I’ve been thinking a lot today about the weaponizing of Whiteness in our society. For those of you who might be wondering why I have capitalized the word, it is to differentiate white people from Whiteness, because there is a difference worth noting. Whiteness has very little to do with the amount of melanin you have in your skin and even less to do with race. There is no White race, just like there is no Black race. A white person from Scotland has about as much in common with a white person from Norway as a black Jamaican person has in common with a black Nigerian. The capitalization of Whiteness is an attempt to draw attention to the vulgarity of White Supremacy, not imply white people share universal bigotry.
My day began with one of my students posting about a pair of teenagers who are being raked over the coals for a racist video they posted online. Since they are young, and I am a teacher, I don’t want to draw more attention to the matter by citing names or giving links to the video. However, I am going to include the posts they made after the fact with the names redacted to illustrate my points.
Whether they are self-aware enough to have strategically decided to take these pictures to play into societal sympathy for White tears, I can’t say for certain. Again, they are young. I can’t help thinking they posted these pictures out of instinct that was subconsciously informed by what they have taken in during their relatively short lives; that White tears will go a long way in our society when it comes to forgiveness. Check out how they didn’t take long shots of their whole faces. They took close put pictures of their melanin-light eyes, with fat teardrops sliding down their pale skin.
The next thing I encountered during my scrolling on social media was that #Karen was trending. I won’t redact names on these pictures because the people posting are not teenagers.
If you aren’t familiar with the comedian on the right, his name is John Mulaney. This portion of one of his HBO specials is very on point: If you are comparing two things and you can’t even saying one of them, that’s the worse thing. Michelle B. Young (Twitter) is absolutely correct: There are White women who weaponize their privilege, which is part of the reason there is such a divide within Feminism. Some White women feminists seem to think there is a trickle-down effect with liberation, like a rising tide that will lift all boats. This simply isn’t the case. The failure of White women feminists to recognize their advocacy often only benefits people like themselves is the reason women of colour have largely cut ties with traditional feminism.
The third thing I encountered today during my social media explorations is the issue of the differences in the way white and black essential workers are being treated during the COVID-19 crisis.
The comment in the first picture below is my own (from Facebook and Twitter). I think these pictures speak for themselves, but I will restate the point for clarity. There were two nurses who posted emotional videos about having to quit their jobs because of the lack of PPE. Both deserved our support and sympathy. The white nurse had an outpouring of support and sympathy, while the black nurse had people saying she should be forced to go back to work on the threat of having her license pulled.
I titled this article “Weaponizing Whiteness” because that is what continues to be done in our society. White privilege is weaponized. White tears are weaponized. White fear is weaponized. White fragility is weaponized. White supremacy, as always, is weaponized.