I was going to write something “lighter” this week, but then I saw the video on Instagram of a white woman in a store, crying and screaming and saying she was being threatened by a Black woman who was videotaping her. The video opens with what looks like the white woman coming to hit the Black woman. You may have seen it…
Viola Davis’ Instagram post about this mentions false accusations and weaponized tears.
The false accusation part we can likely all see. There is no threat. The woman videotaping is not even within arms reach. She is simply videotaping. This is reminiscent of the Central Park incident last year, remember? Accusations by white people (particularly white women) of being (or even feeling) threatened by someone who is Black (mostly men, but also women) have a long history in North America that has led to many lynchings, killings, false convictions and other harm (and their ripple effects). Besides the grave and deadly results for people who are Black and People of Colour, the deep problem we need to continue to shine a light on is why these accusations have these grave and deadly consequences – even in the face of little evidence: Systemic Racism.
Isabel Wilkerson in her book Caste – The History of our Discontents speaks of the ‘ladder of humanity’ built on skin colour. The made-up concept of white supremacy dictates that white is on top on that ladder, and that the rest of us are relegated to lower rungs based on the darkness of our skin. Since the made-up concept of White Supremacy is global and deep, we learn this ‘ladder of humanity’ in many overt and covert ways. And it results in things like who is believed, who is protected, who’s story is even heard. And on the flip side: who is not believed, not protected, not heard, and who is punished.
False accusations are taken at face value – just because the person who is making the accusation is white.
That’s Systemic Racism in action.
Weaponized tears can be a little harder to “get”. In this video, the white woman who starts out coming for the Black woman spends the entire video crying. Tears are the first go-to. We tend to associate tears with victimhood. While we may cry because we are hurt or afraid, what is significant here is that these tears (even if this white woman is afraid) are being used against the woman who is Black.
In two ways:
- To turn attention away from herself and the fact that she attacked the Black woman.
- To turn attention (sympathy) towards the white woman (and her pain), rather than the Black woman who has been attacked.
The reality of systemic racism means that the white woman and her tears steal the show and the narrative is built around her feelings and story, rather than what actually happened.
Hopefully broken down this way you can see the sinister nature of tears and why we use terms like weaponizing…
In a world without racism….
Where do we go with this?
Pay attention to the narratives of white supremacy and how they show up.
Learn to recognize systemic racism in action.
Examine how your actions and words (or inaction and silence) are impacted by (and further) the narratives of white supremacy, and support systemic racism.
Teach yourself to notice how the action, words, inactions and silence of others are impacted by (and further) the narratives of white supremacy and support systemic racism.
Act accordingly – step in, speak up, challenge, rewrite policy – to dismantle a system that has been designed to uphold some and squash others based on the colour of our skin.