Dear Fellow White Women,
It has been a long time since I have written an open letter. A really long time but I need to talk to you and I do not know what else to do. We need to understand very clearly how we are seen, and we need to think long and hard about our actions, and our intentions before we go out in public again.
I know what the problem is, we are afraid. But I don’t know exactly why or for what reason we let ourselves scare so easily. But I know that we are afraid and that fear is actually hurting other people. If you didn’t hear about the white mom who called the police because two native boys on a college tour made her nervous then go read about it. Make sure you see their baby faces, so that you can understand just how clearly not threatening they were.
But their baby faces, the fact that they had worked really hard to even get to the tour, or any other piece of reality did not matter. The fact that they were teenagers, that she was a grown woman. Those things did not matter. What mattered was that a white lady was scared, not just a white lady but a white mother. The mother bear was frightened, and her cubs must be protected at all costs. Forget that if she is on the college tour with them then the cubs are the same age as the boys she is calling the police on. For existing. All actions are justified when a white woman is protecting her children. All actions are permisable when a white lady is protecting herself, especially against any person of color.
Let us not forget Emmett Till. I didn’t know who Emmett Till was when I started teaching. It wasn’t in my personal history knowledge. But as a white woman teaching in a black school it was a history I carried with me, it was one I lived out before I knew better. Did you know the woman who made up the story that caused Emmet Till to die is still alive? Did you know that she has admitted that nothing she said was true, and she has not faced charges? A child DIED because she said she felt threatened, because she LIED about a black boy. White patriarchy put her up to killing a black boy and came to her rescue. The cost of her safety was the death of a black boy, a cost society is still more than willing to make.
White ladies, and especially white mothers have been tasked by the patriarchy and white supremacy as protectors of our current society. And this gets weird and messy because this double edged sword cuts us both ways. We are hurt by this role because if we step even an inch outside the mother bear protector box we are punished for being too. Too smart, too ambitious, too sexy, too masculine, too angry. Just too much. That is the patriarchy part. But we are also rewarded for being in this role as well. We get protection against everyone but white men. We get believed above everyone but white men. If we cry out, someone comes most of the time. We know we can’t blame the white man. We will not be protected against the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, but we will be protected from most other people.
White women are told to be fearful of the world. We are taught to spread the fear over the heads of our children. We are taught to fear for our children and ask that the social structures be upheld so that our children can function in it. We understand on some level that the system works for us, and convince ourselves it benefits our children. We take the deal. And this makes us extremely dangerous to people of color.
Our fear is answered first. Our children are protected at the peril of other children. Our 911 calls get answered guns blazing even when there is nothing to be afraid of. As long as we are working to uphold white supremacy, we get what we want. White supremacy feeds off of our fears.
Here is the thing about all of these fears. They are nothing but lies. Our children BENEFIT from having native people in their colleges, minority children in our children’s friend groups, from the dismantling of toxic whiteness in our lives. But we have convinced ourselves that we are being protected by our cage. We are not. The fear that we believe protects us is only serving as our cage. But we believe in it, and we raise or children in it, and the cries of the white mother are answered quicker than almost any other, especially if they are in fear of the other.
We are allowed to gentrify schools, put kids at risk, harras boys who are trying to go on a college tour and women just checking out of their Airbnb because the deal is our fear is validated. We are allowed to put anyone else in danger as long as we are claiming protection of our children.
But we aren’t protecting our children. We are protecting the system. We are protecting the very system that is hurting us. And we can do better. We have to do better. Because we don’t need to protect our kids from white supremacy. We need to dismantle it in ourselves so we don’t pass it on.
Go read my friend Danielle’s piece about this. Don’t get defensive. Think about it.
Take her Raising an Advocate class. I don’t get $$ for this. I just get a better world.