By Richard Pryor III
he activist and academic Lilia Watson once said “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Commonly shortened as “Our liberation is bound together,” this slogan anchors the idea of intersectionality that in turn anchors modern activist movements like the Women’s March. But does it really?
Last December, Tablet, an online Jewish magazine, published the story “Is the Women’s March melting down?” Featuring an interview with Women’s March co-founder Vanessa Wruble, who is Jewish, the story shone a light on the anti-semitism that was found at the top of the Women’s March organization. Beyond the veneer of pussy hats and protests, major figures in the organization had some opinions that found their way out into the work of the organization.
At the core of this story is Tamika Mallory, an activist and one of the national co-chairs of the march. My issue with Mallory stems from her association with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, an Islamic sect that has a black supremacist and anti-semitic theology.
Recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group, Farrakhan, according to the SPLC, “routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power.” Notorious for discussing his views on Jewish people in speeches, Farrakhan has said such notable things as “Jews control the media. They said it themselves…In Washington right next to the Holocaust museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?,” as well as stating that Jews “have mastered the civilization now, but they’ve mastered it in evil.” Additionally, he’s also described Adolf Hitler as a “very great man.”
Mallory’s association with Farrakhan is concerning – in a May 2017 Instagram post of a picture of her with Farrakhan, she wrote “Thank God this man is still alive and doing well. He is definitely the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time].” She attended the Saviours’ Day celebration, a holiday commemorating the birth of the founder of the Nation of Islam, in 2018, where Farrakhan blamed the Jews for “degenerate behavior in Hollywood, turning men into women and women into men.”
These concerning associations that Mallory has (and, to lesser degrees, those of her three fellow National Co-Chairs, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour) have showed through in the actions that the organization has taken. In their Unity Principles, first released in January 2017, various specific groups of women, such as Black women, poor women, and queer women, are listed under the all-encompassing group of women for particular highlighting. Jewish women were not listed as one of those groups until after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October.
In both the Tablet article and an article published later last December by The New York Times, Wruble and others allege that Mallory, Perez, Sarsour, and Bland, have all in the last few years made comments or statements supporting Farrakhan’s work to various degrees. Angie Beem, president of the Washington state chapter of the Women’s March, detailed a March 2018 conference call post-Saviours’ Day in the Tablet article, stating that Perez and Bland defended Farrakhan, saying “You know, he has done some great things for people of color,” without denouncing anything he said. Additionally, Sarsour has revealed that for security, she used members of Fruit of Islam, the paramilitary wing of the Nation of Islam.
To their credit, Sarsour and Bland have both denounced Farrakhan’s statements recently. However, even with pressure heating up, the movement splitting, and major endorsers like Alyssa Milano and the Democratic National Committee removing their support, Mallory still has not denounced him.
While she did tweet after Saviours’ Day that anti-semitism and homophobia are “wrong,” on The View earlier this year, Mallory, who appeared alongside Bland, would only reveal when pressed by Meghan McCain, that she did not agree with “many of his [Farrakhan’s] remarks.” She did not mention what remarks of those they were or that she condemned his anti-semitism like her colleagues did.
Where do we go from recognizing the anti-semitism that plagues the national organization of the Women’s March? First, we recognize that a number of various women’s march organizations across the country, from Philadelphia to Washington State, from New York City to Los Angeles, disavowed their relationship with the national organization. Secondly, we recognize that are other similar organizations that we can support and march with. I personally donated to the group March On, which was founded by Wruble and supported many of the local marches, including the one in New York City, and it is devoted to supporting local activists.
I’ve been asked why I’ve switched my support to March On. I firmly believe that, as Watson said, our liberation is bound up with eachothers. Supporting and uplifting well-known anti-semites like Farrakhan allows for people like Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh shooter, to feel free to post things that insinuate that Jewish people are bringing in “invaders … that kill our people.”
We must denounce anti-semitism in all forms, just like we need to denounce all forms of hate and discrimination in this world. To not do so allows this kind of hate to fester in our nation – something we cannot abide.