I have 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. Whiteness’s capitalization 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 being dragged over hot coals for a racist video they posted online. Since they are young, and I am a teacher, I do not want to draw more attention to the matter by citing names or giving links to the video. However, I will include the posts they made after the fact with the names redacted to illustrate my points.
It is difficult to say whether their choice to take these pictures was a strategic move to play into societal sympathy for “White tears.” Again, they are young. I cannot help thinking they posted these pictures out of subconscious instinct to use White tears as a tool of manipulation. They took close-up pictures of their light-coloured eyes, fat teardrops sliding down their pale skin.
The next thing I encountered during my scrolling on social media was that #Karen was trending. I will not redact names on these pictures because the people posting are not teenagers.
If you are not familiar with the comedian John Mulaney, there was a segment in one of his HBO specials that made a good point. If you compare two things and you cannot even say one of them out loud, that is the worse thing. Michelle B. Young posted on Twitter that White women weaponize their privilege, causing 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 is not the case. White women feminists’ failure to recognize their advocacy often only benefits people like themselves is the reason many women of colour have cut ties with traditional feminism.
The third thing I encountered during my social media explorations was the differences in how white and black essential workers have been treated during the COVID-19 crisis.
The comment in the first picture below was my own, from Facebook and Twitter. I believe these pictures speak for themselves. Two nurses 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.
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