It's been nearly a week since the election and many of us have been angry, despondent, and frightened - sometimes cycling between all of those in a single day. Hell, sometimes I've cycled through those in an hour. For many, it's hard to accept the outcome of this election but even harder to grapple with the fact that 53% of white women voted for Trump. It is a painful and uncomfortable truth.
Several months ago, I was working on a project with an older black woman and I asked her for some information I needed. I was focused on my deadline but my timing was poor for her personally. The details are unimportant but the conversation shifted from one of information exchange to one of race. Our interaction was triggering for her and she was angry and told me in direct ways that hurt. I was devastated and I cried and felt sorry for myself because I saw myself as one of the "good" ones - a white woman with intellectual and political awareness and good intentions. How could this happen to me of all people?
As parents, Luisa and I have always talked to our kids about intention versus impact, so, I was able to accept responsibility quickly but that was just the beginning. I then had to sit with the uncomfortable truth that despite my intentions, I had caused someone incredible pain. Initially, I struggled to understand why race entered the conversation and things escalated so quickly. In time, I realized that race didn't enter the conversation. It had always been there without me noticing and that was the most concrete lesson on the subtle power of privilege that I'd ever had. In the equation of intentions versus impact, there are many variables and race will always be one of them.
53% of white women voted for Trump. Even those of us who did not likely feel guilty and ashamed. I know I do. But this is not the time to tear each other apart. I've seen white women online trying to divorce themselves from their whiteness by denouncing other white women for any action they try to take. I've seen white women expressing distrust of other white women because they might have voted for Trump. Blaming and shaming immobilizes people and breeds even more fear and panic, especially for white women who are queer and/or religious minorities. Denouncing your whiteness does not erase your white privilege. It just doesn't work that way.
So, what do we do?
Now is the time for white women with good intentions to sit with the discomfort of this election. It is time to take the guilt and pain to our trusted friends who will give it space without adding to it. It is time for us to reflect and question everything we believed to be true. It is time to stop trying to position ourselves as the "good" ones and start doing real work. Now more than ever it's obvious that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We have to move forward and plan for action together.