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The Good Ol' Girls Network

The many shades of sisterhood

by Attica Scott

"I hate it when people throw around the terms 'reverse racism.' I can be prejudiced but not racist. To be a racist, you have to be able to oppress another race. To do that, you have to have economic and political power. Blacks don't have that; whites do."
—Dawn Kelly, 1992

You've heard about the Good Ol' Boys Network, haven't you? Well, it's married to the Good Ol' Girls Network. And it doesn't look like they'll be getting divorced anytime soon.

That Good Ol' Girls Network is alive and well in our community. It takes many shapes, but right now I'm looking at its political manifestation.

Let's take a look at who's in power locally. White women are represented at every level of government. Yet there is no representation of women of color on City Council or the school board and only one woman of color on County Commission.

As a woman of color, I don't see the white women who are in power cultivating their African-American sisters for leadership. For example, this time last year the League of Women Voters held a workshop on political involvement. Not one of the presenters was a person of color until at the last minute (after the original date was snowed out) a local African-American female neighborhood activist was asked to be on the panel. It seems as if the Network has a closed-door policy when it comes to including women of color until we come banging on the door. But white women have not hesitated to ride the tail end of civil rights and voting rights movements—led by people of color—to advance their own causes.

Some people will say it's not about ethnicity. Of course it's not when you're part of the Network. The Good Ol' Girls Network has numerous benefits: opportunities for professional advancement that are often a telephone call away that people of color never get a chance to compete for; a social ladder that the Network is able to climb and leave women of color behind; and I am sure that you can think of more.

I have yet to hear any of the white women officeholders speak out about the lack of women of color holding local public elected office. I hope that this will change after the political involvement workshops to be held in February. Wouldn't that be an appropriate prelude to Women's History Month, or "Herstory" Month as some would call it?

Here are my thoughts on how the Good Ol' Girls Network could begin to include women of color: invite former and current women of color who are involved in local politics to be on your panels, develop working relationships with local groups who have made it a part of their mission to work with people of color, and be vocal.

Organizations like the League of Women Voters and the East Tennessee Women's Political Caucus need to actively seek women of color as members. And those women need to be active members, not just names on a roster.

There is a wealth of women of color in our community who would represent all of us well. By sharing the power we can work together to achieve true equality and sisterhood.

Scott is the author of A Guide to Grassroots Political Campaigning in Knoxville and Knox County, Tennessee.

February 8, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 6
© 2001 Metro Pulse