The Tears of White Women (or, When a Joke Isn’t)

Let me first apologize to every person of color in the world who has attempted to make a white person understand when they are being a dolt. You are amazing. And probably frustrated and despairing. I salute you.

A woman I knew in high school, as an acquaintance, not a bestie, recently posted this meme on Facebook:

Obviously the Honduran invasion isn’t aware of the fact that it’s hunting season in Texas

I knew she was conservative, but I had always considered her to be a sweet person. Yet this is the sort of meme that I’ve blocked people for. I found it shocking and cruel. I said to myself, “You’re a white woman. You must say something.”

Another classmate of ours, a Hispanic woman, had already said, “You would shoot people?” I could feel the anguish in her words. I wrote:

“If my young son was being pressed into murderous gangs on threat of death, if my daughter was being pressed into sexual sersvitude by those gangs, if we were afraid that we couldn’t do business unless we paid exorbitant fees to those gangs, if we had NO HOPE, I would undertake this journey with my family and PRAY that I encountered people who were Christian enough to show me compassion and charity instead of guns and cages.”

Another Hispanic woman wrote, “This meme does not seem like you at all.”

In my world, our mutual friend would realize that yes, this wasn’t a kind thing to post on your wall. But in her world, she took umbrage. HOW could we possible think that she would actually shoot someone (unless they were threatening her family), and HOW could you think that she was lacking in compassion (although some of those people were bringing along their flags, and she had a problem with that), and HOW could you not see that this was “just a joke” instead of taking this so seriously? If certain “friends” really knew her, she went on, they would never suggest such things.

Beware a white woman scorned, for her feelings are made of the clearest, gossamer glass fibers, hand-spun by white angels dancing on the head of a pin, which a breath might shatter into thousands of pieces, borne away on the west wind of civilization.

In short, yes, she doubled down.

It’s not that white women’s feelings never matter. It’s that white women’s feelings always have to matter more than people of color’s feelings.

So white men rode into the conversation like white(-robed?) knights on their chargers, dashing in to save the delicate feelings of the purest heart on earth. She thanked them graciously, etherically bestowing satin remembrances on them.

She ignored me completely. That’s okay. I have been slighted by better people.

“Just a joke,” said the white chorus. I realize that humor is highly subjective, and we can argue about whether or not movies that I find hilarious (such as “Blazing Saddles” and “Airplane!”) are, in part, offensive in retrospect. It’s hard for me to tell since they won’t even show Looney Tunes anymore because people think kids can’t tell cartoon violence from real violence. (Hint: they can, and they sure as shit do these days.) But I think most of us know when a joke is designed to hurt someone’s feelings.

Donald Trump also tells “jokes.” Every bully I’ve ever met has told “jokes.” And they are SO FUNNY — unless you’re the butt of them. Jokes that are meant to demean, that are cruel, that demonize a person or a whole group of people aren’t funny. When you tell a joke about shooting Hispanic people and Hispanic people tell you that they’re horrified, maybe you should take the fucking clue and get over your fragile feelings.

When you’re posting jokes like this while some asshole shoots up a synagogue (because of the Honduran horde, somehow), when “civilian militias” are converging on the border with guns, when the Posse Comitatus act is thrown out the window because the government is sending the military to do the Border Patrol’s job, when white people are so deliriously scared of a few refugees with children, THIS “JOKE” IS NOT FUNNY. It is devastatingly, dangerously serious. Jokes become memes become facts become feelings and the next thing you know, people are dying.

Another (white male) classmate said that he would of course shoot anyone who threatened his wife and kids. I told him this was unlikely to happen at the hands of a Honduran refugee. He said, “Then they have nothing to worry about from me.” All I could say was, “We’ll see.”

By Linda Hess Miller — http://www.lindahessmiller.com/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=217&pid=10118, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20242109

Writer, painter, cat fancier, troublemaker, democratic socialist, & antifascist.

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