Meeting Angie Thomas and the need for intersectional feminism

Hey guys! How you doing? What’s new?

So I was invited by the lovely creators of Black Girls Book Club, to meet the fabulous Angie Thomas at Walker Books YA. After reading up about her, I was inspired by her own personal story.

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Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi. A lover of rap music and inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give was published on February 28, 2017.

The meet-up was extremely exciting. Walking into Walker Books in a room full of fabulous black women was a sight to behold. We had a lovely brunch and then a chance to speak to Angie.

She talked about what led her to write The Hate U Give and her experiences with some of the themes in the book. Such as being black in a all-white community and the struggles with the authority of the police.

However, what stuck out to me was the character of Starr in the book.

She was an embodiment of the black female voice silenced in literature, media and even their own households.

And that’s even more evident in feminism. Now I know what you may be thinking – this discussion has just taken a left turn. I thought this was about a meet and greet with an author, abi?

You’re right, it is, but it’s also much more than that. During the talk, so many of us could relate to the fact that there isn’t enough being done in feminsim, especially for women of colour. We are often left out of the conversation.

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Why is this?

Well, historically, feminism as a social movement centered around the needs of white women while neglecting the voices of women of colour. “White feminism has unfortunately always prioritized gender over race, with many contradictions.”

The other major problem that comes from white feminism, is that it fails to acknowledge many of its privileges, and even when it does so, it keeps exercising those privileges.

The truth is that white feminists have hardly ever stood up for feminist women of colour, who clearly have a more difficult place in society.

From the history of slavery in America where black women were forced to have children, compared to white women who had access to contraception  and thus more autonomy over their lives. Even in modern day, with horrific stories of black teenagers being killed and manhandled by the police, such as Dajerria Becton who was body slammed to the ground during a pool party. Similar to how *spoiler alert* the main character Starr was being treated by police in The Hate U Give.

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Or how about the Black British feminism in the 1970’s and 1980’s which had its roots in the postcolonial activism and the struggles of women migrants from the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent, who had come to live in the UK during the postwar recruitment drive for cheap migrant labour in the 1940’s and 50’s. The sad story of  Cynthia Jarret, an African-Caribbean woman who died due to heart failure during a police search at her home, echoes the mistrust and mistreatment of black women. It was one of the main triggers of the Broadwater Farm riot , an over-spill of tension between local black youth and the largely white Metropolitan Police.

So, what now?

We need intersectional feminism!

Well, what is that? Without turning this into a long-ass essay:

According to an article in The Telegraph, written by Ava Vidal in 2014: “Intersectional feminism recognises that certain groups of people have multi-layered facets in life that they have to deal with, such as racism and sexism.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a feminist and writer that explains this further saying: ‘White feminism is extremely introverted refusing to acknowledge systematic hurdles facing women of colour (WOC) who are not visible. Our voices need amplifying because white feminism tokenise us and usurps our voices.’ ”

Therefore, intersectionality is about giving us a well-needed platform, a challenging task but entirely possible.

Many in the media are attempting to do this, through working to include the voices of  women of colour. UK actress Thandie Newton teamed up with the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) to host a Say Her Name event in Hollywood. The Say Her Name movement is part of AAPF’s campaign to raise awareness about black women killed by police who suffer from other forms of state violence.

Newton importantly said: “Taking intersectionality seriously means breaking through the frame that says “all black people are men, and all women are white”. It means highlighting black women’s anomalous role in US politics – as a group that, despite suffering extremely high rates of poverty and violence, both intimately and at the hands of the state.”

And Angie Thomas is doing this through giving the protagonist a distinctly female and black voice. Highlighting the complex issues that Starr faced and how she had to fight to get her voice heard. Thus The Hate U Give is an important book and I urge everyone to get out there and read it.

Intersectional feminism has a long way to go, as with all things that includes women of colour. So I urge you to support the organisations, writers, media personalities and individuals championing the cause (a quick Google search will show you many), because it seems white feminism will never include us.

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