Today, Chicago NOW joins the state and local chapters of the National Organization for Women calling for President Toni Van Pelt’s immediate resignation. Further, we call for swift reform of NOW’s bylaws to decentralize power at the national level and empower the hundreds of grassroots chapters nationwide to take immediate action during times of crisis.
Last week, we called for transparency and concrete answers from President Van Pelt regarding several recent news articles claiming a disturbing pattern of racist behavior among NOW’s national leadership. As of now, we have not received any official response from the national board about these allegations. Today, we realize our previous demand is not enough. We no longer have confidence in President Van Pelt’s leadership, and we do not believe she can effectively speak for the thousands of women in this organization.
We believe women of color. It is now evident that the allegations of racism at NOW reported in recent news stories were merely the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, we see that this is not a new problem, but that our national leadership has allowed a toxic environment to fester for far too long. We have driven women of color out of our organization by turning a blind eye to their pain. To that end, it is not possible for those who were silent and complicit while the cancer of racism spread throughout our leadership to continue to helm our organization as we take steps to root out this toxicity once and for all.
Our members deserve leaders who will take immediate action to rally behind their sisters. To that end, we reiterate our call for a transparent, comprehensive investigation into all racism allegations at all levels of leadership within NOW, and for the results of this investigation to be provided to local chapters. Should this investigation confirm the widespread pattern of racist behavior suggested by these allegations, we believe that allowing all those currently in power to continue to steer the course would be a conflict of interest that would further erode the faith our members should have in their national leadership. However, we are constrained by NOW’s archaic bylaws from taking further necessary drastic action to root out corruption. We call on our fellow grassroots organizers to join us in demanding we overhaul a system that has allowed racism to thrive for far too long.
We meant it when we said that no form of feminism is legitimate unless it is intersectional, that we trust the experiences of women of color, and that we take all allegations of racism seriously. We fear the current leadership of NOW cannot advocate for our mission in an inclusive way. As such, we call upon our fellow grassroots chapters to join us in demanding legislative reform and calling on our leadership to listen to women of color, drive change, and earn the trust of all of our nation’s women.