The Power Of White Tears

Unlike many across the world, I chose not to watch too much of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

As a black woman, seeing the gross disrespect to the American court system was triggering. I learned during the various trials that justice will never come for those who shed their white tears and are granted victimhood based on the color of their skin. Instead, I chose to reflect upon my blackness and my attempts to survive my BYU school experience by being true to myself by being the opinionated woman of color that I have become over the last three years.

Being true to oneself in a predominately white space is difficult to near impossible at times existing within the walls of the church. Over time, I’ve come to recognize that people love the agreeable nature of persons of color and seek to silence us or resort to “white tears of fragility” when confronted with a truth that goes against their own perspective.

I realized early on that my tears would never be equal. But did I want to lower myself to such fragile standards?

A few months ago, I was blocked by a popular LDS influencer for no apparent reason. At first, I was confused, using my alts to look through the comments I had made on her profile. In my mind, my comments had been honest yet kind but were instead understood as meanspirited and attacking.

Once discovering the potential comment, I reached out to the influencer in hopes of explaining myself. I explained clearly that this comment which detailed why Pioneer Day just doesn’t feel the same uplifting way for Indigenous members wasn’t an attack on her content but just giving another perspective which many living in Utah weren’t quite aware of.

Instead of a swift apology, I was more confused than ever when the influencer seemed to blame me for adding to her anxiety and mental health condition. I immediately took screenshots as a form of protection, showing the interaction to my good friend Tracey as we nick picked over whether I had in some small way contributed to triggering this girl’s emotional breakdown.

We found no cause for alarm, but I continued interacting with this influencer listening to the misdirected blame game being cast my way. As I shuffled through the growing piles of excuses that were provided which had little to no connection to my original comment, I grew tired of the fake, forced encounter and left it alone to preserve my crumbling mental health at that time.

I’ve always believed that overcoming mental health battles is an individual process of reflecting and fortifying oneself. The reflection takes place which makes us acknowledge triggers and potential areas of concern that might cause us to return to that dangerous mindset. The fortification helps us to strengthen ourselves against those triggers we may struggle with as we obtain the tools which shield us from these events causing us to spiral again.

In my years of dealing with my own silent battles, casting blame on innocent bystanders seemed foolish.

This encounter rubbed my skin raw. Although the intention behind it would scream of innocence, the racial bias behind it was apparent. As a black woman, I had been seen as aggressive, meanspirited and combative despite my best attempts to been seen as helpful.

Over time, I’ve seen that this is not a one-off encounter. As a black woman attending BYU-Idaho, I’ve seen many times how people assume that being vocal or calling out problematic content makes me more aggressive than a white counterpart. I’ve been silently warned by classmates to keep my mouth shut and go along with things I won’t endorse as gospel truth.

Back in winter semester, I was told to shut up with silent expressions each week by one classmate. I defied her at every turn, shutting down the toxic comments she made and sharing the morally correct responses to her very biased assumptions.

During a topic of racism, I shared my story of “The N Word Saga”. Another black student also shared her experiences expecting some sort of sympathy from this woman. Instead, we got pushback as she silenced our struggles, dismissing them as plain ignorance of people and turning to tears to prove her Christlike love for these people that allows her to forgive. Then, she started crying.

I walked away from that lesson with a much clearer understanding of white tears.

I feel the weight of them when interacting with members of the church, feeling the inequality of their power over me and many saints of color who have to police their emotions to conform to church culture.

We feel these tears on our backs like pelting rain when we must hide who we are to be seen as just as educated, just as knowledgeable and having a contribution like any other member.

I’d like to think that at some point we can turn these white tears off and remove the tap of white fragility that allows these encounters to be normalized as acceptable forms of dealing with conflict.

But this will always be wishful thinking. These tears are fueled by the fragility behind them and used as weapons of the mass destruction of anyone who dares defy their whiteness.

As a person of color, I acknowledge their power even when opposing their use. Doing so reminds me of their purpose and their function to soothe the seemingly fragile spirit.

Still, I believe their use is just plain cowardly

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5 Responses

  1. lpf43 says:

    I feel many of these things in the church merely because I am female. I cannot imagine adding the layer of Blackness to the situation. As a convert, I am not impressed with or interested in Pioneer Day. It has nothing to do with me, and I was appalled to see that in Utah it seemed to be a bigger deal than the Fourth of July. I am sorry you have to deal with ignorance and prejudice, especially from a Sister, who should know better. IMO such women, who have no real power in the church, are exercising it where they can….against other women.

  2. Katie Rich says:

    Sounds exhausting to seek to educate your peers and be met with fragility and tears. Thanks for sharing, Ramona.

  3. Em says:

    That sounds incredibly frustrating. I didn’t read your initial comment on a woman’s post, but you are right that we need to complicate some of the heroic historical narratives by looking at it from other perspectives. The tendency to interpret verses in the Book of Mormon to mean God endorsed Columbus and God wanted white people to take this land, and that native peoples lost their right to it because at some point their ancestors were wicked is really unkind and willfully blind. Also if we believe we’re punished for our sins and not Adam’s transgression, then why were the Arawak (and every other…) peoples punished for what Lamanites did? The “God loves Columbus and therefore Euro-Americans” narrative has some huge holes when it comes to doctrinal soundness or empathy. Wow I got sidetracked there. Anyway. What I’m trying to say is that sounds exhausting and I appreciate how much you’ve put yourself out there.

  4. Bryn Brody says:

    “These tears are fueled by the fragility behind them and used as weapons of the mass destruction of anyone who dares defy their whiteness.” Thank you, Ramona. So very important.

  5. Lew says:

    Ramona, I mean no harm in saying this but you are trying to be apart of a group that has not been welcoming to us. The origin of the LDS is racist and for whites only. Why join an organization that claims to follow the Creator but dehumanizes His creation?

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