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Be careful who you’re marching behind at the next Women’s March

Vanessa Wruble, an early organizer of the Women's March on Washington, at her home in New York on Dec. 12. Kholood Eid/New York Times

The annual Women’s March is supposed to showcase the power of the sisterhood when it takes to the streets in peace and solidarity against President Trump’s agenda.

But which sisters you march behind matters.

According to The New York Times, two women who are now national Women’s March leaders — Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist — told Vanessa Wruble that she needed to confront Jewish racism before she could really understand the women’s protest movement. Wruble said she was ultimately pushed out of the organization, partly because of her Jewish identity. When asked for comment by the Times, Mallory issued this statement: “Since that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, all Jews are targeted by it.”


Now that’s an inspirational rallying cry for next month’s Women’s March, isn’t it? Especially when anti-Semitism is on the rise, as evidenced by last October’s attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which resulted in the deaths of 11 worshipers.

Mallory previously referred to Louis Farrakhan, who is known for his anti-Semitic rantings, as “the GOAT” or the “greatest of all time.” After attending a Farrakhan event last March, at which the Nation of Islam leader railed against Jews, Israel, and the US government, she explained that she been going to it since she was a child. However, after hearing “the pain and concerns of my LGBTQAl siblings, my Jewish friends and Black women,” Mallory denounced Farrakhan — sort of: “I affirm the validity of those feelings and as I continue to grow and learn as both an activist and as a woman, I will continue to grapple with the complicated nature of working across ideological lines and the question of how to do so without causing harm to vulnerable people,” she wrote in an op-ed.


Allegations of anti-Semitism at the top of the Women’s March organization were first raised in the Tablet, an online Jewish magazine, in a story headlined, “Is the Women’s March Melting Down?” According to the Times, which followed up on that report, the divisions are now so deep that there will be two marches next month in New York — one sponsored by the original Women’s March group and one by a second group called March On, which Wruble helped found. Meanwhile, in Chicago, local organizers called off plans for their January march, citing high costs and a lack of volunteers, and as the Sun-Times noted, shortly after the local organization distanced itself from the national Women’s March leadership over the Farrakhan ties.

The original Women’s March, held on January 21, 2017, drew millions of women who took to the streets to protest Trump’s election. The pink pussy hats and clever signs took some of the edge off the shock of Trump’s victory. However, even in that feel-good moment, there were also tensions around race, with black and Latina women expressing concern that white women were controlling the agenda.

That first march lived up to some of its promise, as more women were inspired to engage politically as activists and candidates. So, on one hand, it’s a shame to allow infighting to confirm stereotypes about the inability of women to get along. Conservative media outlets are already reveling in this latest breakdown of progressive unity.


Yet current leadership hurts the overall cause. One of the founding organizers of the Women’s March in Raleigh, N.C., has called for Mallory and the rest of the board to step down. “Their acts and omissions with relationship to anti-Semitism distract from the women’s March and its allies and cause harm,” wrote Shana Becker.

You have to be blind not to see that — and female solidarity is no excuse for blindness.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.