Unique Ways White Women Enact Racism
I wrote this to fulfill the crowdfunding done on my twitter for an essay of exactly this subject.
Why this essay?
A discussion on social media went into the details of a recent news story, a tale of the white mother of a well-known white supremacist neo-nazi supporting his little neo-nazi groups in her business. This caused locals to boycott her business, which, if I’m remembering correctly, tanked it.
Some people felt that it wasn’t really her fault…except for the part where it clearly was. One Black woman mentioned that it was part of white women’s contribution to white supremacy, that is, training their children to be white supremacists. Someone else responded:
“Why blame her? Why not blame both parents?”
I get the point of the question. However, it was a comment that bothered me immensely, because I’ve seen white women use white men to deflect from what they do…often. Very, very often, with the most common claim being “okay, but white men do it too/do it worse, so why are you talking about us?”
1 — White women use their status below white men to deflect from their racism.
A couple of years ago there was a meme going around mocking racist white girls. It was started by Black women, one of the biggest victims of racist white women, but white people, as they do everything, absorbed it and quickly came out screaming about how this was “misogyny” on the part of Black women. Why? Because focusing “solely” on white women racism when “white men were so much worse” could not be anything but misogyny, apparently.
This is wrong, white supremacist, and frankly just insulting.
Here’s an example of why this is so goddamn virulent. Let’s say one man smacks you in the face, and the next man punches you, and you complain about it. And the man who smacks you says “GAWD, why are you so focused on ME? That guy punched you in the face. That’s way worse than what I did.”
That’s what you sound like when you try to deflect. “Yeah, sure, we smack PoC up and down the block all day long, but have you seen all the punching white MEN do? Bother them!”
Well, here’s the thing about being part of a group that often benefits from racism and thus is most inclined to continue perpetuating it: those affected can freely decide what they want to focus on that day. There is something to be said for focusing entirely on one group and not the other…but people of color aren’t forgetting how racist white men are, and it is undoubtedly one of the top things we discuss. But there is a plenty wide berth to discuss just white women.
These deflection tactics only make white women more worthy of discussion.
2 — White women use their own white femininity as a bludgeon to harm.
This is something very specific to US context and part of the reason I’m writing this today is because of the article that came out about Emmett Till and the truth behind his case.
If you don’t know Emmett Till (come out from under your rock, tbh), he was a Black 14 year old child who brutally lynched in 1955 by 2 white men for the crime of supposedly flirting with a 21 year old white woman named Carolyn Bryant. Because of the cruel way he was killed, his mother insisted on leaving his casket open for people to view white supremacy in action. The men who murdered him were cleared entirely of wrongdoing — according to the linked article, they were cleared in just about an hour.
Read the article. Really read it.
Focus especially on the part where Carolyn Bryant testifies that the 14 year old Emmett Till grabbed her and threatened her. She claims that he used a word toward her that she could not even UTTER, so delicate and dainty was this lily white flower the evil Nigger was trying to violate. And most of all, note how she states that he told her had… “done something” with white women before.
Years later, after this white woman has had her full life completed, children and all, she admits in 2007 at the age of 72 that she’s a bold faced, disgusting liar. Her family is hiding her, most likely to protect her, which to me is really the icing on this horrible white supremacist cake.
White women, despite repeating that they don’t want to be delicate damsels in distress, and fighting against those portrayals in media, also know the power of that point of view. They’ve benefited from the violent protection that comes with it. White women can do things like run onto sports fields, sexually assault Black men in plain view, and still be considered cute and precious while security gently escorts them off. White women who commit violent crimes against just about everyone but white men are considered ill-fated ladies whose lives must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. They are given sympathy. They are believed when they say they are sorry, even if it is a bold-faced lie.
And they are protected when they help get racist murderers acquitted.
No other group of people, not even white men, benefits from this particular status. White women will call this a sad byproduct of misogyny, once again pointing toward white men as the true evil in this case, but that would be them simply calling upon number one to enact this. White women know this is a view of them, and use it to abuse, sexually assault, and violate PoC, and especially Black people.
Casually online, this manifests as being extremely racist, and then using things like mental illness or messages about them “sobbing” to deflect. It manifests when a white woman says “I want to kill myself now, are you happy?” Does that mean that white women are the only people who do this? No. But white women are in a unique position because of their white feminine status to make this work for them better than any other group of people.
3 — White women merge all men into one group while discussing misogyny.
“Kill all men” say some white women. Uh, well, white women have certainly tried to kill off entire groups of men, especially indigenous men and Black men.
I understand the mindset behind calls of “kill all _____” from an oppressed group. I really do. But white women, when you want to say “kill all men”, you really might want to make sure that your people don’t have a history of doing it.
And sure. White women certainly aren’t a top killer of people of color.
But they certainly do have a history of supporting their genocides. I’ve seen some white women as of late try to claim that those women were unwilling participants; much like slaves, they were forced, poor things, to wholly support their men no matter what. (See how number one and two keep coming back to haunt PoC? White women can reap all the benefits of whiteness and never get a single consequence, as damsels who HAD NO CHOICE but to follow those bad, bad white men!)
A quick look into history demonstrates a very different reality. If you search, you can find images of white women bringing all of their children to what essentially amounts to “lynching parties”, where they happily take photos while the bodies of dead Black men hang behind them. Women like Carolyn Bryant, who likely told her husband, one of Emmett Till’s murderers, some overblown story about how he tried to accost her, leading to his death. Many other stories like that are the entire history behind why Black men were told to never even meet eyes with a white woman, lest that be the catalyst for his stringing up from a tree.
Everyone’s favorite suffragettes have been caught using racism to explain why women deserve rights (over those damn niggers!) and people still praise them today as well as try to excuse those comments as somehow being less racist as they are.
I won’t search these for you. The point of this essay is to guide, not to handhold.
White women still love to discuss misogyny in an Us vs Them dichotomy. But that dichotomy doesn’t coincide with fact; studies demonstrate that most men of color fall below white women in privilege in just about every damn way. The benefits white women associate with overarching “manhood” don’t apply to all but TWO racial groups of men when considered relative to white women. Increased salary, focus on health issues, promotion capacity and trustworthiness…white women hold these over all but white men (and in a couple of cases, Asian men). This broad-brush painting of how misogyny works, completely void of intersectional analysis, allows white women free reign to abuse both men of color with no consequence, as well as encourages them to commit the next uniquely racist acts against women of color.
4 — White women use “we’re all women” rhetoric, overwhelming familiarity, and niceties to disarm women and femmes of color.
This can be generalized and is common of oppressed groups, to be sure. But many women of color and femmes of color, especially Black ones, feel that there’s a particularly insidious quality to the way white women enact this, that comes of their ability to seem delicate and dainty at a moment’s notice.
I’ve spoken about that feeling before…that innate feeling that white women weasel their way in using niceties before ripping everything down like the best white supremacist abusers out there.
It’s hard to notice at first, especially if you aren’t familiar with intersectionality theory. You’re both women or femmes, right? You’ve both certainly been harmed by men. It’s a common ground, a powerful one.
And I’m not saying that white women do this consciously, or use the exact phrasing “we’re all women”. Maybe it’s simply talking about something that happened to them, nodding and smiling at you the entire time, as if you’re both in on the joke. In some cases, you will be, and in other cases (such as white women discussing damsel-in-distress situations to Black women), it will not resonate with you at all.
But it’s that familiarity that draws you in. The apparent dedication to making it about All Women, Yes! It’s disarming.
And, as many WoC have found out, it was also a lie.
5 — White women gain rapport and standing with WoC only to cause long-standing harm.
So many times I’ve seen discussions by women of color that a white woman cozied up to them, appeared as if they were willing to help them get ahead…only to steal their work, use them as a scapegoat, and ultimately leave them in a position worse off than they began, usually concerning mental health.
Or, that Nice White Lady crossed a line with regards to racism, and when she was called out, that Nice White Lady who used to be a friend became a rigid enemy, determined to destroy.
The unique point lies in how these white women managed to get close enough to women of color to be able to destroy them so thoroughly…and it’s essentially, numbers 1 and 2 in action. (Seeing the trend?)
By deflecting their responsibility and using their own stereotypes as generally benevolent creatures, even PoC will lower their guard against white women versus white men. Women of color in environments with low amounts of women and PoC will often join with white women out of lack of any other options. And white women notoriously take advantage of this to enact racist abuse, all the while using deflection to white men to continue to disarm.
This one is often the worst, because it is a high-level form of racist abuse. It’s hard to prove, though it’s easy to see once you’ve been its victim enough times. Even the white woman in question thinks she’s being reasonable, or that her PoC co-workers are being unreasonable, but whatever happens, WHITE MEN ARE THE WORST and PEOPLE WILL LOOK AT HER KNOWING SHE’S DONE NOTHING WRONG. And so racist abuse can easily continue, and the more you fight, the worse it will get.
You’ll notice that 4 and 5 are heavily related to 1 and 2. They’re essentially the advanced version, the final forms. White women have the ability to cause emotional and financial damage that ruins careers and lives. It is the reason that so many WoC and especially Black women leave corporate life behind with no qualms, why they abandon dreams and communities they once worked so hard to join. White women are often behind these things.
Sure, white men kill. They rape. They go to war.
So do white women. They hold the same mentalities, they violate the same people. They just have their own way of going about it, wholly supported and even encouraged by the white men they claim to want to separate from. They have historically used the same racist claims to improve their standing, and have successfully done so above multiple groups of men despite trying to claim they are oppressed by those men. Of course, there are always SOME women who are in fact oppressed by men of color. White women know that and use it to their own ends, leaving women of color in situations that are even worse, harmful situations that white men would have never gained access to carry out.
Make no mistake: there is never really a wrong time to discuss white women’s racism. It is not white men’s fault, even if they do encourage it. White women are not unwilling slaves dragged along by white men, and they never have been. Even given the lack of women’s rights in the past, white women still used every bit of freedom to assist with the removal of freedoms from people of color and especially women of color.
That stands visible today, and the more power white women get, the more obvious it becomes that white men have never needed to force them to be racist.
They did that all by themselves.
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