By Aryenish Birdie | October 27, 2017

As a woman who recently went public about my own experiences surviving child sexual abuse (by a neighbor), I can’t help but follow every bit of the national dialogue unfolding around Harvey Weinstein and other abusers. Almost every day I think:

Finally, women are telling their stories and being trusted.

Finally, our stories are part of the national conversation.

And while it’s unfortunate that it took beautiful, “trusted,” mostly white Hollywood actresses to get this conversation going in a way that “ordinary” people had been pushing for decades (or longer?), at least it’s finally happening and it’s having ramifications across industries, politics, social movements, and more. This is huge. It’s happening.

But one thing I keep noticing is that these stories are coming largely from white women. The narrative is primarily positioned as one that “women” or specifically “white women” experience.

Why is it that we’re not hearing more from women of color who actually experience sexual abuse and harassment at higher rates than white women?

In the excellent book Aphro-ism, Syl Ko titled a chapter “By ‘human,’ everybody just means ‘white.’” She put words to what I’ve noticed for years. Throughout society the default in the media, in advertising, in the way we talk, etc. is always “white.” I would expand this concept to “women” and even “feminism.” There’s a reason “white feminism” is a phrase we hear, often with criticism (see: 5 Ways White Feminists Can Address Our Own Racism).

I don’t mean to outline this to be critical. I truly believe that our liberations are all bound up with each other’s and that no one is free while others are oppressed. Aph Ko writes in The Feminist Case for Veganism, “One of the ways that patriarchy keeps its power is by convincing us that another group’s oppression has absolutely nothing to do with our own.”

So here’s really what I want to say: to all the people––the white people, especially the white women who feel validated sharing their stories through the #metoo campaign; to all the people who feel they can come forward, who know the suffering they’ve been living with as a survivor might actually pay off in this moment of reckoning; I say trust people of color when we say we experience racism every single day. Trust us when we say we hurt. Trust us when we say we are not surprised that Trump won the election because we live in a racist society.

A white feminist (a friend) recently told me that Encompass was a “nice to have, not a need to have” organization. That hurt me to my core. Why is it so much easier for our society to believe white women who say that patriarchy exists than it is to believe people of color who say racism exists?

As humans, as humans with power (be it as a man, cisgendered or able-bodied person, coming from class privilege, or as a human) we need to trust oppressed groups when they say they experience oppression.

Oppressed groups do not claim to be disadvantaged for fun or attention, just like women who come out about being survivors of sexual harassment or abuse. The oppressed know they can face serious consequences when they call out the powerful, from being told it’s all their fault, to additional harassment, to loss of social status, relationships, employment, and more.

It takes tremendous bravery to stand up and say #metoo. It takes tremendous courage to say “that’s racist” or to call out homophobia or transphobia, and more.

Trust us when we say we’re hurting and that we want a better world, and that we need you to be a part of creating it with us. Trust us.