Addendum to my December 28 post on why I stand behind the Women’s March leaders

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Excerpt from The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012–2018, by the Computational Propaganda Research Project, December 2018

Note: I am not part of the Women’s March staff nor am I writing as an official representative of their views.

To my Jewish and LGBTQ sisters and brothers who felt attacked or erased by my post:

I apologize for harming you. It was never my intent to portray Jewish critics of the Women’s March leaders as Russian agents, and in so doing, play into the canard that Jewish people are foreign agents who are disloyal to America, but that was clearly my impact, and I am sorry. I hear you that my theory is particularly unwelcome at a time of rising anti-Semitism. As you point out, I have a lot to learn about anti-Semitism, and it’s hard to accurately capture what is happening in this situation without an understanding of anti-Semitism.

What I was trying to point out is that I believe that Russians, led by Vladimir Putin, are using social media to polarize Americans along existing fault lines as they did in the 2016 election between Hillary and Bernie supporters, between African Americans who are concerned about police brutality and other injustices facing the African American community and Democrats, and among members of the general public.

You are correct to state that I have no evidence that Russians are behind the efforts to fracture the Women’s March, and this is only a theory.

The reason I point my theory out is not to harm you, but because I am wary of how we are all being manipulated.

My theory is that, following the patterns above, Russians are fomenting anti-Semitic violence through social media, while simultaneously trying to fracture the Women’s March along perhaps the biggest fault line in our society, between women of color and white women, to shore up support for Trump and Republicans and break up our coalition.

I believe Russians are targetting the Women’s March leaders for the same reason they targetted African American activists: because they are building the power of what Steve Phillips calls the New American Majority, the majority of the electorate composed of voters of color and progressive whites.

I am not saying Jewish women’s claims of anti-Semitism among Women’s March leaders lack legitimacy, just as I would never say African Americans beliefs that Democrats don’t sufficiently address police brutality, mass incarceration, and income inequality are illegitimate. That is not my place, those are their experiences, and who am I to negate someone else’s experience?

Russians are experts at strategically amplifying existing divides, they don’t make them up. Their efforts to sow division will increase as we head to the 2020 Presidential election.

We cannot allow Russians to divide us if we are to take back our country and make it safe for all.

This is a time for UNITY among all people in the crosshairs of white nationalism, led by women of color, who know the most about protecting vulnerable communities because they have been doing that hard work for centuries.

Unity is crucial, and it is hard work because our history is terrible.

And that is why it is so important that we learn new ways to relate with one another.

This is a time for women, femmes, and our allies to be in community with each other, to come together in person, get to know each other, to teach each other about our histories and trauma, and build relationships based in trust, and to march together, united under the Women’s March leaders.

I am grateful to the Women’s March leaders for acknowledging their growth areas, issuing a statement and apology committing to fighting anti-Semitism and homophobia/transphobia, and updating the Unity Principles as part of the Women’s Agenda for 2019.

I urge the Women’s March leaders to continue what Tami Lee calls “Radical Confrontation”: listening to critiques and learning and engaging with women of all backgrounds while centering the most vulnerable. There are always divides within movements, and our leaders and movements need to grow to be able to deal with them.

And I encourage women of all backgrounds to listen and learn and engage with each other, and NOT break off or stay home from the Women’s March. As Audre Lorde told us back in 1980, our biggest problem is that we have no patterns of relating across difference as equals, so we are going to have to teach each other and ourselves in order to break the long cycle of domination and oppression in our society, to once and for all heal the divide between white women and women of color.

I would like to thank Carly Pildis, who kindly educated me about the reasons why some Jewish women have felt excluded by the Women’s March, and to Vlad Judah Khaykin and Nylah Burton who wrote great Twitter threads that were highly educational.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I welcome your feedback.

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Karen Fleshman, Esq. is an attorney, activist, single soccer mom, and a nationally recognized expert on racism, feminism, workplace fair practices, police brutality, and politics. In 2014, Karen founded Racy Conversations, a workshop facilitation company, to help people feel more willing and able to communicate honestly with each other about racism and to do so with increased empathy and understanding.

Karen’s passion project is to build interracial sisterhood and raise antiracist children. She is the author of a forthcoming book for white women about racism, blogs for Huffington Post, Moguldom, and Blavity, and is a Medium Top Voice on Racism, Feminism, and Politics. Karen is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, the University of Texas at Austin, and New York Law School, and is admitted to practice law in New York.

As she has since 2017, in 2019 Karen will cohost Inclusive Conversations in cities across the United States, events designed to unite women across age, race, sexual orientation, and class, and will speak about interracial sisterhood With Minda Harts and Dr. Avis Jones De Weever, Karen will speak at SXSW 2019 on building interracial sisterhood. For more information, contact her here.

Founder, Racy Conversations Inspiring the antiracist generation.

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