Almost a year ago, I questioned what the women were marching for. It was known from the outset that the concept began with a group of white women, but was immediately subject to criticism for its lack of color, and so it was reinvented with other women. Now, the story behind the story has come out.
On Nov. 12, 2016, a group of seven women held a meeting in New York. They had never worked together before—in fact, most of them had never met—but they were brought together by what felt like the shared vision of an emerging mission.
There were effectively two different cohorts that day. The first one included Breanne Butler, Karen Waltuch, Vanessa Wruble and Mari Lynn Foulger—a fashion designer turned entrepreneur with a sideline in activist politics, who had assumed the nom de guerre Bob Bland. These four were new acquaintances who had connected in the days since Donald Trump’s election, through political networking on social media.
They were unified in their hatred of Trump and their neo-feminism, but they were, well, white. Into the mix were brought Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez. They brought a different purpose to the March.
According to several sources, it was there—in the first hours of the first meeting for what would become the Women’s March—that something happened that was so shameful to many of those who witnessed it, they chose to bury it like a family secret. Almost two years would pass before anyone present would speak about it.
It was there that, as the women were opening up about their backgrounds and personal investments in creating a resistance movement to Trump, Perez and Mallory allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade.
Since then, the Women’s March became big business. Huge business.
But as the Women’s March brand grew in stature and the organization brought in millions of dollars in donations, as well as a fortune from branded merchandise, the murky financial management of the organization has come under scrutiny. Also criticized is the relationship between the leadership — Mallory and Sarsour, in particular — with the Nation of Islam (NOI) and Farrakhan, whose long history of anti-Semitic and racist statements is well documented.
What was fairly obvious to anyone watching the march was that people who joined did so for their own reasons despite the “Unity Principles.” They’re quite long and replete with internal contradictions, but then so what? They’re not real, just a palliative to rub everyone’s tummy enough to get them to donate money and create the appearance of a movement that will enable the leaders to speak from a position of power.
But the leaders? Sarsour, Mallory and Perez have not only enjoyed the perks of office and their own prominence, but have used the march to promote their somewhat less than inclusive vision.
Mercy Morganfield, former president of the DC Women’s March and daughter of blues legend Muddy Waters, has been vocal in her criticism of the Women’s March leadership, saying that an organization that prides itself on intersectional activism left anti-Semitism out of its stated “unity principles” and has no Jewish women on its board.
Morganfield also asserted that Bland had told her outright that the NOI provides security for the leadership. Bland denies saying any such thing to Morganfield.
The leaders were miffed.
In a video posted to Tamika Mallory’s Facebook page, Mallory — flanked by Sarsour and Perez — said that instead of wasting time by responding to reporters’ queries, they want to have a “public conversation” with Wruble, Harmon, and Morganfield.
“These three women have lied on us,” Mallory said. “We want to have these conversations in public, not behind closed doors, but in public. So we challenge the three of” — at which point the video abruptly cuts off.
New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, calls these leaders “the suffragists of our time.” and she may very well, for once, be right, provided suffragists means they won’t have to suffer white women, in general, and Jewish white women, in particular. If the goal had been equality, then perhaps the March is achieving it, showing that its diverse leaders can be just as self-serving and discriminatory as anyone else. If that was your cause, march away.