At protests, signs are the vessel by which people are able to individuate and highlight personal issues and concerns in a large crowd. On Saturday, signs were everywhere at The Women’s March on Washington, a protest for women’s rights that exceeded expectations after an estimated 500,000 people descended upon the nation’s capital.
But three signs in particular—from sister marches across the country—that have since gone viral, called attention to an issue that has caused much discord way before the march took place: race.
Weeks before the march, The New York Times published an article that mapped out tensions between a few of the march’s organizers, who are of color, and some white women planning to attend the march who felt that the organizers’ attention to the experiences of women of color was divisive.
These photos are a provocative glance into a march that espoused unity, but perhaps didn’t embody it.
Take for example, “Don’t forget white women voted for Trump.” A black woman stands in the foreground, while white women in pink hats stand behind her. The sign is correct, 53% of white women voted for President Trump, while 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton.
Another sign, “Being scared since 2016 is a privilege,” is both an acknowledgement that black and brown women have been afraid in this country since its inception and a critique of some white women who only began to mobilize after Trump's election.
“I’ll see you nice white ladies at the next #blacklivesmatter march right?” reads the sign held up by actor Amir Talai, which brings up a similar point: if the women’s march was meant to be for all women, then it only makes sense white women would show up for black women at Black Lives Matter marches too.
These viral signs reveal deep divisions in the midst of a march meant to unify. And this fight is nothing new—race has always played a contentious role in feminism. Though they were always there, black and brown women have been sidelined in the histories of the suffrage and the women’s liberation movements. And if Saturday was any indication, harmony among women who oppose Donald Trump is not universal.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.