The Performative Weakness of White Women

The burned and mutilated remains of Jesse Washington surrounded by a smiling crowd. (Source.)

This is going to be a story of overt racism. We are a violent species. Let no one tell you anything different. Our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom regularly violently dismember their own. And so do we. When I was a child my father had a collection of textbooks on history and archaeology. For whatever reason I read and reread the one on the Holocaust. I did not at the time understand the concept of death and to me in these black and white photos the elements of this horrific past were separated from me. My existence and yours is owed to our violent past. At some point in history you had ancestors who did something truly cruel and awful. I’m half-Hungarian and my grandparents escaped Hungary with my father after the KGB marked them for death. Somewhere in your family history you’ve got a similar tale. You just do. But also somewhere in our family history we have someone who was a murderer or a rapist or owned slaves or engaged in a lynching. And violence is something that isn’t safely locked up in our past and consigned to black and white photos in my father’s library. Maybe that’s why my parents did not take the book away from me.

Jesse Washington was 17 years old when he was brutally murdered.

Lynchings usually are defined as a mob removing a suspect from police custody and murdering them by hanging. Don’t mistake this for a quick or even a justified death. Often the criminal justice system was used in order to convict otherwise innocent black people simply to reinforce white supremacy, police were often complicit in handing victims over to the mob, lynchings often included beatings prior to the murder, hanging if done improperly can take a full hour to complete, and it was not uncommon for these lynchings to be followed up with a night ride on the part of the KKK. Lynchings are terrorist acts and they continue to this day.

But let’s get back to Jesse Washington. The wife of Washington’s former employer Lucy Fryer was found bludgeoned to death with signs of sexual assault. Washington was found with blood on his overalls which he claimed was from a nosebleed. There is no real additional evidence that can point to Washington’s guilt beyond that point because it is likely that Washington’s subsequent “confession” was coerced if not wholly fabricated. It is possible Washington did rape and murder Fryer. It is equally possible that she was raped and murdered by her own husband and blame was quickly shifted to Washington.

Regardless of whether or not he did it he was entitled to a fair trial which he definitely did not receive. Police behavior aside his trial was described as a “kangeroo-court,” the courthouse was mobbed with unruly spectators, and as he was brought in one of them pointed a firearm at him. His defense apparently did not cross-examine witnesses or present any actual case. The jury took four minutes to convict him and he was sentenced to death. The crowd then grabbed him with the sheriff ordering the lynching not be interfered with. He was stripped, beaten, and stabbed. A bonfire was prepared and before he was placed on it the mob cut off his fingers, toes, and genitalia. He was raised and lowered into the bonfire in order to keep him alive as long as possible and it was clear that he remained alive for much of that time because he attempted to climb the chain that had been fastened around his neck. After his death and the fire was doused his corpse was dragged through the streets until his head came off. Spectators took pieces of his body and links from the chain as souvenirs.

I am of the opinion that Washington was falsely accused. Women are at much higher risk of violence from their male partners than from anyone else and so I personally believe that Washington was railroaded and that Lucy’s murderer was her own husband. But, even if you are of the opinion that he did commit this crime and even if you believe in the death penalty I think we can all agree that his trial was not a fair one and his execution was well beyond unnecessarily cruel.

But Washington was murdered in 1916. That’s even before the events that would end up in my father’s book took place. That was before the Nuremburg trials and the coining of the term “genocide.” So let’s talk about a more recent lynching or in this case a more recent attempted lynching.

Let’s talk about Donald Trump and the Central Park Five.

On 19 April 1989 Trisha Meili went for her usual run in Central Park. She was attacked and raped by Matias Reyes who confessed in 2001 after his DNA was matched to the only contribution of semen in the crime and after numerous details of the crime were matched to his other assaults. Meili suffered from traumatic amnesia and apparently could not positively identify her attacker or the crime itself. Roughly concurrently with the assault police were rounding up a number of teenage boys who had gone into the park to skateboard or hang out. Their group had been reported as “disorderly.” Five of these boys were coerced by police into confessing to aspects of the assault and rape on Meili. They served five to thirteen years for a crime they had no part in committing.

I need to stress here several facts regarding specifically this case. Meili did not accuse these boys. She was violently attacked and raped, and it did alter her life and cause her to suffer from persistent PTSD symptoms. Her name was also released to the press without her consent. Additionally, the boys in question were absolutely boys. These were not men at the time and they were in fact young enough that most of them could only be properly questioned once their parents had arrived. Children and teenagers are extremely susceptible to coercion particularly from authority figures.

These boys lived to become men and were released and/or exonerated after Reyes’ confession, but they all served prison sentences for a crime they did not commit, their names and addresses were printed in the newspaper, and for twelve to thirteen years they suffered the ignominy of the false accusation.

That false accusation was exacerbated intentionally by Donald J. Trump, himself an admitted serial sexual assaulter and likely serial rapist. On 1 May 1989 he took out a full page ad in the Daily News calling for the death penalty to be applied in this case with full knowledge that the accused were teenagers. In 2002 after their exoneration Trump doubled down and claimed they were “no angels.” An interesting assertion coming from a man who raped his own wife.

White supremacy often uses rape to control both women and people of color and I selected these cases not just because of their incredible injustice but because in both of these cases the woman in question is not complicit and suffers in a similar degree to the accused. This is not always or even usually the case. I’ll get into that in a moment.

I also selected the case of the Central Park Five because of Donald Trump’s involvement in it. I talked in a post just yesterday about Ivanka Trump being the perfect “tradwife” or white supremacist woman. Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pundits and political scholars remark frequently that Trump has no centralized doctrine or world view. Michael Wolff complained of this early on in Fire and Fury, but he was hardly the first to note Trump’s apparent political inconsistency. Some of this has to do with his psychological disorder and apparent early onset dementia. But in fact, Trump does actually have a consistent doctrine and world view. He’s a white supremacist.

Now, if you’re of color and reading this you’re probably nodding your head. I don’t need to sell this to you. I need to sell this to my white readers. So if you’re of color and you’re short on time just skip ahead. White readers might be freaking out at this point though because Trump organized and contributed to Democratic causes. And he has bragged about giving money to Dems with the expectation that he’ll get something in return. He was even pro-choice. But once again, being liberal, Democratic, socially or economically progressive, etc. does not exonerate you from populism, fascism, terrorism, and/or white supremacy. Trump has ALWAYS been racist. And he’s been pretty openly racist. His beauty pageants were always white as the driven snow, he wouldn’t rent to families of color, he called Mexicans “rapists,” and regarding the Central Park Five …. what on earth could they have done by the age of fifteen and sixteen that would warrant the death penalty? Even his position on a woman’s right to choose was more about keeping women available for sex and controlling their ability to have kids than it was about women actually choosing for themselves and controlling their own bodies.

And this is where we can bring my readers of color back in because now we’re going to talk about rape as a tool of white supremacy. Yay.

Some of this is pretty obvious. I and every woman in existence has received rape threats. And they were explicitly issued in an attempt to control my behavior. Now, in my case if you come for the queen you best not miss so I always find these threats somewhere between enraging and laughable. But they do work on a lot of women. Rape is scary. It just is. Even sexual assault which basically all of us have experienced is pretty horrifying. We all basically know largely from experience how traumatizing and awful it is and we also know that white supremacist men are cruel and evil and so well connected that short of us killing them during the attack they’re probably not going to face justice. So ladies, letter opener to the eye with all the force you can muster. Rape is about power.

Now white women …. I spoke in my previous post about the myth of proxy power and how suburban gentile exclusion is white supremacy. We’re going to get into something much less civil now. Part of white supremacy is the performative weakness of women. It’s a myth that men of color are over-sexualized, brutish and animalistic and that we white women are defenseless. It follows that our mere socialization with men of color endangers the purity of the white race and oh dear we are in so much danger. This is bullshit. All of it. And you know it. Most of you at this point I hope are agreeing with me, but this is why we need to go get our girls.

The myth of the weak white woman is used to perpetrate violence against communities of color and it is often used with our complicity and even endorsement. Yeah, I tricked you in here starting off with the lynching of Jesse Washington and the Central Park Five both cases involving white female victims who had no part in the false accusation of the black men who were lynched or unjustly jailed for the crime. Those are basically anomalies. Both of those also fed pretty neatly into the white supremacist narrative because the murder probably and the rape definitely were completely unprovoked. Meili is one of the very few rape victims whose assault was perpetrated by a perfect stranger. It doesn’t usually work that way. Rapes are usually committed by people you know and know well. So most women who are raped will be raped by someone of a shared racial identity.

Usually white women’s perceived weakness is used as a launching pad for white supremacist terrorism and it often requires the vocal complicity of the white woman in question.

Ironically, as much as white supremacists push the narrative of particularly black men as sexual predators, and white women as somewhere between helpless and morally un-moored, sexually deviant, liars it remains true that only about 5% of rape accusations are false. Rape absolutely is an epidemic, but white supremacists will have you believe that it’s only committed by men of color jumping out of bushes on un-chaperoned white women and that all other cases are fabricated. Because … all other cases were committed by white supremacists or perpetrated on women of color. False rape accusations also usually don’t name a specific assailant. So white supremacists absolutely use rape to control women in general, and false rape accusations are weaponized against people of color, but regardless of what the angry white guy tells you clamping down on rapes in the judicial system will not elevate false accusations. It just makes rape more difficult for white supremacists to manipulate to their advantage.

But a rape need not have taken place to initiate white terror.

Emmett Till was fourteen years old when after being accused of whistling at Carolyn Bryant he was brutally murdered by Bryant’s husband and brother-in-law. Till’s mother insisted on an open casket funeral so as to force people to see her son’s mutilated corpse. Bryant’s direct involvement in Till’s death is questionable. She herself did not murder him. But the perception of her weakness and mythological vulnerability was weaponized to brutally beat and murder a child. We also don’t really know if he did actually whistle at her and whether or not she asked her husband to murder Till.

But Till’s lynching was committed in 1955, so let’s get something a little more recent. I give you Barbecue Becky. Now, fortunately this one turned out much better. The reason this video exists is because another white woman saw BBQ Becky harassing people and videod a good portion of the incident. This tellingly lead to BBQ Becky’s tears …. which we’ll get to in a minute. First I want to share my favorite part of this whole ugly incident.

Black Twitter has zero chill and I am HERE for it.

Okay, so that was fun. My other favorite one is where someone has her at the White House complaining about Obama’s tan suit. Basically, when this sort of bullshit goes down and there’s nothing else I can do you will find me over at black twitter with a bag of popcorn just watching black twitter drag the hell out of some dumb racist. It is truly entertaining.

But back to things we can actually do.

White women’s tears are a huge problem. We need to stop crying. We as white women are trained to turn on the water works every time something doesn’t go our way so that some white man can swoop in and reinforce the patriarchy/white supremacy. And yes. They’re the same thing. We do it to people of color, we do it to one another, we even try to do it to white men, but you’ll note, it does not work on white men. And it doesn’t work on white men because white men are the only people meant to benefit from white supremacy.

I actually learned this the hard way. I was being sent death and rape threats and being constantly harassed by a group of guys in college. So one of them finally tried to SWAT me. Fortunately, it didn’t go the way he planned at all. Anyways, in the course of being interviewed by the police etc it was signalled to me that my tears were expected. Well, I’m on the spectrum so fake tears don’t really work for me. But I did try. And it was used against me. Despite the fact that I was explicitly not lying and am basically not capable of that kind of deception and was definitely the victim and hadn’t even gotten the police involved myself I was accused of lying after I tried to fulfill a social demand because my attackers/harassers were men. The take away lesson here for white women is that you are not protected by white supremacy. Your weakness is being cultivated specifically to use against you and communities of color. If you are not complicit they will come after you and your weakness will be exploited. If you are complicit you’re a white supremacist every bit as bad and even worse than the men manipulating you.

Your tears, your weakness, your inability to work things out for yourself or exist outside of a white supremacist power structure will NEVER advantage you and it may be used to “justify” a police shooting, a white supremacist attack on a church, a mass shooter, a lynching, or the unjust incarceration of innocent people of color.

So white ladies, if you don’t want to be complicit in white supremacy you have to recognize white power structures for what they are. They are the structure of white supremacy and their foundation is your tears.

Step one is to stop being weak and stop relying on men. I know that sounds rather obvious and a lot of you might take offense but good. Ladies, women make up almost 51% of the American population. And yet most of our politicians are white men. I got into that in my article yesterday but the point I really want to underscore is that we as a majority of the population should not be demurely asking that men in power get us equal pay and the rights to bodily autonomy, we should be kicking men out of office and doing it ourselves.

Now, if you really WANT to be a housewife then happy happy joy, I’ll send you my mom’s recipe for artichoke dip. That’s an important occupation and if that’s what you want I’m not going to dissuade you. But you can do that and read research papers. You can do that and make your political decisions for yourself. You can do that and appreciate that economic success directly endangered by everyday elements of white supremacy. You are not an idiot, so stop acting like one.

I also yesterday briefly touched on Evangelical Christianity being the vanguard for white supremacy. Consider that Evangelical leaders made a big ridiculous deal out of absolving Trump for his sins. I have said this before and I will say it again: Evangelical Christianity did not endorse Trump in spite of his white supremacy they endorsed him because of it. So step two of dismantling white supremacy as a white woman is to define your own morality. Side with women over men and once again remember white supremacist men have absolutely no intention of protecting you or providing for you.

And that leads me to step three. White supremacy is a cancer. You know how we treat cancer? We cut it out. We poison it. We burn it. And if we fail it will deliver to us an awful painful death. White women, this is up to us. Women in general are society’s oncologists but white supremacy feeds off of our weakness. The moment white women stop handing over our agency to white men white supremacy will die. Now, African Americans only make up about 13% of the population so I’m not going to tell you you always need to vote for a black person. But you can always vote for a woman. And you can also like I said before bring women of color to your parties and make people of color comfortable in “white” spaces.

I’m not saying to eliminate all white men from your life, but I am saying you need to stop treating them with such ridiculous deference. Ask yourself in all seriousness what your life would be like without the various white men you know in it. Yeah, good fathers and brothers would leave an emotional hole but there is nothing men contribute to society that women cannot. Men are not stronger, they’re definitely not smarter, they only are more powerful because we let them be so … why are you white ladies handing over all of your power to these guys who aren’t any better than you and who won’t necessarily look out for you?

I’m a white lady too. And the only way we’re going to see the end to white supremacy and racial violence is if we own our own power. Stop using performative weakness to get your way. It won’t work, and you are better than this. If you seriously don’t think you can do this go back up to the top of this article and look at Jesse’s body. Imagine how his mom felt when he was taken away. Imagine how she felt after hearing how he was tortured. Imagine how she felt when she had to bury him. We are a violent species, but we are also able to feel empathy for one another across space and time. If you’re not enraged at Jesse’s and Emmett’s murderers then you certainly can empathize with their mothers. If you want to cry, then cry for them. Cry in rage, cry for the injustice and then get to work.

Doctor of Palaeopathology, rage-prone optimist, stealth berserker, opera enthusiast, and insatiable consumer of academic journals.

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