Black and White Women Fighting

May 29, 2009 at 1:57 am (Are Relationships Across Race Different?, In the news, race and gender)





Guess what, women have trouble talking to one another, particularly Black and White women?  At least that is what this new article talks about. It’s titled:  Why Can’t Black Women and White Women Talk to each Other.  This article references Charm School, a Reality TV show that airs on VH1, where the women call one another names, stereotype each other, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they set ALL women back at least before Eve.

On this show, White women openly use race and hurl words like “ghetto” to fight with Black women.  What’s dangerous about this is that, in “real” life these kinds of thoughts are rarely open and in the public. These days, people are more careful than that; it doesn’t mean that the same attitudes and beliefs aren’t at play.  Sadly, they often are.

At the same time, not all Black and White women are fighting and not all White women believe in racist stereotypes! Some of us are engaged in real bonded love shaped by mutual respect, accountability, truth-telling, equality,  authentic friendships, constant self-critical evaluation about our own internalized racism and oppression, and forgiveness. I have had some of the most wonderful relationships with White women in my life.  My Godmothers are the two most amazing White women in the world. I have never felt more loved, more held, more secure, more free to make mistakes and get up again than I do right now, and it’s because of their love. Whatever  insecurity I feel isn’t coming from them, it’s my own stuff that comes from other places in my life.

I have worked with some amazing White women anti-racist activists who impress me all the time with their dedication to be an ally, even when messy and difficult.  Our friendship is another example; we’re girlfriends in every sense of the word. We share, we love, we fight, we give the best foot-rubs, we want the best for each other, we aren’t perfect and we don’t expect perfection.  

One of the things that we don’t do well at all in this country is contextualize our arguments in history.  I like that the author uses her own life experiences to have this conversation, but to understand her story we have to first understand our complicated past.  The conflicts between Black and White women have a history that continues to shape these relationships today.  So when White women try and racially degrade Black women by using crooked racist images it’s difficult to ignore this past.  The healing happens when we are able to have honest dialogues about the ways that White women have historically been complicit in the oppression of Black women, and in other ways perpetrated that oppression.   When this happens, we are able to build fair, nurturing, honest, powerful, productive coalitions in the world.  It’s possible, but it takes a lot of hard work and commitment.  Without it, our relationships won’t have any integrity or safety for women of color.

In my own personal opinion, Charm School is offensive and can’t ever make any claims to be anything but what it is: bad TV!  Still, we can’t ignore the truth too. Black and White women have a hard past, and as indicated in this show, in our workplaces, our schools, and every place in between, we’re still struggling with it.   In my most generous spirit, if this show has any redeeming qualities, maybe they deserve credit for contributing to this conversation in the first place. 

I’d love to get your thoughts about this article. You can read it in full here.



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