Leia, Hillary, and Trusting Black Women
I hated Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The Porg are adorable, yet watching this story about power, about mistakes and growth, about in-betweens and passionate advocacy for important causes, I could only see what I saw drenching the 2016 election, and what I have seen throughout 2017.
What I saw were incredible, brilliant, qualified, powerful women and the men who refused to trust them.
**Spoilers for Last Jedi**
Poe Dameron, demoted for disobeying General Leia Organa’s direct orders during a battle, refuses to believe that the female Admiral Holdo could be making rational, strategic decisions for the resistance forces. And so, in order to protect the lives of the remaining rebels and stop Poe in the act of outright mutiny, General Organa must be roused from a coma to shoot Poe.
Poe is embarrassed and astonished to find that Admiral Holdo, of great military fame, had a plan all along but didn’t share it with him. He, a rebel hero, a famed fighter and resistance darling, created work and chaos for the leaders of the rebellion, resulting in the loss of who knows how many lives, including Admiral Holdo’s, in order to soothe his precious ego.
The fact is: Poe doesn’t trust powerful women.
But I know the price of misogyny and I know the importance of feminism.
I want to see a universe that already understands the toll of sexism and bigotry, a universe in which powerful women and non-binary people are respected as experts without question. I want to see a universe in which men don’t need to be taught by women that powerful women deserve trust.
The 2016 election was a farce. Research reveals what we all lived through: pundit after pundit after reporter after campaign correspondent treated Donald Trump’s experience and policy statements as equal to Hillary Clinton’s and questioned her ability to lead the country as frequently as his. Clinton is a former Secretary of State and former Senator, with decades of political experience. Trump is a businessman with dozens of criminal and civil charges, settlements, and bankruptcies.
And who were the men who shaped coverage of the election? Glenn Thrush. Matt Lauer. Bill O’Reilly. Mark Halperin. Charlie Rose. These men created the narrative of a powerful woman who couldn’t possibly be trusted because she used a private email server, because she, like Leia Organa, was related to another powerful person. And they positioned her as an equal to Donald Trump, whose rape and sexual harassment charges were dismissed as merely “boorish or politically incorrect.”
And of course, each of these men has something else in common. They have all been accused of sexual assault and sexual violence by women. Each of these men are misogynists. Their misogyny terrorizes women they worked with and likely colored their coverage of the election. These men view women as objects to play with or ignore. Powerful women threaten that view, refusing to be played with or ignored.
But before these reporters and pundits were stripped of their power by the women whom they terrorize, Donald Trump won the election.
He was voted into power by white, middle class men and women afraid to lose the power granted by white supremacy, affirmed in their decision by men who were invested in supporting another man who preyed on women.
Trump voters and the reporters who abetted them don’t trust powerful women.
Since the presidential election, those who didn’t vote for Trump have funneled their outrage into protests, advocacy, writing, art, music, and civics. Yet sexism and white supremacy pervade the left, evidenced by our inability to invest in transformational leadership by women, especially black women.
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When Roy Moore lost the election for the governorship of Alabama in November, and the exit polls revealed how Alabamans voted by race, the internet rang with cries of “thanks” to black women, who voted unanimously for Doug Jones. (As well as for Hillary Clinton.)
“Black women will save us!”
Black women are again and again and again expected to “save” America, “save” Alabama. Black women are asked to teach non-black people our own history. Black women are expected to lead the resistance. Black women are asked to put their bodies in danger literally and figuratively. And they are rewarded with thanks, if they receive any reward at all.
Black women are asked to mother us, yet, like General Leia and Admiral Holdo, are treated with disdain and violence when they step into positions of power.
Black women, in fact, face the trauma of generations of violence, genocide, and institutional racism that stands between them and “saving” America. The act of voting against a racist, sexist, violent bigot is lauded as salvation, but powerful black women are undermined and overlooked.
Tarana Burke coined the phrase #MeToo ten years ago, and received very little lip service in the Time Magazine Person of the Year feature dedicated to honoring the movement she started.
Erica Garner, activist, advocate, and daughter of Eric Garner, died on December 30th, 2017, leaving her infant son and community behind. Like hundreds of black women and non-binary leaders, she faced constant attacks for her activism and struggled financially, despite her incredible work.
Progressives don’t trust powerful black women.
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My call to my fellow progressives: Don’t be Poe Dameron.
Don’t be the viewer who watched Matt Lauer talk over Hillary Clinton and ask her about her emails, and assumed he was being fair and balanced.
Don’t be the progressive who tweets ‘Thank you black women” and calls it a night.
We must share our power and trust women. If we want to truly move past the 2016 election, we must share our power. If we want to grow from of the #MeToo movement, we must share our power and trust women. If we want to truly support black women, we non-black people must share our power.
Sharing power doesn’t mean giving up responsibility. Sharing up power means working to remove the barriers in the way of those who should be in power. Sharing power means giving our own power, our own resources, and our own money to those who should be in power.
I challenge us non-black progressives to share our power with black women this New Year.
To give our money to black women this New Year.
To #TrustBlackWomen this New Year.
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Imagine a Star Wars in which Poe was frightened, yet trusted Admiral Holdo to do her job as he did his. A Star Wars in which he shared his power, his magnetism, and his sense of strategy with her. A Star Wars in which, when she declined his help, he worked to garner support for her among the resistance. A Star Wars in which Poe Dameron supported Admiral Holdo and General Organa and trusted their judgement.
I imagined a Star Wars in which women were trusted to lead, but that’s not what I found.
I hated the Last Jedi.