Why White Feminists Should Stay in Their Lane

Provoked by the popular Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, Aura Bogado at the Nation exhorts white feminists to stop exploiting the painful experiences of black women for their benefit.

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Courtesy of Orange Is the New Black

Aura Bogado at the Nation exhorts white feminists to stop exploiting the painful experiences of black women for their benefit. Provoked by the popular Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, she writes that a white woman's "prison stint can never be a substitute for the violence institutionally carried out against women of color in the criminal justice system."

Slave narratives became most fashionable among abolitionist circles in the mid-nineteenth century. These narratives remain deeply powerful, yet each one is framed by a white introduction, which authenticates the black experience. The white practice of verifying the lives of black fugitives who were skillfully plotting their own liberation has changed in circumstance and in medium—but the role of white people at its center has not. Today, its latest manifestation is playing out in the Netflix hit series, Orange Is the New Black.

I first saw a poster for the new series on a subway platform. The word "black" plastered near women of all colors in prison jumpsuits made me shake my head in disappointment, but I soon forgot about it along with all the other racist images I'm surrounded by daily. The next time I saw a reference to Orange Is the New Black was on a giant video billboard during the massive march in New York following George Zimmerman's acquittal in connection with the killing of Trayvon Martin. As thousands of people took to the streets against white supremacy, there was an intense irony about a fictionalized depiction of black women cheering on a prison fight as a very blond white woman stood there, shocked with horror. I crudely tweeted, "Racist shit playing W 35 and 6th. It never ends. Neither do we. #HoodiesUp," with a looping vine to illustrate my disappointment. 

Read Aura Bogado's entire piece at the Nation.

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