Look at that tweet. Absorb it. Drink it in. Gape. It gets worse. And no, @cheilt isn’t talking about xenophobia directed at Eastern Europeans. She is a native white Irish living in… Ireland.
Now I’ll tell you a story about why tone never matters because white people will flood you with their tears at the slightest provocation. Lesson: being manipulative, racist faux-martyrs is an entrenched characteristic of the white culture.
This is how I first began to interact with the white martyr @cheilt. Now, you can prattle on at length about tone–little shits love that–but prior to this tweet there was no other interaction. The only place my “tone” could be objectionable here might be if the other party is a toddler; a factual, firm statement that says “you’ve got white privilege and are part of the hegemony” should not set you off into screaming temper tantrums and a white tears flash-flood.
It doesn’t matter what tone a POC is using. What matters is that a white person’s reality distortion field has been disrupted, inside which she tells herself a Disney fairytale wherein she is a righteous, abused white princess and everyone else is a rampaging monster or evil queen.
An exceptional straw whitey, except she’s not putting up an educational performance on what not to do; she’s doing this shit for real and believes every word she’s spouting. Yes, she really thinks she should tell a First Nations individual that she–white Irish–is just as oppressed as anyone. Where? In white supremacist countries. Where she, as a white westerner holding an Irish passport, is apparently “treated like shit.”
Later on, as fellow whites rallied to her aid, there were many howls of “troll!” and “abuse!” and, memorably, “psychopath.” For a full account, look here. What I’m going to talk about is the use of these words and the reframing of the events, and of course that whitest, most western phenomenon, the Cult of Nice.
Me Princess, You Troll
This is where it starts to feel like the “GOD HATES FAGS!” sign-wavers. While the political sentiments are exactly opposite, the motivations are remarkably similar: I WOULD LIKE TO DERAIL THIS CONVERSATION AND HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITNESS HOW RIGHT I AM. I don’t care if your politics are progressive and your focus is on social justice: if you’re shouting at people online and refusing to have a dialogue, you’re bullying. I don’t care if you’re fighting the good fight: if you’re fighting in a way that’s more about public performance, shaming and righteousness, I’m not fighting with you.
… Even if I agree with your goals.
This is where this kind of conversation begins to feel more like liberal bullying, where the only correct response is agreeing and acquiescing. Any other response is seen as ignorant at best, hateful at worst.
Stallings is a white woman who’s been called out for a number of things. Her response? “You bullies.” Julie Burchill is a transphobic piece of shit defending another transphobic piece of shit. Her framing? “Those transsexual bullies drove my [transphobic] friend off twitter!” Paul Weimer, a white man and genre fan, once bemoaned to me on twitter that he was “cyber-bullied” by some women of color a year or two ago because he defended Elizabeth Moon’s Islamophobia–an absurd concept, and he’s never been able to produce evidence that anything resembling “bullying” was going on. Did they threaten to cut off his white dick? No clue. It’s just this nebulous accusation of “bullying.” At one point, unable to take being called a misogynistic shitheel any longer, R Scott Bakker drew comparisons between himself and teenagers who’ve been bullied into suicide.
There’s a pattern here. Bullying is real, of course, but isn’t it interesting how it’s the first thing people latch onto when called out even in the mildest manner imaginable?
“Bullying” works as a manipulative catch-all because among westerners it’s seen as a universal experience. “I’m bullied (by minorities)!” a white westerner cries and instantly she will garner the sympathy of everyone, because apparently in the west the high school experience is a psychosexual hellhole of beating, mass shootings and gang-rapes. Or something like that, I’m not sure; I’m not too interested in the rituals and traditions of white savages. Or maybe “I’m bullied” works because it’s a battle cry for nerds, who believe that people being mean to you in school because you like My Little Ponies equals real oppression; for examples of this see fandom of any stripe or reddit. This gets into incoherent tantrums about “reverse racism” as well–”a black girl bullied me in grade four!” is cited as evidence that whites, too, can suffer racism.
When a POC looks at a white person we see someone who lives off (and is almost certainly complicit in) genocide, which you’ll probably agree is a concern somewhat more pressing than “bullying” that has no real consequences. White people don’t lose their jobs or their freedom because they’re racist, and the worst trauma they’ll suffer for it is maybe a few angry tweets.
There’s a Cult of Nice mechanism at work. The ideals of white womanhood are rooted in niceness, in a sort of Disney princesshood. You’re sparkly and sweet and shiny. You’re the angel of the house. You have tea and crumpets with other white ladies (also known as “people of obvious pallor” or “POOP”–yes, many POC are quite pale, but whiteys have always wanted their own special label, so let’s give them one), and you all make nice. Anger isn’t nice. Swearing isn’t nice. Being told “you’ve got white privilege” by someone who doesn’t care about your ideals of niceness–well, that disrupts the tea party. You can’t circlejerk on and on about how nice you and your friends are anymore. Why did they have to bring in race? It’s so… so rude! As you and your white friends agree, you’re “color-blind.” Besides, if you don’t get to be mean and loud and angry, why should those uppity WOC? They’re supposed to be your inferiors.
It’s about patriarchal status quo of course, but many white women fail to realize this and vent their frustration with said patriarchy on women of color. It’s easier! Challenging patriarchy is scary. Spitting on women of color is so much funner, takes no effort, and lets you indulge in that beautiful, beautiful persecution complex about “reverse racism” and how “whites can be victims of racism too.” Keep at it long enough and white men will even join in to reinforce you. The white men will shit on the WOC instead of you, and isn’t it cool to shift the real abuse somewhere else for a change? Now the ones at the top of the food chain like you! Racial solidarity overcoming misogyny: almost as magical as ponies. You’re the sparkly white princess and you can do no wrong while those WOC are “crazy” bullying abusive trolls.
If anyone asks, you stick to that party line. There you were, just minding your own business, not doing anything wrong. Racism is normative, right? So anyone “jumping on you” for a racist tweet, well, that’s “completely random” and abusive and horrible. It’s a cute little story you tell yourself. You repeat it until you’re absolutely sure it’s true, and you repeat it to anyone who’d listen that you were a martyred saint bearing that giant white cross, dragged to the stake by shrieking harpies of color. Or maybe you were a galloping white hero, there to “stand up” for your white friend who’s being ganged up on by so many POC. You might trot out some outlandish analogies: comparisons to partner abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment, mass shooting or whatever tragedy you feel like appropriating and trivializing.
Manipulative? You won’t think so. You’ll say you’re telling it like it was. Don’t worry, everyone will believe you. You, whitey, a lying shit? Never. The white mind is rational and objective; the mind of color is primitive and untrustworthy. By the time you’re done telling your “side” of things you’ll say it didn’t start with a POC blandly saying “you have white privilege,” oh no. You’ll sob about “the most horrible abuse” your friend suffered from the get-go. The bullying, you know. The awful, traumatic bullying consisting of tweets which say “lol, you’re racist.” Nobody ever dared tell you that before, did they? Your friends of color think you’re perfect but, more importantly, your white friends reassure you that you’re the best progressive liberal activist angel who’s never so much as thought anything racist. Your ancestors never even owned slaves! It was really the black slaveholders who were the worst, anyway, and there’s that thing about “No Irish need apply” signs–never mind that the prevalence of such signs is sheer urban myth. That’s when it’s not just flat-out fictional.
White people make great fuel, by the way. Try it sometime. They want something to cry about? Let’s give them something to cry about.
It’s telling that Jane Eyre is held up as an icon of white feminism. White people love it, white women particularly, it being a predecessor and prototype for the romance genre where the true sign of accomplishment is winning or becoming the possession of a man. And you know, Jane Eyre is pitted against a madwoman who’s of mixed race, right? Google up “madwoman in the attic” and Wide Sargasso Sea for more on this, but in short it’s a perfect storm of internalized misogyny tossed into a blender with racism. Bertha/Antoinette is bestial and “mad”–and it’s implied her being biracial (that taint of something other than purebred white Anglo stock) is the cause of her animalistic madness.
A bit under 200 years later, we’ve still got whiteys calling WOC they hate psychopathic trolls (essentially bestial), rabid animals, and the like. I predict this trend will continue 300-1000 years after the publication of Jane Eyre. If white people survive their own stupidity that long.
Psychic, who me?