The White Tears Phenomenon Is a Dangerous Product of White Privilege

I’m a hypertensive person, so I’m always careful not to consume food or beverages with high salt content. However, as a Black Woman living in a historically and presently anti-black misogynistic society, there’s one salty thing I am forced to endure — bitter white tears.

Why?

I learned from a young age that crying over injustices that I face won’t get me anywhere in life — sure, I cry, but the outcome is entirely different from my lived experience when white women cry. The Earth comes to a standstill, the ground beneath us starts to tremble and mountains migrate to warmer places.

My exaggerated point is, white tears are a valuable thing in our society. It would be disingenuous to attribute this phenomenon to white privilege solely because it has a lot to do with white supremacy as well. Take the case of Ntokozo Qwabe and Ashleigh Shultz, a Black activist who wrote in the gratuity section of a bill that their white waitress would receive a tip when she returned their land (a reference to colonization, which she is a beneficiary of). All she had to do after that incident was cry and she was rewarded with more than $3376.81 (R44 000) crowd funding from other white people who expressed outrage. White supremacy reared its head in this matter to say one thing: Look at what this power can do.

So why don’t black people do the same?

That’s the thing, Black people don’t have that kind of power. You need to be a certain type of economically comfortable to be able to throw money at every injustice Black People face. Not to mention that we face injustices every day and more frequently than white people. So given the fact that Black people are socio-economically oppressed, the most abundant thing we can offer to Black People in pain most of the time, are more tears.

Also, the world is used to Black People suffering, it has always been like that. It’s like when a tragedy happens in Europe or North America, campaign on campaign is started to raise funds for the victims, even in Africa. When the same tragedies happen here, the world and other African countries themselves are completely silent. Why? Black suffering is normalized, almost regulated even.

Is it fair to blame white people for how society reacts to their tears?

Absolutely, white tears are often used as a weapon against Black people. So they’re inherently dangerous for Black people. They can get us fired, put us in jail and/or get us killed. We can site cases for each time an incident like that actually happened. There’s a huge difference between the victimization of a white person and that of a black person from the way it’s received by the public and law to the outcome. We have to blame and condemn white people for showing us the wrath in their discomfort so that it stops.

White people need to learn to process their emotions in a way that won’t be detrimental to other people and justice.

In South Africa, we can’t even begin to discuss race and white supremacy because their feelings are constantly being catered to instead of focusing on the living experiences of racism and oppression that black people face. For these reasons, we can not continue to drink white tears. White power can not continue to go unchecked and most importantly, white people need to be part and parcel of efforts to deconstruct white supremacy and privilege.

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Thabi Myeni
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South African || BLACK || Intersectional Feminist || Founder of Friends of Hers

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