White Tears and Irrational Fears: Things We Shouldn’t Take Into 2016

Congrats! It is the most wonderful time of the year … the end of it. I love the New Year’s holiday. The smell of a delicious pot of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove for good luck, the corny resolutions filling up my newsfeeds and timelines, the celebratory champagne (or ginger ale) toasts signifying a new and hopefully prosperous beginning … all of it. I know a lot of folks are super gung ho about the whole “out with the old, in with the new” thing this time of year, but I think a better course of action would be to examine what worked and didn’t work over the past 365 days and grow from there. Individually, I plan on taking more personal and professional risks in 2016. I also plan to spend less time worrying about the what ifs. Frankly, there are far too many of them to consider, and my capacity to care about things that may possibly bum me out is rapidly shrinking with age.

Collectively, as a community and nation, we made great strides in 2015. There is, of course, much more work to be done. In my opinion, 2015 was a year in which we allowed problematic and oftentimes hate-fueled perspectives to garner way too much shine — shine that subsequently overshadowed some very deep issues that are much more deserving of our attention. It was also a year filled with buckets and buckets of white tears.

Imagine, if you will, white privilege personified as a petulant, crying, screaming brat. That sodium-laced fluid flowing from the aforementioned brat’s eyes is white tears. For those who may not follow, the humorous discussion of white tears is by no means an indictment of all white people — merely those who are pissed that, unlike the Visa in their wallet or wristlet, their whiteness will not get them everywhere they want to be. A search online for the term will lead you to a number of very well articulated think pieces that delve into issues surrounding race, class and gender. You can also find excellent examples of white-tear-soaked tantrums in the news coverage following Serena Williams being featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” when she was named the magazine’s Sportsperson of the Year, a title many angrily protested should have gone to American Pharoah. The American racehorse won the 2015 American Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Without getting into the ridiculous argument of woman vs. horse, I’ll simply share this gem from Ahmed Rivzi of “The National”: “In 1973, American thoroughbred Secretariat became the first winner of the U.S. Triple Crown, but that year’s Formula One world champion, Jackie Stewart, was ‘Sports Illustrated’s’ Sportsperson of the Year. Nobody complained at the time.”

Another example comes courtesy of Abigail Fisher, whose lawsuit against the University of Texas reached the Supreme Court. Fisher claims the school of her dreams was acting in a discriminatory manner when they declined accepting her into the institution. This denial, according to Fisher and her attorneys, is due to the unfair advantage students of color have in affirmative action. In reality, her grade point average and test scores were simply not good enough for the school of her dreams. Boo hoo. Many took to social media with the hashtag #StayMadAbby to voice their frustrations, in so many words, urging Abby to build a bridge over her river of white tears and get over it.

White tears, while admittedly good fodder for memes and comedy blogs, are a by-product of a societal structure framed by irrational fear — the type of fear that births the vitriol that follows each instance of people not white enough, male enough, Christian enough, hetero enough, etc., occupying space not traditionally meant for them. It is this irrationality that transforms prejudice into political posturing. Locally speaking, this irrationality was behind anti-miscegenation laws that weren’t overturned until 1965. It was evidenced in the poorly executed RFRA rollout, and recently in Gov. Pence’s decision to not meet with a group of Syrian refugees. I suppose he sees no reason to sit face to face with people he didn’t want here in the first place.

While it’s very idealistic of me to believe we can leave these negative ways of being in 2015, I am realistic enough to understand that the life-sized monuments to racism, classism, sexism and the like, which many of us have built up big, tall and strong in our hearts and minds, must be dismantled in an intentional and thoughtful manner day by day.

 

This article was originally published in the December 30, 2015 issue of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper