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Opinion: White women need to be better allies to women of color

Social progress requires white women to participate in conversations surrounding feminism and race

Can we speak  redue.jpg

"Can we speak?" Illustration published on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018.

Students of color, especially women, may face different hardships throughout their college career than their white counterparts in the classroom.

The diverse perspective that people come to college for cannot be obtained if women of color are not given a platform by the institution or their allies to speak on matters that impact them specifically. 

It is necessary for allies, beginning with white women who hold more privilege, to share their platform with others who may face additional societal biases. 

There is still work that white allies need to do in order to ensure that feminism is intersectional and they are not abusing their white privilege.

Historically, feminist movements have purposely excluded women of color in order for white women to achieve further social advancement. However, in the modern era of feminism, this approach cannot be accepted and should be socially reprimanded.

"Social justice movements have been more successful when they are more inclusive,"  associate director and professor for the School of Transborder Studies Lisa Magana said. 

Sharing a privileged platform can be executed through methods that may seem minuscule, but contribute dramatically to the progression of the relationship between white women and women of color in the classroom. 

Allies are important and necessary, but it is not purely the work of allies that creates social progress. 

Due to the historical erasure of women of color in social movements, there is a lack of information regarding the history of women of color. This is an area where ASU has done a great job closing the gap between the history of white women and the history of women of color. 

ASU offers opportunities to become a better ally by providing ethnic studies programs and classes such as “Race, Sexuality, & Social Justice Movements,” “Latina/o Media and Pop Culture,” “Gender on the Borderlands,” “South Asian Feminisms” and “Women of Color in Film.”

Magana said that for students who may not belong to communities of color, recognizing racial differences is "very empowering and very transformative for some students to realize that there are different ways and different ideas that they have not previously been exposed to."

White individuals who pride themselves on being allies need to do better by actively seeking different perspectives and recognizing that there is still work to be done. 

This includes not over-speaking on matters such as racism, which may be prevalent in class discussions. 

"In our classes of transborder studies, we actually always bring in the issue of gender and race and class and status and identity. We touch on all the subjects, and I’m really proud that we make sure that’s every one of our classes and the focus is not just on gender,"  she said. 

There is nothing wrong with allies speaking about the issues that impact women of color. However, being a good ally requires one to be self-aware about their privilege and avoid playing into a "white-savior complex." 

This is not to say that white women are not entitled to opinions on racism, but white women do not get to decide on behalf of women of color what is considered racist or offensive. 

Approximately 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump for president, who during his campaign made inflammatory comments about people of color. 

This is a clear signal that there is not enough solidarity within allyship to feel comfortable with the current direction in which society is progressing.

if one's definition of feminism is not intersectional, then it is not real feminism, and with the academic resources available at ASU, perspective and discourse can be easily obtained and applied within the classroom and beyond.

Reach the columnist at or follow @JennyGuzmanAZ on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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