There never seems to be a shortage of them burdening Black women with their ideas of how they think Black woman should act, feel, dress, and exist.
And since they’ve positioned themselves as the nucleus for all things Black—Black thought, Black cool, Black activism, and Black opinions—mainstream media (read: white folks) are more inclined to listen to them. Especially when it suits the narrative and agenda of whiteness and/or white right-wing conservatism; which often loves to pathologize Blackness and Black activism.
If history, and lived experience, has taught us anything it’s that, when racist violence isn’t being committed on their behalf, white women can be just as truculent, racist, paternalistic and xenophobic as their male counterparts notwithstanding their place in the social hierarchy (as women); whether it be through their words, actions, or complicit inaction. And if, for whatever reason, it wasn’t obvious before, Donald Trump’s campaign and implausible rise from unethical real estate mogul to become the 2017 President-Elect cements how racist, violent and cunning white women can be considering 53% of them turned up to their polling stations to vote for a misogynist and racist demagogue who appealed to their prejudices.
And since most Black women aren’t malleable and don’t shy away from asking the hard questions or for accountability, we’re often dismissed as loud, incorrigible, and divisive. Even when our voices are peppered with undeniable truths that are diminished, because they come from an experience and embodiment that’s often erased. And so, it becomes easy to disparage our work and give undue credit to shrill, erroneous and hateful points of views; especially if the genesis of that hate is wrapped in a conventionally pretty (by mainstream standards), blond and young white package.
Last month, 24-year-old conservative talking head for The Blaze, Tomi Lahren, made an appearance on The Daily Show to go toe-to-toe with host Trevor Noah. Loud, willfully tone deaf, wrong, a voice more earsplitting than the cries of La Llorona, xenophobic and anti-Black, Tomi Lahren gained a fan base comprised of Donald Trump’s most fervent Basket of Deplorables and alt-right racists, as well as the ire of Black Lives Matter supporters, most other people of color and, generally, anybody with any semblance of sense and functioning brain cells.
Tomi Lahren’s White Power Barbie shtick has continued to trudge full-speed ahead like a train carrying toxic waste. To date she has: obsessively lambasted Beyoncé for her wonderfully Black as hell Super Bowl 50 halftime performance, and had a conniption fit when the mega-star wanted to use footage of her meltdown in her Formation tour. Tomi has also likened the Black Lives Matter movement to the KKK; defended Donald Trump’s lewd audio tape where he infamously bragged about grabbing women he’s attracted to by the pussy; railed against Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest and refusal to stand for the National Anthem; and has expressed anti-immigration sentiment.
So, when Lahren made her mainstream media debut on The Daily Show, it seemed long overdue that she be put in the hot seat to answer for her bullshit, lies, and just overall awfulness.
While Trevor Noah competently challenged Lahren on some of her incendiary and racially charged remarks, some argued that he did so with kid gloves and wasn’t firm in holding her accountable as the two smirked across from one another and she blathered in circles; claiming not to see color but holding firm in her belief that Black folks don’t have the right to protest anti-Black state violence, not matter how peacefully.
Tomi also asked Noah, “What did the KKK do?” when he took her to task for comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to the white supremacist terrorist group. A question that prompted a collected “Bish, whet?” from in-studio audience members and at-home viewers.
I don’t want to dwell too much on Tomi’s The Daily Show appearance. We’ve all seen it and were bemused by the chain of events that followed and subverted Noah’s usually keen commentary on race: which included a pic of he and Lahren pow-wowing over drinks, cupcakes sent to Tomi by The Daily Show team (that she erroneously claimed were from Trevor himself, perhaps to cause even more of a stir), and media junkets of Noah defending Tomi Lahren’s garbage reputation.
What I do want to finally tackle (and what’s been a long held personal, but legitimate, grievance of mine) is what white women like Tomi Lahren (and even so-called progressive white feminists) represent, and the behavior of Black men who collude with them under the guise of finding common ground. And make no mistake, my gripe has absolutely nothing to do with interracial dating and plenty to do with the structures that uphold white womanhood as the standard at all costs, even when that standard promotes racist violence and hatred. We’ve seen white women, like Tomi, in pictures front and center, clothed in their Sunday best, present and sneering as spectators and participants, during some of the most horrific acts of racist violence.
Nonetheless, concessions are often made for problematic white women and they’re presented with grandiose overtures and considered the default for womanhood and innocence, because all the women are white, all the Blacks are men (but some of us are brave). Or, as Omarosa Manigualt (of all people) once said to Bethenny Frankel on her defunct talk show, Bethenny, during a heated exchange, white women get to walk around and be mediocre and are rewarded for it.
And when they aren’t rewarded for being awful, they pitch a fit and go all the way to the Supreme Court with demands, because they’ve been socialized to believe automatic kudos and accolades are their due.
Tomi Lahren’s is the type of white womanhood that has zero qualms about shitting on the humanity and civil rights of marginalized communities and is the brand that many white feminists adopt in some variation, to disregard the experiences of women of color in favor of their own shitty version of gender equality; centering their own body and sexual agency, and that often begrudges women of color the open space to be great and flourish in all our successes and splendor.
And there are Black men who don’t give a damn that their support of this type of white womanhood works against their own person-hood and, especially, against the autonomy of Black women because, let’s be honest, so many of them have utter contempt for Black women and connect with white and ‘other’ white-passing women over shared resentment towards Black women.
All reason, commonsense and critical thinking go out the window like a chamber pot full of waste during the Middle Ages; and they place themselves in positions where they’re willfully trying to rationalize awful behavior.
And so, Tomi’s is also the type of arrant white womanhood Black men will insist Black folks should contort ourselves trying to appeal to and give a chaaance—a courtesy or level of understanding that’s never extended to Black women who vocalize very valid concerns—because, as Trevor Noah suggested, “Why not have a conversation?” and foolishly liken those dialogues with racist white women to hip-hop crossing musical genres. Which Noah actually did during an interview on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, where he also suggested that white people playing Black friend bingo supposedly cancelled out racism. Oh really?
And, again, open and peaceful dialogue and understanding is never an olive branch Black men are willing to extend to Black women to help bridge the divide and heal the animus between us, even when Black women repeatedly express the lack of support many of us feel we don’t receive from the very Black men who’d much rather openly malign us on public platforms, while Black women march and protest on their behalf.
And speaking of Power 105.1, if you’re like The Breakfast Club radio personality and part-time Twitter troll, Charlamagne Tha God, you are far more interested in learning how white women like Tomi Lahren feel about taking Black penis than you are in challenging the irresponsible way she mis-uses her platform, insist she’s not racist but “misinformed,” and set about trying to “change her mind” despite knowing that promoting hate is part and parcel of her brand.
If you’re a Black man like Charlamagne, intrigued by by Miss Ann (despite her horrible behavior), you will also dismiss Black women thought-leaders, journalists, writers, digital media mavens, and creators who have put in work to create much needed platforms and content that shapes national discourse on race, social justice, and politics, because you’ve been socialized to heap praise on white women like Tomi for doing the bare minimum; and will even encourage them along when they imitate and profit off of the likeness, spaces, and work of Black women, Miss Ann’s pull is that strong.
Listen, no amount of Black respectability, speaking in soft tones, or pleading with racist white women or men will change their minds when they’re committed to, and gaining money and fame off, upholding a system and biased media landscape that prioritizes and benefits them. And as someone who has had to navigate racial micro-aggressions perpetrated by entitled and angry white women since college and entering the workforce, I hold these truths to be self-evident. Fight me.
As with years past, I refuse to spend this new year, 2017, engaging with people committed to misunderstanding and disparaging Black women, and that equation includes Black men who will vehemently defend problematic white women, but will resent Black women for wanting to broach conversations about issues that affect us, and for finding health, happiness, and wellness. You either want to build or destroy, but what you won’t do is continue to throw Black women under the bus in obeisance to, and to gain favor with, disreputable white women while making ridiculous demands of Black women and refusing to extend the same openness and respect to us. Happy New Year.