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Calling In White Women

Sharon Kyle: In spite of his indefensible remarks, when the dust settled, 53% of white women voted for Trump—an almost imperceptible change from the percentage of white women voting for Mitt Romney in 2012.

During the presidential campaign, the video where Trump was caught bragging about doing some pretty vile things to women had little impact on his electability. Even the allegations from several women who claim that Trump sexually assaulted them had no effect.

Calling In White Women

Calling In White Women—Sharon Kyle

In the final analysis, Donald Trump ended up with more votes from white women than Hillary Clinton. In spite of his indefensible remarks, when the dust settled, 53% of white women voted for him—an almost imperceptible change from the percentage of white women voting for Mitt Romney in 2012. Turns out it was only women of color who overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton.

Not long after learning that Trump won, I got a call from a woman who identified herself as a feminist named Amy Jo Goddard, explaining that she had had a number of conversations with progressive women of all stripes—all distraught over the news of Trump's victory. These conversations with women across racial lines revealed a distinct difference between the way that white women and all other women were experiencing Trump's victory.

Calling In White Women

Amy Jo was so moved by the women she spoke with that she decided to launch a series of classes. Amy Jo said she felt the need to help white women investigate white supremacy and racism, and to develop tools and skills to be more effective allies to people of color.

She told me that it was striking how different the Trump victory was interpreted by women of color, particularly black women versus white women. She asked if I'd consider teaching one of the classes. I accepted her invitation.

The classes will be conducted over several weeks, exclusively online. A link providing details about the course can be found at the bottom of this article.

In my opinion, the role that race plays in the political realm isn't given the attention it deserves. I also believe that it is possible that if this nation's racial literacy were more developed, we might not have Trump as the incoming president of the United States.

The series of classes Amy Jo is offering is called, "Calling 'In' White Women" but it was originally dubbed "Calling the Wise Women". Here is an excerpt from a letter Amy Jo, who is a white woman, wrote explaining how and why the name of the class changed:

People of color have often said white people need to educate ourselves about race and that we cannot expect people of color to be our educators or to do the work for us. Some are willing to help us do that work and show up in very hard dialogues. Some are not.

It’s understandable and valid either way. No matter what, we as white women need to show up and look at our own blind spots and issues related to race and how we might unwittingly perpetuate racial stereotypes, and even misogyny or white supremacy. We have work to do.

I am always challenged by what to call something—when we started to form the idea of bringing in a bunch of women we think are wise to help us grow, we thought, let’s call it “Calling the Wise Women.” We need wisdom right now and we need to dive deep into our own resources to be the best versions of ourselves, right?

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Then I was gifted by a woman of color that took the time to write me and “Called me in.” If you haven’t heard that term, it’s a term used instead of “calling someone out” to say, let’s name this thing that just happened and call in someone to come closer to understanding, collaboration, a shift in perspective, a new action—whatever the call is for, rather than "calling them out" in a way that distances them and pushes them away. Calling people out often looks like shaming them, telling them how wrong they are and making them small. It’s not productive if we are seeking greater understanding or to work together toward a common goal.

This woman wrote with courage, and shared that by my offering a class aimed at white women and naming it “Calling the Wise Women” I was insinuating that only white women are wise and that women of color are not, perpetuating an idea that is already too problematic.

I wrote her back and asked if we could speak. She was willing. We talked, and I listened and heard her and realized clearly my mistake. Not at all what I intended and still, it was there, and it impacted someone in the exact opposite way I meant for it to. This, as you will learn more about in our series, is what’s called a microaggression. My change in the title and languaging is my attempt to make it right and accept her wisdom as an opportunity for me to learn and grow.

When we left the conversation, she thanked me for listening and being willing to talk. She told me she has been challenging (or calling in) many white women recently and that most of them have not been willing to talk to her. That concerns me.

We have to talk. We have to hear each other. We have to own it when we mess up. I messed up and I wanted to course correct. I am sorry I didn’t see the error. I am sorry for anyone it may have offended or hurt.

I think many white women are so afraid of critique they do nothing. We are so afraid to get things wrong about race that we are quiet. We are so terrified that we will be "called out" that we don’t connect at all or make attempts at doing it better. I get why people do this and it’s not productive—it doesn’t help anything.

We changed the name to “Calling ‘In’ White Women” because that is what we mean to do. Call us in to do this work and to empower ourselves and others to act around racism, patriarchy and white supremacy. I will be learning right alongside of you.

-- Amy Jo Goddard

The classes are fee based but there is a sliding scale and scholarships are also available. A portion of the proceeds will go to Standing Rock. The series began on Wednesday December 14th. (All classes are taped and available for view after the class date.)

For more information or to sign up, go here. If you have any questions or need financial assistance, please write to Amy Jo Goddard at moreplease@amyjogoddard.com.

I am conducting the class that is offered on January 18, 2017. You can find information about my class and all of the the others here.

Sharon Kyle 2013

Hope you can join us.

Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive