Organizers of a Women’s March slated to take place in northern California next month have canceled the event. In announcing cancellation they expressed fear the participants would be “overwhelmingly white.” Why would they announce cancellation of an event for fear of having too much white participation? Wouldn’t the expectation normally be cancellation for lack of support or participation?
Isn’t more support for an event like a march a good thing? If you have enough support to hold the rally but it simply turns out to be coming from a race you, what, you don’t approve of… then you cancel? Does the action tell us anything? What is the make-up of the area’s population? Does it trouble anybody else that we may have a nationwide political organization apparently discriminating based on race?
What was planned?
The March had been scheduled in Eureka California which is about 3 hours north of San Francisco on Coastal Highway 101. Eureka is the seat for Humboldt County which is known as the pot capital of America. Organizers for the Women’s March said they canceled their protest “after many conversations between local social-change organizers and supporters of the march…”
Apparently, the organizers discovered participants would not represent the diversity Women’s March organizers sought to enlighten and inform. The organizers made the cancellation announcement in a press release. KRCR-TV reported in part, “Up to this point, the participants have been overwhelmingly white, lacking representation from several perspectives in our community…”
The mission statement for the Women’s March says it is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events. There does not appear to be any race based quota nor does there seem to be exclusionary language.
According to census data about three-fourths of Humboldt County is white. This was true before selection of the site for the location of the rally. It was also true before communication of the event to the press. No comments have been forthcoming from the group about why women of color seem disinterested in participation. The group also made no comment about why it is appropriate to bar whites from participation.
The rally had been planned for January 19, 2019 in commemoration of the third anniversary of first Women’s March. The first march was a widely publicized event held the day after the Presidential inauguration. The cancellation of the Eureka event comes amidst criticism of the Women’s March national leadership for alleged anti-Semitic ties. Is the Women’s March an anti-Semitic racist group? Is it bent on division of support for America more broadly? Does it use race and religious lines as decision points? How much support should such an organization command?
What should the reaction to the decision be?
There will be some who are genuinely concerned for feminist themes who will be disappointed. There will be others who will not understand. The L.A. Times reported of one Amy Sawyer Long, “I understand wanting a diverse group. However, we live in a predominantly white area … not to mention how is it beneficial to cancel? No matter the race people still want their voices heard.”
The decision appears race based. Is this a form of censorship? Are the women of Humboldt County experiencing interference with freedom of association? Is the leadership of the Women’s March racist or is it a more general commentary on the group?