Glenn Bigonet, M.A.
Social Activist for Racial Equity
Facilitating Discussions about Racism
White Woman's Tears
"No defense is stronger than the frail
tears of innocent White womanhood"
Ibram X. Kendi
I have to say up front that when I first heard this was a racial issue it really created a lot of issues for me. I heard it introduced by Robin DiAngelo in her book White Fragility. What she stated that in a racially mixed group of people discussing the tragic death of a black man by police that it was inappropriate for any of the white women to cry in the meeting. I felt outraged. As a therapist I have worked hard to create spaces for people to have their feelings freely with acceptance and reverance. Not expressing our feelings is the cause of much mental and physical health issues. How in the world could she say that it was inappropriate for the white women to cry during the discussion of such tragic event? This just seemed outrageous to me.
As she explained it made perfect sense to me and I realized how complicated having process groups around these issues can be. Throughout the history of this country many black men have died as a result of white women's tears. A black man does something to upset a white woman and she cries then the white men would punish the black man by lynching him or bringing other violence upon him. True, that isn't common today but the traumatic effect of white women's tears is still there for many black americans.
White women's tears still have a marginalizing effect on people of color that regularly does harm to people of color. Often in discussions of racism or racial harm to a particular person a white woman will feel grief, guilt, shame or some other discomfort around the discussion and start to cry. Robin Diangelo states "because of its seeming innocence, well-meaning white women crying in cross-racial interactions is one of the more pernicious enactments of white fragility." The most common response of white people when they see a white woman crying is to put their attention on her to help relieve her distress or run to her defense. Both responses lead to the real issue of the racial harm perpetrated or the issue of racism at hand gets lost. This often leads to the person or people there that were really harmed being lost and marginalized by the group causing yet more racial harm.
The most important question to arise out of this for me is: How do we let everyone have their feelings without anyone else being marginalized or harmed? I believe that there is a way that white women can have their tears and they can be held in their tears without distracting everyone from the key issue of racism being discussed. This is vital whether the group is mixed racially or all white. This work brings up a lot of uncomfortable feelings and it's important to feel them but we cannot allow these feelings from distracting us from the important work of confronting the racism in our society. So come to these meetings, have your feelings, and know they will be held with love and acceptance however we will also keep the focus on the racism being discussed while holding you in your discomfort.
|Copyright © 2020 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.|