AfroSapiophile
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AfroSapiophile

Why is Whitesplaining Still a Thing?

Why are white people still Whitesplaining the stories of other cultures?

Black woman, confused looking at a computer screen. / iStock

This genuinely confuses me. A few weeks back I encountered a White woman writer that was writing about a marginalized community to which she has no relationship. She explained to me that she has a friend or two and felt she understood the community enough to provide commentary on an issue impacting that community. Yup, she used the racist trope of I have a Black, Latinx, Jewish, Asian (substitute your preferred marginalized group) friend and therefore I am entitled to step out of bounds and provide my assessment on an issue that she knows nothing about.

I commented that she should not write about communities to which she has no affiliation. When confronted she reacted as expected. She lashed out, then she asked to verify my credentials and ended with I have a friend in this community and they have no problem with what I wrote. Yeah, she tokenized her “friend”. Below was her response to me:

Actually, no one shared your opinion that I shouldn’t write it. Many thanked me for sharing that original article with them. Some said they had not been aware consciously of this, and thanked me for amplifying that awareness. Some said they didn’t think it was an injustice.

That doesn’t negate your experience, obviously. — Melissa Miles McCarter

What was the topic that generated so much debate? The writer, a White Christian woman thought she would write about Sarah Silverman’s comment on her podcast about Jewface (we won’t discuss the appropriation of the term blackface today). Ms. Silverman has come a long way from her history of using Blackface and thinking the inclusion of the racial epithet of Ch**k (to refer to Asians) is funny, but she clearly has a way to go. Ms. Silverman was upset that a White non-Jew would be playing a Jewish role.

“There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being. One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile [a non-Jew] playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.’” — Sarah Silverman

What this particular writer did not understand is that Sarah Silverman’s comments completely erased all the Jews of Color and perpetuate the myth that all Jews are White. This particular White writer did not understand the nuance of this topic because she is neither Jewish nor a Black person. This is the problem, White people do not allow marginalized people to have their own voice. They simply do not understand the nuances of issues within those communities. They are engaging in Whitesplaining.

Whitesplaining

The arrogance of Whitesplaining. To think that you have the right, the obligation to tell the stories of another because you envision yourself as an ally because that is what all POC want is an ally that will talk over them and ignore their voice. This interaction made me think of other better-known authors that have built careers Whitesplaining. The two that came to mind are Tim Wise and Robin DiAngelo.

Tim Wise is a White man that has built an impressive career telling other White people what it is like to be Black and marginalized. He has written books and regularly speaks at institutions about anti-racism. He has labeled himself as an American activist…fighting and speaking on behalf of Black people. He justifies taking up space in this area with explanations that he grew up around Black people and sharing how much Black people love him. Umm ok. My question is why is a White man making money off the oppression of Black people?

The other Whitesplaining ally is Robin DiAngelo. She popped into the Whitesplaining scene with the mega-hit White Fragility. Robin DiAngelo took Whitesplaining to a whole other level. White Fragility is a racist tract and the White public love it. You can see other like-minded White people wanting to learn how not to be racist recommending White Fragility as if it is the Bible. The book not only replaces the Black voice via Whitesplaining but is condescending towards Black people. However, it is all done in an effort to lift Black people up. Wow. Again I ask why is a White woman making money off the oppression of Black people?

Why are White people still talking on our behalf?

I have been told it is because White people will only listen to other White people. So the response is let’s reinforce that White Supremacist mindset? We really need to stop pandering to White nonsense. There are talented, educated, Black individuals that are more than capable of talking, writing, and speaking about anti-racism and the Black experience. Here is the bonus because they have lived as a Black person, their experience is authentic.

The hypocrisy. Black people struggle to get books published. Institutions will not compensate Black people for speaking about anti-racism but will pay thousands to listen to a White person speak about anti-racism. Black authors and speakers are expected to share our knowledge for free, while Whites are well compensated for speaking about that which they do not know. The icing on the cake is that White society will then turn around and criticize Black people for earning money discussing anti-racism and issue calls for an investigation.

My advice to Tim Wise and Robin DiAngelo, you want to be anti-racist, start by pulling up Black writers and suggesting them as speakers because when you go home to your homes purchased off the exploitation of the oppression of Black people in your White neighborhoods, Black folk will still be dealing with the racist teacher harassing their child, the racist cop pulling them over, and the racist boss paying them less and not promoting them.

Oh yeah, one more thing Black people can speak for themselves.

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Dr. Elizabeth N. Webster

Dr. Elizabeth N. Webster

Fmr Candidate for Ga State House. Epidemiologist. Researcher. Business Owner. Civically Engaged.