Angela Peoples did not come to the Women’s March on Washington to play. The 30-year-old co-director of the LGBTQ equality organization GetEqual came to Saturday’s massive protest against Donald Trump to tell the truth. Marching in a sea of white women, Peoples wore a hat that read, “Stop Killing Black People,” and carried a sign that read in part, “White Women Voted for Trump.”
As a group of white women in pink pussy-hats took selfies behind Peoples and her sign, her boyfriend, photographer and digital strategist Kevin Banatte, asked her to pause so he could take her picture. The photo of the oblivious women and Peoples, sucking on a lollipop, holding her sign with an unapologetic look on her face, quickly went viral.
Peoples shares with The Root the story behind the photo and what it’s going to take for joint movements to work.
The Root: Why did you decide to go to the march?
Angela Peoples: I was debating going for a long time and made a decision towards the end of the week that I would go. I think my base-level reason was hoping to be inspired. I felt at the very least this is a space and a place that I wanted to experience for myself.
TR: Why did you decide to create the sign “White Women Voted for Trump”?
AP: We need to be really honest about why we’re here. There was a sense for me of being at the march and in community with folks that were wanting to resist this horrifying reality, but also not wanting folks to get complacent.
TR: How did people respond to you and your sign?
AP: Most were saying, “Not this white woman,” or “No one I know!” I’d say, “[Fifty-three percent] of white women voted for Trump. That means someone you know, someone who is in close community with you, voted for Trump. You need to organize your people.” And some people said, “Oh, I’m so ashamed.” Don’t be ashamed; organize your people.
That’s why the photo was such a great moment to capture, because it tells the story of white women in this moment wanting to just show up in a very superficial way and not wanting to do the hard work of making change, of challenging their own privilege. You’re here protesting, but don’t forget: The folks that you live with every single day—and probably some of the women that decided to come to the march—voted for Trump, made the decision to vote against self-interests to maintain their white supremacist way of life.
TR: You said you went to feel inspired. How did it feel, actually being there?
AP: It definitely felt very white. The other black women that I talked to there, and even women in other marches around the country, felt like they were alone, like more of the same was happening. I know that a lot of the organizers, particularly of the D.C. march, did a lot of work to make sure that the speakers were diverse, that the issue points reflected black folks’ experiences; but there’s also this reality that when we talk about feminism in this country, the faces have been white. Without an effort by white women especially to make sure those spaces are reflecting the diversity of women and femme people, we’re not going to make the progress we need to.
TR: After this march, are you hopeful that white women will show up for black women and the issues of people of color?
AP: I definitely have hope. But I don’t think it’s a matter of white women becoming interested in our issues; I need them to recognize they are implicit or complicit benefactors of systems like white supremacy and patriarchy—and that’s a problem.
Because issues of reproductive justice, wage issues, those are our issues, too. We don’t need them to take on a new set of issues; we need them to understand the impact of these particular issues when it comes to race and gender and different experiences. They need to make adjustments to how they’re organizing, what they’re advocating for and how they show up to these systems based on that understanding.
TR: There were a lot of black women expressing on social media the hurt of seeing so many white women coming together for this march, but not showing up when we march. Do you have any words for those women?
AP: The only words I have are, “I love you and I see you.” When black women expressed those feelings, I saw white women and gay men [saying it’s divisive]—some of the same shit that people are saying to me about the poster. That also hurts because we’re only being seen when we’re coming together behind you. When we’re speaking about our pain, when we’re asking you to show up, then it’s divisive, then it’s somehow detrimental to the broader cause. That’s simply not true.
But one thing I do know is, black women, we got us; we’re continuing to organize our own communities, we’re continuing to hold folks accountable across genders, across race. I would actually say to white women, if you want to be a part of a powerful movement that’s going to get something done, you need to get behind and trust black women, trust black femmes, trust black trans women. Because we are making this way out of no way. If you’re a white woman thinking, “What’s next? Everything seems insurmountable,” welcome to the fucking party. Listen to a black woman.