On Jan. 21, 2017, millions of women across the nation and the globe marched in their city streets, united by an opposition to incoming President Trump. As a woman, I could relate in part; I had particular concerns about Trump’s election and some of his behaviors and viewpoints he had expressed during his campaign.
But I had similar concerns about the Women’s March, the principles expressed by its organizers, the organization’s pro-abortion stance and intentional exclusion of pro-life women. It seemed to me that a movement purporting to represent all women, their diverse perspectives and experiences couldn’t be limited to only those who shared the beliefs (and prejudices) of the women in charge.
So I felt especially vindicated in my decision to sit out the march when a recent article in The Tablet confirmed what many critics of the Women’s March have long suspected — that the national leadership held many prejudices, not just against pro-life women, but, more disturbingly, against women of Jewish heritage. It isn’t exactly news that three of the Women’s March co-chairs — Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory — have ties to Nation of Islam leader and notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. These ties didn’t seem to matter much at first. But earlier this year, in an address to the annual Nation of Islam gathering for Saviours’ Day (at which at least one of the Women’s March leaders, Mallory, was in attendance) Farrakhan repeatedly denounced “Satanic Jews” and blamed them in particular for “degenerate behavior in Hollywood.”
Months later, Farrakhan issued a tweet comparing Jewish people to termites. This attack drew the condemnation of many; even Chelsea Clinton weighed in. What these expressions of hate did not elicit was the censure of the Women’s March leaders. In fact, as The Tablet, a progressive Catholic international weekly, reports, in the immediate aftermath of Farrakhan’s remarks, several Women’s March founders went as far as to defend him on a phone call with national organizers after state leaders expressed concern about the March’s association with Farrakhan.
It wasn’t until recently that the March’s national leadership — which notably does not include a Jewish woman — denounced anti-Semitism and lamented its “failure to clearly articulate this difference early — fighting anti-Semitism vs. denouncing Farrakhan.” In its lateness and equivocation, it was a response worthy of President Trump, whose own failure to quickly condemn the racist and anti-Semitic alt-right marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, rightly earned him almost universal reproach.
Critics have suggested Trump’s response was tactical — an effort to leverage his far-right supporters. In the case of the Women’s March, something far more insidious may be at work. As the Tablet essay asserts, several of the Women’s March co-chairs have held strong anti-Semitic views since the movement’s inception. The magazine confirmed with multiple sources that at the leaders’ first meeting in November 2016, Perez and Mallory, two of the co-chairs, “first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people,” and later allegedly “berated” one of the group’s original leaders for being Jewish.
The Women’s March pushed back on some of the claims, but issued no official statement in response to the substantive assertions made; indeed, only minor corrections were made in the original story. As it plans its third annual rally, several local chapters of the Women’s March have disbanded in protest. Yet the group enjoys continued support from large corporate sponsors. National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis asserts this is because many “progressive allies are willing to overlook [the hatred] for the sake of advancing their intersectional movement.”
But the marchers — the women who make the movement possible — should not follow suit. They can find better, more inclusive ways to support each other. And they can show their real collective power to effect change by sitting this one out.
Cynthia Allen joined the Star-Telegram Editorial Board in 2014 after a decade of working in government and public affairs in Washington, D.C.
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