Angela Peoples is the hero we all need and she has a message for white feminists

The Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday was a success from a numbers perspective. More than 470,000 marched in D.C. to protest Donald Trump’s presidency, and protests reached 60 countries in all seven continents  proving that women worldwide object to an administration that plans to take away women’s autonomy. But the fact remains that 53% of white women voted for Trump. That point did not go unrecognized by the black women like Angela Peoples chose to participate in the Women’s March.

Slews of black women and women of color like myself opted to stay home due to the obvious March’s obvious lack of intersectional feminism. Much love to those black, women of color and indigenous women of color who participated anyway but couldn’t escape white women doing what white women do. The horror stories include black and trans women being talked over, ignored and racially offended by the very white women claiming to be marching for all. That’s why Angela Peoples’s sign in the now viral photo is not only important but iconic to those of us who’ve long been critical of white feminism.

Peoples, the director of LGBTQ empowerment organization GetEQUAL, marched with a sign reminding everyone that white women collectively voted for Trump. The sad reality is that had white women shown up to the polls for Clinton like black women did (94%), there wouldn’t have been a March on Saturday. Her hat also affirmed black lives: “Stop Killing Black People.” In the photo taken by photographer Kevin Banatte, who is also Peoples boyfriend, Peoples is sucking her lollipop with one hand, holding her sign with another and behind her three white women in pink pussy hats are taking selfies, staring into their phones.

If that isn’t the perfect contrast between black feminism and white feminism I don’t know what is.

USA Today caught up with Peoples to chat about the viral photo and the inspiration behind it. Her response to white women asking what they can do now is this:

I was talking to a white woman who said, ‘What do I do now?’ And I say to her, and I would say to someone who is defensive, to check in with why you feel defensive. What is it about this statement, ‘Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump,’ which doesn’t say you white woman or all white women, what is it about this that makes you uncomfortable? And there are some women of color who would be willing to help you dissect that, but it’s not a burden that women of color should bear, certainly not on their own. There is a beauty and a richness in doing some of this work for yourself and with yourself. I feel like there have been a lot of white liberals who want to bring white women and black women to the table to talk, but we can’t have that conversation until you acknowledge the power and privilege you’re bringing to the table, until white women do some work for themselves and by themselves.

And for the women behind her she would tell them this:

I would say 53% of white women voted for him. Someone in your family voted for him. Someone you are friends with voted for him, and that put my life and my family’s life in greater danger. So go talk to your family and talk to your friends and move them away from that ideology. It’s less about showing up and standing in solidarity with folks of color or immigrants, and more about actually doing the work in your communities to change some hearts and minds. If someone says a racial slur or says something and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe they said that,’ actually say that outloud to them. Do not normalize xenophobia, do not normalize anti-blackness, do not normalize transphobia. Take a step back and analyze why it’s there.

Thank God for black women, yo. Another fave sign of the day was “Black women tried to save y’all.” Because we always do. Peoples is the hero we all need, the type of black woman whose shoulders we stand on, who may have rarely used the word feminism but showed it through actions — community building, sisterhood, speaking up.

It’d be wise of mainstream feminism to listen to the black woman who created feminism before it even had a name. Gloria Steinem tried to tell y’all. To Angela Peoples, thank you. For being you, for being real, for reminding white women of the responsibility they have because of their privilege. Not all heroes wear capes, but most heroes are black women.