Waking up as a woman of color in Trump's America

Many women in the US are searching for an explanation as to how all the walls they have fought to dismantle, are now embodied in their president-elect Donald Trump.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Over 50 percent of white women voted for president-elect, Donald Trump, despite his repeatedly offensive comments about women.

Shetal Vohra-Gupta Shetal Vohra-Gupta, PhD, MSW, is a Public Voices Fellow and associate director of The Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin

As half of American voters continue to absorb the shock of the other half's choice for president, life will go on with a big, confused, question mark. Women of color are perplexed by the failure of white women voters who eagerly embraced whiteness, over the necessity of overcoming societal barriers linked to gender.

While lucky to be speaking next week at the Texas Conference for Women also featuring Amal Clooney, Abby Wombach and global fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg – after electing an accused rapist, misogynist and racist for the next President of the United States – I am not certain if my panel on race, gender and diversity will be of any significance in tomorrow’s America.

In yesterday’s America, I, a Hindu American woman, could speak to women about prejudice and bias and how males in the workplace can prejudge them based on stereotypes. The majority of these stereotypes being how women, especially women of color, are judged more harshly when voicing their opinions; naturally weaker than their male co workers; judged more on their looks than men; and how women are expected to be their child’s primary caregiver. I could talk about discrimination in the workplace which means the practice of treating women unequally based upon stereotypes listed above.

In yesterday’s America, I would have talked about the intersection of race and gender and how racism, or the thought process that tells you the social significance of a person is related to their skin color, distorts reasoning. I would have discussed the need to challenge the status quo of patriarchy and racism in the workplace because you see, justice prevails when you can confront stereotypes. Talking about prejudice and discrimination dismantles the status quo.

See, I could have spoken to that in yesterday’s America.

In tomorrow’s America, which will really start on Jan. 20, 2017, I am searching for meaning and an explanation as to how all that I have worked to dismantle, is represented in our president-elect. How he legitimately believes that women need to be at home instead of the workplace as evidenced by his maternity leave policy—only for women. Fathers have no need to have family leave because fathers do not need to be primary caregivers to their children. Or how grabbing a woman’s private parts is just “locker room” talk and since it happened years ago, it's justified. Or how claiming he can stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and he still would be supported by his followers. In tomorrow’s America, the status quo for women has just fallen.

Instead of feeling that years of my research and fighting for the rights of women is gone, I will not succumb to despair, instead I will rise and at the conference on women, I know that my voice as a woman of color is important.

I know to lead the change, I must be the change. We can no longer pretend that sexism and racism have progressed. In fact, they exist in our future president and they exist in the workplace.

To critically address both, here is what needs to be done.

Dismantle prejudice through knowledge. Knowledge gained from actual interracial experience, dialogue, understanding the histories of people from different races and ethnicities. Knowledge gained from women from of all backgrounds sharing their stories.

Dismantle discrimination with social practice of equal treatment. Equal treatment gained through workplace policies that examine equal pay, family leave, gender norms and corporate cultures.

Promote integration in the workplace with the intention of understanding historical stories and where power lies for individuals with different backgrounds. The goal of integration is to transcend sterotypes based on skin color and gender, in favor of treating individuals free from group identification.

We need to create mentorship programs geared for women and women of color so that they can move up the ranks and reward different leadership styles. Merit should not be based on the white male framework, and there needs to be space for in-house champions.

Frankly. I'm not sure how I'm going to face these women knowing how much work needs to be done to convince so many of us to save ourselves and our sisters. 

But this is all for tomorrow’s America. The need to come together is mandatory. Always stronger together.

As for today, I am just breathing 

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.