Byko: Race, class create fissure in women's movement

Mecca Bey, a 41-year-old IT recruiter from Lansdowne, felt the march, in the beginning, was pro-Hillary Clinton.

America is more seriously divided now than at any time since the Civil War, with the possible exception of the Vietnam era, which sent hundreds of thousands of Americans raging into the streets. That's what came to mind Saturday as I saw a women-led revolt against a chief executive they find revolting.

The difference between this and the Vietnam era protests, and the Civil Rights marches a generation earlier, is that those were a steady and growing drumbeat. They were not one-and-done.

The organizers of Saturday's protest say they have more planned, a lot more. Being successful, and following the Vietnam and Civil Rights models, calls for shampoo tactics - apply, rinse, repeat. Locally, the next test will be Thursday when President Trump is in town to address the Republican congressional retreat at the Loews Hotel. Protesters are salivating, and I wonder what genius selected one of the bluest cities in the nation for the gathering. Was Salt Lake City booked?

I've followed the reporting of the enormous, peaceful turnout in D.C. and elsewhere, and spoken to friends who were there.

In some corners, however, I found an unwelcome schism - between black and white. Some black women scorned the protest. Boycotted it.

In explaining why she sat it out, Jamilah Lemieux, a vice president for Interactive One, wrote on the ColorLines website: "It won't serve my own mental health needs to put my body on the line . . . to feign solidarity with women who by and large didn't have my back prior to November."

She acknowledged that the protest had some women of color as co-chairs, but wrote: "I'm really tired of black and brown women routinely being tasked with fixing white folks' messes."

Looking at what she believes to be the scourge of Trump, "there was a tiny, tiny part of me that felt a tiny, tiny bit of satisfaction at seeing how sad many white women were. Finally, they got to know some semblance of the pain and anguish that accompanies our lives in this country."

That's a heavy indictment.

Germantown activist and artist YahNé Ndgo was in D.C. for a Friday Occupy Inauguration rally, but skipped the women's protest for several reasons, she told me.

"I didn't agree with the messaging, the anti-Trump messaging of the whole weekend. I think we get caught up in identity politics, instead of policy," she said.

Another reason, she said, was that when black Americans were being killed by police, "it felt like a whole lot of white women weren't with us."

Mecca Bey, a 41-year-old IT recruiter from Lansdowne, felt the march, in the beginning, was pro-Hillary Clinton "and it was asinine to have a march when Donald Trump got elected, when she was no better."

She believed that the march would not "discuss police brutality, black sex workers being murdered. Why would we support something like that?"

The bitterness surprised and disheartened me. The boycotters had their reasons, but I don't believe they are a majority.

A white millennial acquaintance went to the D.C. protest - her first venture into political activism - and fell in with a group of African American Washingtonian women. The capital is majority-minority, with blacks and Latinos 56 percent of the population. The participation of women of color in marches across America showed they did not think it was "white only." And many whites have marched with Black Lives Matter.

I've heard and seen - mostly from white women, admittedly - feelings approaching shame that 53 percent of their own voted for Trump.

How could they?

The things that mattered to them apparently overruled gender-based issues. They could be part of the Trump legion who were hopping mad and just didn't give a damn about anything.

Defining issues such as funding Planned Parenthood and income inequality as "white" is factually wrong and really unhelpful.

Ronald Reagan said a person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally, "not a 20 percent traitor." You don't drive away allies.

Whatever the sins of "white people" in America, no positive change came without the support of other "white people" - from abolitionists to Freedom Riders to the pipeline fight in South Dakota just weeks ago.

Who is the greater enemy - white women or Donald Trump?

Many people of good will have worked long and hard to build bridges between the races. It's pitiful that some, no matter their pain, would dynamite the bridges and provide comfort to haters.

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky