White Tears and Black Outrage: How to Win an Argument.

Racial Justice activists feel particularly threatened by liberal humanism because that doctrine challenges their monopoly on moral outrage. Humanists claim they should be judged on their own merits, rather than as faceless units in statistical injustices. As they aren’t, personally, race-haters, there is no argument to be had. They can go back to sleep. 

How can activists respond to this argument, when the egalitarian principle, that every individual has equal merit and worth, underpins their own grievance?  Their right to be heard relies on everyone accepting that principle. But if they admit the humanists’ point, Critical Race theory loses all traction. It is hard to create consensus for change if you attack institutions but excuse the people working for those institutions. Coercive accusations of complicity have proved to be the most effective weapon in the Social Justice arsenal. Without it, it could be reduced from a “mass movement” to just another protest group. 

So, to rebuff the humanists, Critical Race theorists must present their most vigorous and inventive arguments. A good example of this is what they call “white tears.” I first encountered this terrifying concept in the work of Ruby Hamad, an Australian journalist who has written a book called White Tears Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Colour (2020, London: Trapeze.)

The idea is that when women feel attacked and mistreated, it is socially acceptable for them to burst into tears. They are demonstrating that they are subordinate members of society and are appealing for support and protection from the more powerful members because they are being oppressed and bullied.

This is particularly difficult for Critical Race Activists to deal with, because their practice relies on establishing a monopoly on grievance and dismissing everybody else as privileged. (Hence the condemnation of feminism, with its own, equally justifiable, grievances.) By appealing to our egalitarian concern for the individual, tearful women are turning the tables on the activists by claiming they are the ones being wronged. 

To neutralise this challenge, Racial Justice warriors claim white tears are an attempt to silence them and deny their truth, so crying is a form of racism! This leads to the strange situation where activists can call somebody a racist bitch, and then claim to be the victims of racist oppression when they cry. 

This seems to be a justification of all trolling.  It is no different from a neo-Nazi claiming their first amendment right to freedom of speech to spout their hate-filled poison. 

But Robin DiAngelo takes it even further. In White Fragility, she acknowledges that white tears are such a powerful liberal humanist tool that Black men sometimes leap to the defence of the weeper. They do this, she claims, because of the memory of Emmett Till, murdered by a lynch mob in 1955 for offending a white woman! In other words, these Black men don’t think Ms DiAngelo is being unreasonable and are liberated and confident enough to tell her so. They are enslaved uncle Toms who are so cowed by the threat of white women’s enacted distress that they will say anything to make it go away!

Ms. DiAngelo is supposed to be advocating for oppressed black folk, yet she dismisses these Black men in the most belittling and racist manner for daring to disagree with her, for not toeing the party line on race that she has imposed on them. A Critical Race theorist again uses the assumptions and practices of racism to condemn racism. 

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