in the feminist movement literally since its very inception?
If so, then the worst thing Senator Clinton could have done was to play the race card. The black community was evidently appalled by her comments regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and rightly so. She said,
Though she has since tried to “clarify” what she meant, what she was really saying reveals the deep and wide difference between the two feminist movements. In fact, it reveals a clear picture of Senator Clinton’s core vision. Remember, ladies, it takes a village. You cannot raise your family without the help of Big Sister.
Dr King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.
Could it be that black women resent this uppity-middle-class-white-woman attitude? While white feminists, like the well-meaning wives of plantation owners, try to do something for the black the community, it seems as though the black feminists are beginning to hold them at arm’s length and say, Thanks, but no thanks; we can take care of our own.
Unfortunately, however, neither sect of feminist Sisters will ever come to the knowledge of the truth as long as they continue to seek for a savior among the children of men. Neither Barak Obama nor Hillary Clinton can ever bring about the lasting "change" which each so eagerly promotes. There is only one Savior of the world and only One who can bring all classes, sexes, and races together in harmony with both God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
Jill Nelson, “Black Women: First Dissed, Now Disappeared,” WIMN: Women In Media & News,10 April 2007
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. -- The Lord Jesus Christ (The KJV Bible, John 12:32)
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. . . -- The Apostle Paul (The KJV Bible, 1Timothy 2:5)
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation... -- The Apostle John (The KJV Bible, Revelvation 5:9)
[2Tim Reid, “Hillary Clinton gaffe over Martin Luther King may cost votes in South Carolina,” The Times, 12 January 2008