We cannot talk about the violence that Dylann Roof perpetrated at Emanuel AME last Wednesday night without talking about whiteness, and specifically, about white womanhood and its role in racist violence. We have to talk about those things, because Roof himself did. Per a witness account, we know that he said: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” “Our” women, by whom he meant white women.
There is a centuries-old notion that white men must defend, with lethal violence at times, the sexual purity of white women from allegedly predatory black men. And, as we saw yet again after this shooting, it is not merely a relic of America’s hideous racial past. American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched.
As Jessie Daniels writes at Racism Review, white womanhood has been and remains essential to the logic of American white supremacy.
“There are a lot of events vying to occupy the American mind these days such as Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, the immigration crisis, hate crimes against Sikhs, Ebola, and Robin Williams’ death. But in one way, the ability to switch among these traumas is a white person’s ‘luxury.’…
“Black Americans are rightfully outraged, but it will require all Americans to be mobilized before the racism that undergirds these killings will end and the deaths along with it. White Americans like me have to stop channel surfing all the outrageously bad news from around the world and focus on the death that is happening in our own cities to our fellow Americans…
“I also pressed Rev. Lee on what he would like to tell white Americans on how to show solidarity.… Read more
“The killings became more and more frenzied with days of Thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre.” (Susan Bates)
We often think of Thanksgiving as a time of family, football, giving thanks and gorging. I used to be of this mindset until learning more about some of the actual roots of this holiday. What I learned was that Thanksgiving has little to do with an amicable meal shared between the Pilgrims and Indians. While there is a documented meal shared at one point, and this is often what is referenced, the “National Holiday” was originally a marker of the celebrations of the massive genocide of Indigenous peoples across the Eastern coast of the US. Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Beverly Slapin gives an amazing run down of many of these “origin story” myths we were taught about our country and some of the actual truths that they mask.… Read more
As we collectively mourn for Trayvon Martin and feel outrage for him, his family and all people who live in fear of a criminal (in)justice system which is designed to entrap and persecute them or their loved ones, we must reflect on the dynamics of racism and fear in our culture that not only allowed, but encouraged, Travon’s murder. From theWe Are Not Trayvon Martin tumblr:
The Trayvon Martin case isn’t about an isolated incident but about a pattern of behavior. It’s assumed that racism some how magically ended in the 1960’s. Instead, we’ve slapped a fresh coat of paint over it and then remarked about how great it looked. But the problems didn’t disappear.
And we must have a conversation about the System of White Supremacy and the white women jurors who released George Zimmerman. As one of our collective members posted earlier today on facebook, “White Supremacy let Zimmerman go, but it was a jury of almost all white women who did White Supremacy’s bidding.” The Daily Mail reports:
A jury of six women, five of them white and the other a minority, decided George Zimmerman was not guilty in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.… Read more
For us and for me, the learning was deep and came in unexpected ways. I learned so much from every workshop, keynote and conversation I participated in, including gaining knowledge about the anti-asian racism perpetuated by use of the practice and term “meditation,” ways that white supremacy shows up in organizational decision-making processes (even collective ones) and the destructive potentials and neocolonialism and international “aid.” Honestly, I couldn’t even begin to summarize these three days.
And so I’m focusing this on the learning that came from the process of presenting our newest workshop, White Females and Helping Professions in the Buffer Zone. In our workshop, we presented some of our thinking about the social construction of the“white female identity” and the “buffer zone,” reviewed a few threads of the historical context that encouraged white females to take on roles in the buffer zone (specifically as a part of the origin and maintenance of capitalism), and then engaged folks in creating a Theatre of the Oppressed piece in order to generate ideas about the patterns and how we can find our zones of influence to make change.… Read more
It was a joy and honor to share two White Noise Collective workshops at the 13th Annual White Privilege Conference in Albuquerque. This year’s overall theme was “Intersectionality”. Both times we had a full room of wonderfully engaged participants, intergenerational perspectives, fascinating insights and Theater of the Oppressed explorations. As people entered the room, we asked them to write a word or phrase in response to nine questions that were up on the walls on large sheets of paper, to get us collectively thinking about some of the dynamics, tensions, stereotypes and possibilities of this intersection. A number of participants asked if we would share the responses, and so here they are in their fullness, compiled and combined from both sessions.
Thank you to everyone for your openness, presence, enthusiasm, constructive criticism, and inspiration!
What is the role of white women holding up the system of white supremacy?
Passivity/submission * silence is acceptance * non-confrontational * submissive * partnering * management * keep quiet * amnesia/numbing of pain after witnessing racist violence done by white men * majority of K-12 teachers * keeping the peace * seeking power * silence <-> complicity * focusing activist efforts on feminism (white women) * history of protecting whiteness in the name of protecting white women * being afraid to challenge white males * fear of perception of “bitch” – “unhappy” – “cold”, etc.… Read more
This is a timeline we use in White Noise workshops to help make visible dominant representations of white women that have historically served to reinforce, normalize and naturalize forms of racist violence and patriarchal oppression. How do these narratives of white female sexuality and identity (re)appear in the present? How do they continue to live in our imaginations, bodies, dreams, media, collective consciousness, politics? By no means attempting to be some kind of comprehensive history, but rather pulling out some key threads in the unweaving of structures of domination. Here we go:
Captivity narratives, stories of women and men of European descent who were captured by Native Americans, were immensely popular in in both the US and Europe from the 17th century until the close of the United States frontier in the late 19th century. A defining genre of American literature that told tales of Indian savagery, the bravery of white male settlers, and the vulnerability of white women in need of protection and rescue.… Read more
Naming what sucks about white women is really easy and really satisfying. We do it a lot, especially us white women. We get to have the satisfaction of differentiating ourselves from the white female “prototype” ie. a hetero barbie who is a pretty, nice, passive, pure, covertly racist, helpless trophy and (do a really common thing that white women do) compare ourselves and think, “See we know what that is, and we are better than that”. In our workshops we spend a lot of time naming what the white female prototype is in an effort to shift towards a radical anti-racist white female practice and away from the myth that we are all just individuals with no culture (we may not want to claim it as our culture, but it impacts us all nonetheless). After this mostly negative naming (see the White Female Culture post) we’ve asked, “What’s awesome about white women?”
This question always makes us incredibly uncomfortable.… Read more