This past weekend at the Third World Center (TWC), we had a meeting addressing public “anti-white sentiments” that had been visible on chalkboards and peoples’ Facebook pages. Concerned, administration pushed the student coordinators to initiate a conversation about “anti-white sentiments” among the TWC staff, in cluding jokes such as #whitetears. The overall conclusion was that people needed to police their Facebook presence and play into respectability politics that allows the center to exist in this institution. There was some push back, but not nearly enough.
I don’t know if I could consider my sentiments of anger and frustration as “anti-white.” Perhaps the more apt term would be anti-white supremacy. When another White girl gets up after a conversation around racism and starts crying #whitetears (because she just discovered racism and feels so much empathy for those who go through it), I roll my eyes. Her tears are not going to dismantle white supremacy; in fact, all they do is reinforce them. Not only is the instance an example of White people taking up space, but #whitetears is also a commentary on how the tool of white womanhood is used to sustain white supremacy.
“White men used their ownership of the body of the white female as a terrain on which to lynch the black male.” – Ida B. Wells
Her racial status as a White woman, as well as the accompanying history of fragile, pure white womanhood, may not be the only reason that motivates people to rush over and console her. But in doing so, we are left to wonder and question why the country does not jump to aid when dark-skinned boys get shot on the street or when undocumented immigrant women are silently detained and deported away from their U.S-born children.
Especially considering that white womanhood has historically been used as a critical tool of white supremacy to propagate the white race and enact violence against colored bodies, the situation is disconcerting and alarming. The reaction of the audience seems to tell us, yet again, that the tears of a white woman are somehow more valuable than the blood and screams of thousands of POC that have been systematically ignored and silenced in this nation.
In that sense, our “anti-white sentiments” are the bits of frustration that leak out, living in this nation that seems to constantly bombard us with hate speech and messages of worthlessness. Perhaps it could be better channeled to more creative rather than destructive efforts. But without providing that outlet and instead telling students of color to police their language, the TWC becomes another “POC institution” pushing respectability politics at the cost of student of color narratives.