I’m tired of weak white women

South Florida Times - - OPINION - Maya An­gelou Michelle Hollinger is pub­lisher of The Sis­ter­hood and the au­thor of the soon to be pub­lished book, Wor­thy. Con­tact her at [email protected]­sister­hood­magazine.com.

Maya An­gelou said, “When some­one shows you who they are, be­lieve them the first time.” Well, be­cause I be­lieved white women when they voted a racist, nar­cis­sis­tic, self-pro­fessed sex­ual preda­tor into the White House; their huge level of sup­port for Alabama sen­a­to­rial can­di­date Roy Moore came as no sur­prise.

Here’s what else I be­lieve – I be­lieve the women who voted for Don­ald Trump and/or Roy Moore are weak and so dis­con­nected from their true power they vote against their own in­ter­ests. How else do you ex­plain women vol­un­tar­ily choos­ing to elect a man who was ac­cused of mak­ing ad­vances against sev­eral teenagers when he was in his 30s; one of whom he al­legedly raped? Or a man they ac­tu­ally heard brag­ging about sex­u­ally as­sault­ing women; boast­ing about grab­bing women by their vagi­nas?

I’m tired of weak white women. Ex­hausted even. It takes too much brain power and emo­tional en­ergy to try to un­der­stand where they’re com­ing from. So, to pre­serve my san­ity and re­duce the stress that comes from try­ing to con­trol things you can’t, I was ready to ban­ish them from my con­scious­ness.

Just be­fore I did; how­ever, the sa­cred part of me that knows we’re all one de­spite my sis­ters’ ig­no­rance, led me to do a lit­tle re­search to find some coura­geous white women ca­pa­ble of car­ing for some­one other than them­selves and the men who dom­i­nate them.

It didn’t take me long to dis­cover the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Women for the Preven­tion of Lynch­ing (ASWPL). Jessie Daniel Ames, a white woman, founded the or­ga­ni­za­tion in 1930 after she heard Nan­nie He­len Bur­roughs, a black woman, say that lynch­ing was car­ried out for the pro­tec­tion of white women and “when white women were ready to stop lynch­ing, they’d stop it and it wouldn’t be stopped be­fore.”

Bur­roughs, a bril­liant, coura­geous, African Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tor, ac­tivist and busi­ness woman also called out Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son for his si­lence about lynch­ing and was promptly placed un­der gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance.

Weak white women re­sponded to Bur­roughs’ chal­lenge by car­ry­ing on with their marginal­ized lives as spec­ta­tors to - and ex­cuses for - the lynch­ings of Black men by their hus­bands, fa­thers, broth­ers and neigh­bors. Ames had a dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion. Ames be­lieved it was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of women’s or­ga­ni­za­tions to try and solve racial prob­lems. She was about lift­ing the op­pressed, so she got busy con­vinc­ing other like-minded women to join her an­ti­lynch­ing cam­paign. Get this, Ames and other South­ern white women went into the com­mu­nity and per­suaded law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to sign a pledge to do ev­ery­thing in their power to pro­tect their pris­on­ers from be­ing lynched. (Let that sink in a minute. White women asked po­lice of­fi­cers to stop killing Black men.)

The ASWPL mem­bers took a stand and spoke up in a way only they could.

"Lynch­ing is an in­de­fen­si­ble crime. Women dare no longer al­low them­selves to be the cloak be­hind which those bent upon per­sonal re­venge and sav­agery com­mit acts of vi­o­lence and law­less­ness in the name of women. We re­pu­di­ate this dis­grace­ful claim for all time."

These were women of in­tegrity. Women of prin­ci­ple. Women who un­der­stood that hu­man dig­nity be­gins with the self, but does not end there. They got sick and tired of be­ing ex­ploited by white men who lied patho­log­i­cally about them be­ing as­saulted by Black men.

From Fac­ing South, an on­line mag­a­zine of the In­sti­tute of South­ern Stud­ies: This "South­ern rape com­plex," the As­so­ci­a­tion ar­gued, had no ba­sis in fact. On the con­trary, white women were of­ten ex­ploited and de­famed in or­der to ob­scure the eco­nomic greed and sex­ual trans­gres­sions of white men. Rape and ru­mors of rape served as a kind of folk pornog­ra­phy in the Bi­ble Belt. As sto­ries spread, the “vic­tim” was de­scribed in minute and pro­gres­sively em­bel­lished de­tail: a pub­lic fantasy which im­plied a group par­tic­i­pa­tion in the rape of the woman al­most as cathar­tic as the lynch­ing of the al­leged at­tacker.

Rec­og­niz­ing the strength in num­bers, Ames and her ASWPL mem­bers re­cruited lo­cal churches, so­cial clubs and politi­cians to sign pledges con­demn­ing lynch­ing. They held lec­tures, pub­lished anti-lynch­ing pam­phlets and spoke at col­leges and fra­ter­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions. Don’t think they didn’t face op­po­si­tion. They did. But be­cause they were led by their souls and be­lieved that right is right, they per­sisted; ul­ti­mately gain­ing the sup­port of 109 women's groups which en­dorsed the anti-lynch­ing cam­paign and 44,000 in­di­vid­u­als who signed anti-lynch­ing pledges.

Ames and ASWPL also used sis­ter­hood to save lives. They went, via Bap­tist and Methodist mis­sion­ary so­ci­eties, into small ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to con­nect with the wives and daugh­ters of the men who lynched; en­light­en­ing and em­pow­er­ing their sis­ters to do the right thing.

Their ef­forts were suc­cess­ful. In 1940 there were no recorded lynch­ing of African Amer­i­cans, a first since the end of the Civil War. (Black peo­ple know just be­cause there were none recorded does not mean no one was lynched, but still, this was progress.)

Ames and the ASWPL made a dif­fer­ence. Sur­pris­ingly, though, she op­posed fed­eral anti-lynch­ing leg­is­la­tion, a de­ci­sion that seemed to con­tra­dict her be­liefs. She ap­par­ently thought, based on what she and the ASWPL mem­bers had ac­com­plished, erad­i­cat­ing lynch­ing from the state level was more ef­fec­tive than a wa­tered down fed­eral man­date.

Ames died in 1972 at the age of 88 in Austin, Texas. The ques­tion is – where are the de­scen­dants of Ames and the other ASWPL mem­bers? Wher­ever they are, I would love to meet them and ask them if, like their an­ces­tors, they would try to talk some sense into their weak sis­ters for the good of us all. Con­tact Us 954.356.9360 • 2701 W Oak­land Park Blvd, Suite 320 • Oak­land Park, FL 33311 • www.SFLTimes.com

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