When I first heard about a planned march to amass the nation’s women to highlight women’s rights and in protest against the Trump administration on the day after his inauguration, I was initially hesitant. In originally billing the event as the “Million Women March” and advertising it as the first street protest of its kind, organizers overlooked the original “Million Woman March” successfully organized by Black feminists two decades ago. When this appropriation of Black feminist history was pointed out by feminists of colour, event organizers were dismissive of (and even hostile to) the critique. Instead, (White feminist) event organizers and early supporters offered the same familiar, callous, and white-washing refrain: that feminists of colour were being divisive in raising the spectre of race, and that we should put aside racial differences to provide a united feminist front in opposition to the misogyny of Trump.
Never mind, of course, that we were being asked to rally in unity under the banner of White feminism, which too often overlooks and deprioritizes women of colour and other marginalized women through its uncritical universalization of the lived experiences of Whit straight abled cis-women. Over the years, I have been lectured at countless times by White feminists who resent and reject my brand of non-white feminism; I had no interest in voluntarily exposing myself to that kind of toxic and intolerant space yet again.
But then, something about the event changed. In response to criticism, event founders re-named the march the “Women’s March on Washington” and invited prominent feminists of colour to organize the event. The Women’s March began to embrace a more intersectional framework for its feminism. Organizers acknowledged the March’s relationship to Black feminist history and took steps to acknowledge and commemorate the earlier work of Black feminists. White feminists were reminded that even within feminist spaces, they should do the work of being better white allies to feminists of colour; and that there is never a time when they can or should stop reflecting (and respecting) more and “whitesplaining” less. When some early White feminist supporters spoke against the efforts to make the event more inclusive of women of colour, they were actually told they were wrong!
With these developments, my fears were (somewhat) assuaged. It seemed increasingly clear that while White feminism still has a long way to go, the Women’s March on Washington (and its many satellite events in local cities) was taking steps to be a safe(r) space for feminists of colour and other marginalized feminists.
And so, I have made the (cautious) decision: I will march on Saturday in the Women’s March in New York City.
I will march because as an Asian American woman, I am afraid of the next four years. I will march because although life has never been easy for people on the margins of society, every day brings fresh evidence that life in Trump’s America will be made much more difficult for women and other marginalized people. I will march because when the Trump administration works to infringe upon our civil rights, it will be women of colour who will bear the earliest and heaviest burdens as a result of those new laws.
I will march because Republicans emboldened by Trump’s election have promised to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that threatens the operation of clinics that predominantly serve poor women of colour. I will march because Trump promises to nominate a Supreme Court justice who will help the anti-choice lobby roll back women’s reproductive rights. I will march because state and local governments are already passing additional laws that increasingly limit women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. I will march because many of these reproductive health care services – including cancer and STI screenings – are critical for the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and other communities of colour where these services can and do save lives.
I will march because Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare coverage for over 20 million Americans, including 1 in 15 AAPIs. I will march because those who receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid/CHIP are disproportionately low-income women of colour, including low-income AAPI women and children. I will march because millions more Americans, including millions more AAPI, receive critical health insurance protections under the Affordable Care Act as well as access to mental and women’s reproductive health care services. I will march because Republican plans to replace the Affordable Care Act with Health Savings Accounts will guarantee a system where only the wealthy will be healthy; where a doctor’s visit will be a symbol of economic privilege; and where the poor will not only die poor, but they will die because they are poor. I will march because most of those poor people will be poor women of colour.
I will march because Trump has promised to wage a fresh war against this nation’s immigrants. I will march because Trump seeks to exclude immigrants from Mexico with a wall, and because he seeks to exclude the rest of the world’s immigrants with laws that target Muslims for their religious identity. I will march because Trump plans to deploy state harassment against undocumented immigrants, and because he has also suggested elimination of visas offered to documented immigrants. I will march because AAPIs represent a significant fraction of the immigrant population, both documented and undocumented, and because our community is already familiar with the outcome of race-based exclusion laws. I will march because plans to criminalize immigrants (regardless of documentation status) have been rationalized with racism and stereotyping. I will march because as a result of this racism, hate crime violence against Muslims and Sikh Americans – as well as most other groups deemed un-American — continues to rise.
I will march because Republicans have spent the last eight years advancing a war against women. I will march because they have rolled back legal protections and services for victims of rape and/or domestic violence. I will march because Trump’s team announced this week their plans to cut funding to multiple crucial federal programs, including the elimination of programs and offices designed to address violence against women. I will march because by Saturday, we will have as our president a man who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and who was caught on camera joking that he could grab women by our pussies, and that his wealth would protect him from the consequences of committing such sexual assault. I will march because millions of Americans did not think that this clearly misogynistic perpetuation of rape culture invalidated this man as president.
I will march because Trump and his future Vice President, Mike Pence, have made their political careers out of homophobia and transphobia. I will march because the queer community – and in particular, queer people of colour – remain highly vulnerable to violent assault, and yet they remain largely unprotected by hate crime laws and other anti-discrimination laws. I will march because new laws continue to be passed that would criminalize queer people’s very existences.
I will march because I fear that Trump’s administration will lead us into war, most likely in Asia. I will march because if war breaks out, it will be the lives of Asians and other Black and Brown people that will be disproportionately lost. I will march because the Trump team’s increasingly loud saber-rattling on the international level suggests that the United States’ incoming government values the lives of these people as less.
I will march against the many indignities, large and small, we have endured in the two months since the election – and the many more we can expect under a Trump administration. I will march because Trump has refused to disclose his tax records. I will march because he will not dissociate himself from his business interests. I will march against every person Trump has laughably nominated to staff his cabinet – each more insulting and offensive to the American public than the last. I will march because Trump proposes to cut almost every federal program that currently enriches the lives of everyday Americans. I will march because Trump plans to eliminate the Endowment for the Arts. I will march because he plans to privatize public radio. I will march because he plans to cut research and administrative funding to explore clean technologies and other initiatives to address climate change. Hell, I will march because under the Trump administration, the White House Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will cease to exist.
Nonetheless, I will march with reservations. I will march knowing that the Women’s March emerged from imperfect roots, and continues to take on an imperfect form. I will march while remaining in protest against White feminists who would reject or dismiss intersectional feminism and the lived experiences of women of colour.
Still, I will march because my feminism demands that I commit today and every day to resistance against oppression towards myself and others. I will march because my feminism demands that I not lapse into comfortable inaction within the safe confines of my privilege(s). I will march because my feminism is defined by a moral calling to fight injustice in its many forms. I will march because I am not a well-behaved feminist.
I will march because AAPI feminists have never been well-behaved. I will march for the radical history of the Asian American Movement and for the many proud AAPI feminists who led the charge. I will march because AAPI have always marched in solidarity alongside our non-AAPI allies. I will march because we recognize that all oppression is interconnected, and because justice cannot be won piecemeal. I will march because freedom will only arrive for AAPI when it arrives for all marginalized people. I will march because the AAPI community has always spoken the language of social justice and this week we are called upon once again to lend our voices to the struggle.
I will march knowing also that to march is a privilege. I will march because I am able-bodied and because I can march. I will march remembering that there are many who cannot. I will march with my feet remembering that resistance comes in many other forms, too. I will march while understanding, accepting, supporting, and loving those feminists who cannot or who have chosen not to participate in this protest.
On Saturday, I will march because I am worried and angered by how racism, sexism, and other forms of intolerance are once again being normalized by Trump and his supporters. I will march because I feel a moral obligation to resist bigotry, intolerance and hatred committed against any and all marginalized people, including AAPI women. I will march for every person who became less safe – physically and psychologically – on November 9, 2016. I will march for every house, school, church and mosque vandalized with a symbol of hate and intolerance. I will march because symbols of hate must be met with symbolic (and material) acts of radical love, resistance, and solidarity.
I will march knowing that a march is not enough. I will march because I know that a march is never enough. I will march alongside thousands – perhaps millions – of women across America on Saturday because the Women’s March is not the end of an organized protest, it is the beginning of a movement. I will march on Saturday because I plan to do so much more on Sunday and every day afterwards. So long as America embraces fear, hatred, and intolerance of women and people of colour, I will march because I believe I must.
Yes, I will march; and I invite you to join me.
(Many thanks to Jennifer Betit Yen of the Asian American Film Lab who helped facilitate the logistics of my participation in Saturday’s Women’s March in New York City.)