White Feminists Don’t Care about Black Women

whitney houstonI’m not a self-described feminist, but even I have noticed over the past few weeks how the American feminism has been fired up and ready to go over attacks from the political left and right.

Rush Limbaugh got the ball rolling by calling Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Liberal outposts like Media Matters were aided greatly by the National Organization of Women in targeting advertisers of Limbaugh, and to date, more than 100 have fled the show.

On the right, the conservative Concerned Women for America has been equally relentless in their criticism of Bill Maher, the liberal comedian and host of HBO’s Real Time, for calling Sarah Palin a “c—.”

So then why have these two female powerhouse organizations been missing in action on the two Los Angeles talk radio hosts who offended women, particularly Black women, when they called Whitney Houston a “crack ho” three days after her death?

The hosts of Clear Channel’s flagship Los Angeles Station, KFI/640 AM, were suspended, only I and other African- Americans denounced their actions. But those men are back on the air, and we continue our battle with Clear Channel over diversity efforts at the station—where out of 15 hosts, one is female, none are Black.

So what’s the deal NOW and CWA, because if white women are called out of their names and their character sullied by men, you’re quick to rally the masses. Yet when it involves Black women, you’re strangely silent. What gives?

Oh, I’m sure critics will be quick to say I’m playing the race card. But there is history here.

In 2007, when shock jock Don Imus called the Rutgers female basketball team “nappy-headed hoes,” it was the National Association of Black Journalists and Black civil rights organizations leading the charge.

NOW and CWA had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the debate. In fact, CWA didn’t issue a statement on Imus until a full week after the calls for his head were issued, and even that didn’t come down until after NBC took action against him.

Talk about late to the party!

The message these two groups, with their token representation of Black women on their boards, is clear: it’s not okay to refer to white women as sluts, prostitutes, or c—s, but it is however okay to call Black women crack hoes.

These attitudes prove once again that today’s feminist movement is no better than yesterdays, and even worse—share’s haunting similarities to the gay civil rights movement—a movement that also suffers from the same selective outrage.

Most women, regardless of race, will agree that Limbaugh’s comments were disgusting, distasteful, and insensitive. Similarly, the same can be said about Maher’s Palin comments.

Where I do agree with Maher is in his recent comments to ABC News’ Jake Tapper. In response to the ensuing controversy over his remarks Maher said, “I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets.”

As a Black woman, I can relate to that.

Today’s feminist movement gets from Black women as good as it gives and the token Black on their boards, coupled with the Black children they adopt from Africa, and their support of the KONY 2012 campaign on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t represent diversity or their other favorite word–multiculturalism. Real talk.

The face of HIV/AIDS today is that of a Black woman. Do you see NOW and CWA rallying to our side and demanding attention be paid to this burgeoning epidemic? If so, let me know because clearly I’ve been watching the wrong cable news channels and reading the wrong publications and websites.

It is what it is, and Black women like myself, are sick and tired of white women dismissing, overlooking, and just flat out ignoring our concerns, while simultaneously and ever so self-righteously proclaiming to be the champions of diversity where women are concerned.

It’s clear through NOW’s and CWA’s deafening silence on the personal attack on Whitney Houston that when it comes to defending women, even multi-platinum, international pop icons, that groups like NOW and CWA are concerned only with sexist slurs hurled at white women.

So NOW and CWA, please, spare us all the sidestepping, double talking, excuses and after-the-fact statements. Please, just make a simple modification to your names and add the word “white” before “Women.” Yes, I’m serious. It’s perfectly clear that today’s feminist movement is led by, for the benefit of, and about middle-class white women only. Period. The end.

If they’d just keep it real, us nappy-headed crack hoes would have no need to ever even look in their direction for coalition building around similar issues or even expect that they’d be offended when a Black woman is being called out of her name by a radio shock jock.

If adding the word white to their names is not a practical option, then NOW and CWA need to start defending all women, and not just Georgetown law students and former vice-presidential candidates. It means putting the same energy and resources into defending Black women airport screeners who are repeatedly called fat and lazy by white shock jocks; calling out men who routinely degrade the First Lady of the United States and her body; and the other shameful antics we see directed at Black women.

Yes, I am Black, and I’m also a woman, and I’m also a lesbian. I stand tall in fighting for respect for African-Americans, for women and for LGBT folk. I shouldn’t have to check off a box when insulted.

jasmyne cannick

If the Black in me is offended, I expect the NAACP to rise up and fight it. If the woman in me is offended, I expect NOW and CWA to care enough about me to say something. And if the lesbian in me is insulted, I expect the National Black Justice Coalition to be there but I also expect GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT groups to stand strong with them.

But what is increasingly clear is that when the non-Black groups see me, all they see is my skin color. And all too often, when folks like me need them to stand up, they are missing in action.

Instead of paying Blacks lip service, its time for white feminists to really see us for whom we really are: women.

Jasmyne Cannick

Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Jasmyne A. Cannick is a political and race analyst. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.


  1. Miriam says

    I’d like to know where the black feminists are? If they are out there why aren’t they more vocal on the issues you raise? Also, why do you not describe yourself as a feminist? Do you feel it’s not your fight? Leave it to the others, right, but enjoy the privileges gained from it and whine that others aren’t doing enough for you. If you want something to change, get involved.

  2. Marta says

    This is a dangerous time. Hopefully real progressives– male and female of all “colors” — are beyond seeing issues simply as black or white male or female, or even rich and poor. Know who the real enemy is. If not, the forces who wish to control everyone sexually and racially will divide and conquer. We are– first of all— human beings.

  3. Jim H. says

    Until we figure out that we are our own worst enemy, this type of negativity will continue.
    We have allowed ourselves to be the laughing stock of our own people and be disrespected by other nationalities.
    Television & Music should have been used to open doors of opportunity for us but we allow things to turned into horrible reality show..  Cursing,violent & the list goes on !!!!

    Even in sports !  It’s not the white guys that get notice for bad behavior even though i know they are just as guilty..  So what if they do ?   We aren’t them !!!! 
    Our cheerleaders in high school dance like they’re in a nightclub !  
    I hope somebody is listening to my words.

    Everybody wants to blame Bobby Brown !  Whitney was Grown !!!!!   
    She made life decisions just like so many other A.A’s do…

    We can’t begin to fix the problems if we all keep looking the other way and not admitting there is a problem… 

    • says

      We can’t fix the problems, because of our general ongoing unwillingness to “first” accept the truths about our short comings, and accepting personal responsibility for our p0wn actions…which are many! How on earth are we as a people going to address the very same issues that we’ve had for years, and that we only turn a blind eye too? Sadly, we don’t even respect ourselves, nor anyone else, but expect others to respect us. Bottomline is that we really need to take a long hard look in the mirror of life, and come to terms on what we really need to focus on…and that problem continues to be us! We complain almost daily without fail about something, in one form or another about racism, but we also don’t have any problems showing how racist that we are as a people. Light skin blacks hate darker skin blacks, and guess what we’re all viewed as negative regardless of what catagory tou find yourself in. But, still we appear to be “stuck on stupid”! And, who’s fault is that? Sorry, but black folks can’t have it both ways.

  4. Khndnk says

    The reason why black and white women are separated from each other is rooted in the division between blacks and whites. This society has never fully integrated. Whites still feel superior, discounting racial contact merely as a mater of necessity. Another words forced contact. Be the only black person in a room full of white people, and see the marginalization that takes place. They refuse to acknowledge the person, or initiate verbal contact. Someone needs to wear a hidden camera to prove the point. It does not matter the venue, Church, social gatherings, political gatherings, or the work place.

    What we need is for like minded people to coalesce over issues of mutual need, and form organizations which support the needs of a well integrated healthy society. The fact is, if one wants an organization to be more diverse, become active in it, become a member, change it from within. I agree NOW and CWA should represent all women regardless of race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or membership, But Womens issues were thought to have been resolved even though that has never been the case. So women have been dormant, inactive. Leaving a void being filled by right wing ideologues with regressive ideas. So the membership in NOW and other Womens Organizations have declined, and they have been marginalized., with little political power or influence. Now is the time for change and support for all marginalized people. We have to come together to make it happen. If we don’t we will be divided, left to fight each other, rather the real enemies of the Constitution.

  5. like-mind says

    I do not deny the weak or absent support for Black anguish in our culture – for instance, a missing blonde little girl causes a media panic whereas a missing corn-rowed little girl merits a news release.  

    I do however wish to point out that the Rush et al. crude tirades against Fluke became collectively ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’.  Rush has 30 yrs-worth of scatological commentary against women and men, Black and Minority, straight and LGBT.  Why his overthrow now?  Women have been nettled out of somnolence into hyper-sensitivity by the barrage of recent anti-women’s rights legislation, plus it wasn’t just the name-calling that disgusted everyone, it was the sleazy demand for online amateur sex videos.

  6. says

    Hmmm… not sure why you are associating “crack ho” with being black. She was addicted to crack, which is sad, but her choices led her there. I think it’s more about people lacking sympathy for her condition, as often is the case with drug addicts in our society. While Jon and Ken were insensitive, not enough people who are drug addicts AND  have political clout (yeah, right) were offended enough to make a bigger deal. And who stood up for the drug addicts? Perhaps you are playing the race card in a joker’s wild game?

    • dak says

      Actually there was no evidence that she used crack cocaine. She was asked whether she used crack and she said “no”. She said that she used other drugs. There was no evidence that she used crack. Many white celebrities are on drugs but no one assumes they are on crack. Crack was assumed because she is black. When she died she was found with prescription medication and alcohol. No crack. 

  7. Lydiahowell says

    Are the DJs that made this disgusting remark about Whiteney Houston a NATIONAL show or only broadcast in Los Angeles? Hard to get down on whitee feminists if we dont know that something ha happened!!! Did Black women contat NOW? or MS?or Femninist majority? That is, try to get the word out to white feminists? How about FAIR (Fairness and Acuracy In reproting) & Media Matters–which do media activism?
    A friend just emailed  me this tory & I am seindning it to ALL kinds of feminist & mdia organzaitons (& progressive media).

    Finally, it would ahve been helpful if Jasmyn Cannick had included an ACTION piece–at the very least how to contact the raduio station and complain. You might ahve moer allies than you realize if you reach out a bit.

  8. Lornastremch says

     Jasmyne, I respecftully disagree with the following statement. “So what’s the deal NOW and CWA, because if white women are called out of their names and their character sullied by men, you’re quick to rally the masses.” I am white and have walked the talk. In 2002, I filed a complaint that eventually led me to the state and federal courts. After four years of battle and following every step from public educaton to Human Rights/EEOC and then to state and federal. I somewhat prevailed.  I was called much worse and treated like yesterday’s trash in public education.  During this time, I wrote to NOW, AAUW, etc… and was informed I really didn’t matter. I white. I would love to speak with you on a personal note.   

  9. Richard Packard says

    I can appreciate Ms. Cannick’s comments about CWA and NOW however, what is the surprise about their silence as it relates to “insults” etc. of women of color? My argument would be what are you and other women of color doing to assure the support of these groups? If the CWA and NOW organizations are not addressing or “standing up” for the dignity and respect that women of color deserves then create,develop or organize a group that specifically deals with issues affecting women of color. Why assume that these two groups would defend women of color, did anyone take time to find out what their mission statements consist of in regards to women of color? I lost respect for  NOW after the Luwinsky affair.

  10. Wilmaflintstone says

    It would be nice if knowledge about specific group’s issues within the larger group of women were brought to the general group’s attention before accusations are made.  Most of us are most comfortable and knowledgeable about the issues of importance in our immediate worlds.  That doesn’t mean we don’t care about issues which feature more prominently in other women’s lives than they do in ours.  It means that no one has invited into their world to gain that viewpoint and perspective. Open a dialog, not an argument.  There are enough other people these days trying to treat women like less than they are, can’t we at least act better among ourselves?

  11. says

    Thank you  Jasmyne for your well thought out comments here .You’re 100 % correct and this attitude is UN AMERICAN so let’s get with the program , shall we NOW & CWA ? .-Nate

  12. Georgianne Nienaber says


    In response to: “Instead of paying Blacks lip service, its time for white feminists to really see us for whom we really are: women,” I think women with a sense of real feminism are not necessarily part of the group think that organizations like NOW represent. There are probably more of us who are color blind out there than you think. 

  13. says

    In the back of my mind about this whole Fluke controversy, this is what I’ve also noticed–that they wouldn’t as easily come to the defense of black women.  Thanks for putting it out there.

  14. says

    I agree NOW does not represent women of color since its inception and never will. I have never heard them denounced ICE practices toward Latino women who have been deported and their children left here in the U.S. nor those women in custody who have had to deliver babies while in chains or the routine exploitation of Latina women on the job etc.

    • Deedra Brown says

      There’s no reason to assume that feminists should automatically support illegal aliens. The National Organization for Women supports Latina women who are legal residents or US citizens through their promotion of affirmative action with double protection (women and people of color). NOW also has coalitions for reproductive health for women of color and even has education programs to help lower the school drop out rate for Latina girls. Give credit where credit’s due.
      Sounds like you want the US government to let women violate our immigration rules if they have children in this country. Or you think Hispanic women should be able to use pregnancy as a get-out-of-jail-free card. As a feminist, that’s not something I would support, nor do I see it as a benefit to women to be allowed to break the law with no ramifications as long as they’re pregnant or have children.

      • Erin says

        targeted, arrested, detained, and deported immigrants and undocumented workers are disproportionately (and i mean disproportionately, not majority. recognize the difference if you respond) people of color. however, i personally know white former students and those formally employed in the us who are living here illegally. NONE of them have EVER been targeted like their black and brown counterparts (some of my other friends) on the basis of their skin color. people of all nationalities immigrate to the us and they represent both legal and illegal immigrants. the difference is that many undocumented us residents are here due to lack of basic human needs in their home countries. and their perpetual plight is aggravated and most times created by united states foreign policy, us led “intervention”, and outright western, oligarchic criminality. when the people who are most often and immediately deprived of the basic human needs that the us can offer are blocked from attaining those because they did not complete an often multi-year-long process to live in a country most likely responsible for their misfortune in the first place, it becomes an issue for all human rights advocates to address. these people include women, and it is particularly striking that, according to ice, families are justifiably ripped apart by such exploitative policy. 
        i would be interested in hearing what actual truths you and others have to say about undocumented immigrants in general, besides “they’re illegal”.
        i also hope that you would consider the situation of women globally, and what might cause one who is interested in pursuing a happy life to live in a country, even though it may be illegal for her to do so. (obviously, this goes for other gender identities as well, but since we’re talking about women, here…)

  15. says

    I agree with this article.  It really should be no surprise though that NOW is very, shall we say, “selective” when it comes to it’s defense of Women.  

  16. Pedro Baez says

    I have invited representatives of the Long Beach chapter of NOW to guest on “The Current Event” this evening. Jasmyne I would like you to be there as well. This issue has been raging on for years long before the Ken & John controversey about NOW being silent when it comes to Black women. Call me 424-558-1929 and let’s get you on the program.


  17. Nanette says

    I’m sorry I’m late to the party. I painfully agree with you. I’ve been in the “community” for a long time and I’ve seen exactly what you’ve pointed out. However, there are a few white feminists that are as aware as we are. The only thing people like you and I can do is  educate. I’m glad you are educating the many because I’m educating the few.

    I believe our only ally, at the present, is the National Black Justice group. Please call them to the carpet or better yet remind them this is a fight for all of us.


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