Earlier this week, notifications about a new website for an initiative called “Confront White Womanhood” came across my social media timeline. Being a White woman myself, I was curious what people were being asked to confront us about, so I decided to investigate further.
On the official site, beneath a header reading “CHALLENGING WHITE WOMEN TO DO BETTER,’ it explains that White women, who hold social and financial power, “often enact harm while relieving ourselves of the responsibility of our actions…” and that “…for centuries, violence has been done in the name of – and even physically enacted by – White women.” White women are encouraged to participate in workshops where they will “engage in vulnerable stories about complicity,” examine how White supremacy may appear in their behaviors and “cause harm,” and learn how they may change these behaviors. (One change suggested on the website is to pay “reparations” by sharing money and other resources with people of color.)
Where to begin? Yes, violence has been done in the name of White women. BUT AS OPPOSED TO WHOM? Which racial group has NOT enacted violence upon another, at least in part to protect or provide for the women of their own group? The absurd implication that violence is a “White” problem is laughable. In fact, anyone who has a passing familiarity with American crime statistics knows that the amount White-on-Black violence amounts to just a small fraction of the amount of Black-on-White violence, a statistic even more remarkable when you consider that blacks are a much smaller percentage of the overall population.
The most problematic part, in my opinion, is this: “‘Protecting white women’ is used as justification of violence against Men of Color.” (By whom? Outside of alt-right circles, I rarely hear talk of protecting White women specifically.) The implication to the White women attendees is that there is something pathological about the men in their families wanting to protect them, when in fact that is a healthy and loving thing for men to want to do for the women in their lives. And if their protective urges are directed inordinately towards men of color, well… This is uncomfortable for many Americans to admit, but that is not without reason. As mentioned, black-on-white violence is far more common than the reverse. The difference is even more extreme for the issue of rape. Tens of thousands of White women are raped by black men in the USA annually, while the reverse phenomenon is so rare it is considered “zero” for purposes of statistical analysis.
The Confront White Womanhood (CWW) website states that “White women [use] this fear/protection to cause harm to men of color.” To reiterate: The CWW activists want WHITE WOMEN, who are frequent victims of black male violence, to reflect upon, and apparently, to feel GUILTY ABOUT how THEY HARM the most statistically violent demographic group in the country.
I find it hard to fathom how anyone would advise a group of women to reject their own self-protective instincts, and otherwise actively work against their own interests, unless they wished harm upon that group. So, you may ask, who was the woman who stated on Twitter that “White women are taught to see Black men as dangerous and never taught to consider just how dangerous we are to Black men?”
Well, I hope you’re sitting down, because you’re not going to believe this! CCW is being promoted by self proclaimed “Jewish Resistance” member Sophie Ellman-Golan, who predictably dismissed as “Nazis” anyone who questioned on Twitter whether she could in good faith claim to speak for “we” White women.
What is the harm of this kind of exercise? In the 1999 book The Gift of fear, author Gavin de Becker explained how fear is nature’s way of protecting humans from harm, and that women in particular have a keen intuition for detecting possible danger. De Becker warned that women’s desire to be “nice” and behave in a socially acceptable manner can place them in great peril when it causes them to disregard their innate self-protective instincts.
Unfortunately, I have had this confirmed by an experience of someone I know well. In college, a close friend was jogging on a path in a public park in the middle of a sunny day. Ahead on the path, she saw a group of black male teenagers coming towards her, and instantly had the urge to flee. She quickly scolded herself for her racist judgement, and continued down the path towards the teens. When she reached the group, they dragged her off the path and gang-raped her in the woods.
I cannot believe this is an isolated incident.
My friend was not someone who automatically feared all black men. I believe there were more subtle cues perceived by her subconscious that triggered her internal alarm. The problem is that she had been conditioned to believe that the alarm was triggered because of senseless prejudice, and thus chose to disregard it. The lesson is not that all black men should be considered violent. The lesson is that implying to women that their fear is based in immorality rather than a realistic assessment of the world, and instructing them to disregard their God-given self-preservation instincts, is harmful. Depending on the motivation, it may also be evil. The same dynamic is at play when women are skewered as “bigots” for expressing their instinctive discomfort about sharing bathrooms with gender-bending males.
As one CWW organizer stated at a workshop last year, after telling the story of Emmett Till, “When White women say we’re frightened of scary Black men, really bad things happen.” It seems the message is that fear of Black men is a bad, that is, not “nice” feeling that should be ignored or suppressed.
I know the kind of damage this thinking can cause. It is not just wrong. It is dangerous.