Statement by Board Members of the National Organization for Women

The National Organization for Women board members who are women of color have jointly prepared this statement in response to the dispirited, insidious and turbulent effects of the words and deeds of Tammy Bruce, President of the L.A. NOW Chapter, in connection with the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson verdict and the resulting censure of her by the National Board.

 During the trial, NOW activists and allies all over the country were deeply concerned that the media consistently chose to elevate the racially charged aspects of the trial over all others to the extent that the recognition of a judicial system fraught with sexism, classism, as well as racism went largely unacknowledged.

While we work to end all forms of oppression, including domestic violence, NOW leaders must be cognizant of the fact that when racially insensitive words are spoken out of anger or ignorance, we seriously jeopardize the work of activists past, present and future, as well as severely diminish our reputation as a defender of civil rights in communities of color as well as the general public. Tammy Bruce has done just that.

 NOW chapters were faced with responding to members and coalition partners all over the country who were incensed by the remarks of Ms. Bruce. Crucial relationships with people of color, legislators, and organizations that were cultivated over lengthy periods of time with meticulous consideration and understanding and mutual respect are now in jeopardy. At our November meeting, the National Board heard member after member relating incidents and situations in which the organization and our reputation were injured by Ms. Bruce's remarks.

 It was not a hasty nor easy determination by the Board to censure a sister NOW member. While it was a National Board decision, Ms. Bruce implied in the media and in direct correspondence with the officers of NOW, that the Board was a puppet and that Patricia Ireland orchestrated the censure motion. The implication is totally false, disrespects the integrity of the Board's decision-making process, and serves to diminish the impact of her words.

 We, the women of color board members, are constantly confronting apprehension about NOW within our own communities and are repeatedly compelled to defend our participation in NOW. Inflammatory, racially insensitive statements made by NOW members only causes greater difficulties in getting our message across.

The National Organization for Women is an organization that is deeply committed to racial diversity, and we by our very presence on the Board of Directors are evidence of that commitment. Collectively, we represent over 150 years of activism, and we were injured by the statements made by or attributed to Ms. Bruce. Each of us voted to censure Tammy Bruce and after personally hearing her explanations, we remain convinced that the censure was an appropriate action.

 As women of color leaders within NOW we feel it is important that our voices are heard. Equality and justice are ours, when we have a movement rich in diversity and clear in vision. Thanks for your involvement, commitment, and for listening.

Statement prepared by: Marti Farha Ammar Wichita, KS, Rebecca Bermudez L.A., CA, Alicia Cole Tuscaloosa, L, Cindy Guerra Oak Forest, IL, Karen Johnson San Antonio, TX, Brenda Joyner Tallahassee, FL, Geraldine Miller Bronx, NY, Carolyn Moncrief Springfield, MO, Tanya Thomas Philadelphia, PA, Elizabeth Toledo Sacramento, CA.

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