Listen Up White Girl, You And I Are Different

It’s one of the best comeback lines in the Bible.

“The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous in delivery. Before we can get there they have already delivered.”

Nothing like a little ethnic stereotyping to subvert the plans of the dominant powers. You gotta give it to the Hebrew midwives Shiprah and Puah. They were bold and clever. When Pharaoh noticed that his edict that every male infant born to a Hebrew woman be killed was not yielding the desired results he called the midwives in for an explanation.  Shiprah and Puah, ”god-fearing women” we’re told, determined that the best way to answer a fool is to exploit his ignorance (in this case, about women and childbirth) and play into his fears (in this case, his fear of people who are different). Their answer was simple: Hebrew women and Egyptian women are different.

“Those Hebrew slave women don’t need our services. They barely feel a thing when in labor. They are strong as oxen. Their babies just pop out. They are nothing like Egyptian women who cry, fall apart, and take days to deliver up their babies.”

The image of the lowly midwives unblinkingly feeding their tale to the unsuspecting Pharoah is supposed to make us smile. The character of the trickster is well established in biblical literature, and one can imagine the delight Hebrew women got recounting this story back in their slave quarters and for generations afterwards. Such stories teach that the weak can indeed prevail over the strong.

But stories like this one about the Hebrew and Egyptian women traffic in lies, half-truths, and stereotypes for their humor and effectiveness. They are the stories women tell themselves about each other and others to justify their actions.

Stereotypes are handy devices serving as something of a social shorthand when you’re short on experience. At their most positive, we reach for them when confronted with people we have little to contact with, and want to have some idea of what people are likely to be like, which behaviors will be considered acceptable, and which will not. Stereotypes are not only a problem when they are inaccurate, however, but especially when those inaccuracies are negative and hostile. Stereotypes are at their most negative when they allow us to feel justified in avoiding others, denying any commonalities with them and in treating them as less than human

Which brings me to what’s really on my mind.

White woman crying. Run for cover.

While I have gone out out on a limb and given Senator Clinton the benefit of the doubt for breaking down the other night in Iowa, I can’t deny that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, makes the hair on black women’s neck rise, my own included, like the sight of a crying white woman. Especially when power is what’s at stake.

I don’t wish to resurrect the story of Senator Clinton crying. That’s yesterday’s news unless it happens again. (After all I’ve decided to grant her the “one cry rule” that fellow blogger over at Ms. Jones’ Class  devised.)

I’m not even interested in talking about the Obama-Clinton campaign right now, and who is the better candidate

women

What fascinate me are the vivid memories lots of black women have of white women whose tears promoted their causes over that of the black women. One of the stories I wrote nearly 20 years ago in my first book Just A Sister Away about the Genesis story of Hagar and Sarah (entitled “A Mistress, A Maid, and No Mercy”) continues to elicit strong reactions from white and racial ethnic minority readers alike even today. I talk about some of my own complicated dealings as a woman of faith with white women in that story.

Many of us, myself included, have stories to tell of white women crying and taking on a postures of weakness to avoid conflict with black women. They cried, they shut down, they ran out the room, and feigned helplessness — especially when confronted with the criticisms black women had about their racism. It’s almost a rule of thumb that senior black women pass along to younger black women to expect white women to faint, get weepy, and come up with stories about their one black friend when the time comes to talk openly and honestly about their complicity in the status quo. Watch for the dagger that follows, I was once told by my own mentor.

Beliefs informed by stereotypes can be so strong that we take them for granted. As black women we know what it is to be saddled with the stereotype of being strong, aggressive, and animalistic in our sexuality. Stereotyping and projecting our worst memories on each other allow both white women and black women to maintain our places in the status quo. It keeps us from finding common ground and from joining forces to battle against the forces bent keeping women sex objects and breeders.

But when is something a stereotype, and when is it true? Not every white woman you and I know has used tears to get her way. Just a lot. Just one too many. Just enough to keep the stereotype alive, I guess.

The midwives Shiprah and Puah manipulated stereotypes to outwit Pharaoah. Miriam trafficked in stereotypes to get her mother into the palace so the older woman could be near the son she thought she’d lost. Pharaoh’s daughter no doubt played into a few stereotypes of her own to get her father to let her adopt a Hebrew baby boy. The Hebrew women survived to tell their story, the Egyptian woman got what she wanted. And Moses grew up hearing the story of how God used the powerful loyalty and cunning of women to preserve his life as a baby. But the fundamental power structure never changed.

41 Responses to “Listen Up White Girl, You And I Are Different”

  1. Fal Says:

    This is a great post.

    I too hate when white women cry. Mind you, I am a very weepy type of sistah, but it is something about when white women cry especially young white women in grad school cry that makes me want to yell, “What do you have to cry about, followed by an expletive that begins with an “s”!

    Given this, it took every feminist strand in my body to “restrain” myself from saying to Hillary the white woman who cried on national television, what bell hooks said in one of her books, “what do you mean “We” white woman.”

    Maybe it does have something to do with how the power of race and gender cast black women and white women into very specific roles, but even that at times does not quail the fury I feel when white women cry. For instance, there was a white female colleague named Bon-nie and Bon-nie decided to tell people in my department I did not like white people. How up surd! So, I decided to confront Ms. Bon-nie home girl style in the bathroom.

    I cornered her near the bathroom mirror and asked her in my black woman, I ain’t taken no dog poo tone, “Why are you telling my white colleagues I do not like white people?” Bon-nie started to shake, become weepy and whimper her many frivolous excuses as to why she said what she said and ended it with “I have black friends.” I kid you not if I could have legally left my right palm print upon her wet with tears and sweat face, I would have.

    How is she going to whine when she drew the dagger? I tell you this I told her with my hands on my hips, if she ever want clarification on something she thought I said, she betta (not better), but betta come talk to me. I promise you when I left the bathroom I felt I had stuck a blow for every black woman who ever had to deal with white woman crying.

    Okay, maybe I should have written a comment about how we black woman and white woman should come together, but it’s something about when white women cry that makes me question my commitment to black feminist principles. You’re right Dr. Weems that the power structure does not change and maybe that’s why I am angered when white women cry.

  2. Jason Oliver Evans Says:

    Before I comment on the post I admit I read this blog frequently in spite of the fact that I am unapologetic in my evangelical convictions, for better and for worst. Yet I always find Dr. Weems’ posts illuminating despite the fact I’m a theological conservative.

    I must confess I am not a womanist by conviction, but I as an evangelical was a bit disturbed by the whole “purity balls” done in some conservative Christian circles. Such a practice is repugnant to the Word of God.

    Now to the comment: My mother, a beautiful black woman, would tell us boys how she didn’t trust white women. I always thought this was sad on her part because white women are no better or worse than anybody else. But when I peruse down the corridors of history I can see why this is so. Even as a black male living in an environment where a lot black males would share with their brethren their sexual exploits with white girls because “they are freakier than black girls”, my jaws would when some of these same white girls would cry rape if these fellas didn’t bow to their every whim. This really really ticked me off. Especially when these brothas had to face these girls’ male relatives and the predominantly white police department.

    With such horrific behavior of deceit and betrayal both historically and particularly towards African Americans, I sometimes would ask myself “Do white people have souls?” though I obviously know the answer to this question.

  3. Renita Says:

    @Jason

    Welcome back. Missed u around here. And wow, you’ve added an interesting angle on gender and privilege, one that only a black man can nail as well as you have.

  4. Angela Says:

    Dr. Weems,

    It is interesting how people can read the same thing and take from it something different. I read your posting three times. Two of those times after reading the comments. For me personally I was left with questions-1. what is the real purpose of stero-types?” 2. What do they accomplish? 3. Do we spend useless amounts of time trying to prove or disprove them? 4. Is it okay to rely on them to “judge a book by its cover?” 5. Are they merely part of the divide and conquer strategy? Things that make me go hmmmmm?

    Thank Dr. Weems, just what I needed–More to think about :)

  5. RevMamaAfrika Says:

    Hummm-mm,

    You know how you suck your teeth out loud when you’re at home, alone or with close friends, eating oxtail stew and/or goat roti and the meat gets in your teeth? That was me after I saw (Driving) Miz Hillary get her “cry” on AND after I read the piece by (Miz) Gloria Steinem in the NY Times.

    HAVE THEY LOST THEIR MINDS? Did (Driving) Miz Hillary forget that the movement for social justice is not/was not made by any single president or man? That LBJ was forced to do what he did because of the movement of the masses of our people? He didn’t wake up one morning and decide to do us a favor. That women were also an active part of the Movement? Her husband Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton needs to go home and be quiet; she can’t have it both ways, be seen as a strong, capable woman politician, yet allow Slick Willie to come out swinging to fight her political battles along with his sidekick, their millionaire minion Robert Johnson, formerly of Black Exploitation Television. Gloria Steinem? Wasn’t she an informant for the FBI back in the day? How many lives and careers were destroyed by the information that was shared?
    Yep, I’m still sucking my teeth on this madness. :)

  6. Renita Says:

    @Angela

    Good questions. Follow that trail.

  7. wisdomteachesme Says:

    hummm sterotypes…yeah throughout my life i’ve been put into quite a few of them, (by blacks and whites) and i’m sure with the way people are, i’ll be put into many more. And i have viewed people through them. i’m not always happy to realize this at first-though, i am glad that i am able to let them go once i learn differently from my intial view. my daughter is put into ‘many’ often -she is a special needs child. i fight this everyday through her life.

    People’s fears, the purpose to create divisions, hate, igonorance, peoples deep rooted insecurities, peoples egos to prove that they are ‘book smarter’ than others, historical content,….so many reasons that people stick to/live by sterotypes.

    it has been here for hundreds of years-doesn’t seem to be going away. So i try to change my view and ignore the people that just can’t shake living by them.

    but to comment on white women and crying, from what i know, they start in younger years-it’s perfected by high school-crying over grades not rec’d they feel are deserved. the black boy-white girl thing that jason mentioned is very true. had to help ‘a few’ black boys myself when they were accused of rape, when we all knew she trailed around behind that boy for months. told that boy to leve that girl alone–i didn’t want to see any “Strage Fruit”.
    (then i would have to explain to them what “Strange Fruit” is)

  8. Georgia's Angels Says:

    Dr.Weems;
    Sterotypes,I guess growing up with a mother that worked as a domestic most of her life (loved her white ladies)never heard very many negatives from her. My issues from her were with YELLA women. My father was a yella Virginia n (you know) and she constantly warned me against relationships with yella women, they think their better, the men will pick them first, society will pick them over you ect. Over the years I’ve learned a few things about people and human beings and I’ve tried to unlearn all those ugly things I lived with as a child. My mother was a beautiful dark skinned women I’m sure that’s why daddy fell in love with her despite her complexion. I now know she never reconized her own beauty. I have more interactions with white women as an adult than I did as a child, history has taught me how to deal with them, and I condut myself accordingly. Yet I’m still annoyed when to kmow that just a few years ago my daughter called me from college and said “mommy, I’m just the right complexion to join the Alpha’s” I was stunned, I said if you join them yella witches I’ll not send you another dime”. She mailed me a pillow shortly after that read Mirror on the wall I am my mother after all, but she joined the Delta’s, I know this blog is about the sterotype of Black and White women, but I’m still very hurt over the way we treat each other. I really thought that I had unlearned my mother’s teaching until I got that pillow. I guess we can’t ever get totally away from our childhood learnings. I put my movie Daughters Of The Dust last night after reading this post, I guess It’s important for us to understand our relationsip with each other rather than them, God help me I don’t think it’s something that will be resolved until judgement. When I walk into a room of powerful Black women I want to beleve I’m on safe ground and the fact that I’m dark skinned is not going to matter. After all aren’t we all Sisters?
    The thing that has helped most in all my programs is that I use Dr. Weems idea that when we reconize our power collectivley,we are Just A Sister Away from whatever we need.

  9. Woman in Transition Says:

    “Watch for the dagger that follows, I was once told by my own mentor.” (*W.I.T. sucks teeth in agreement*)

    And believe me when I tell you, you won’t even feel a THING until your body temperature drops several degrees because of the loss of blood!

  10. BabyGirl Says:

    Thank you for this one. I’m in the process of writing a paper on virtue, or how virtue was erased from Black women as a result of the construction of the True Cult of Womanhood. So my paper is dealing with a lot of stereotypes. When I saw Hillary crying, I was thru. I looked at the tv and said, “Here we go again. White woman crying because she feels she can’t have her way or feels she is being mistreated.” I wanted to yell at her: “Why are you crying?”

    I’ve always struggled with their tears because they usually come out of a place of fakeness. Most days, I just say, “I am just not able and I am not willing” to listen to it today.

  11. Sojourner 4 Truth Says:

    My, My, My!!!! This posting is beyond timely. As part of my work, I travel across the nation facilitating workshops and giving presentations talking about the inter-sectionality of racism and sexism. Just this week, I was facilitating a workshop for early childhood educators, most of whom were white. The conversation was about how the “ISMs” prevent us from bringing our most authentic and creative selves to our work and our relationships. And wouldn’t you know it, while talking with white women about the many ways they shift responsibility and play the “hysterical” card, they started crying and shifting responsibility.

    “I don’t feel comfortable with this discussion”, “I’m insulted,” and the famous… “I DON’T FEEL SAFE” Uh-Oh WATCH OUT!!!!!!!!!

    Myself, along with the powerful women of color in the room, cited countless example of how white women’s cries have compromised our relationships, and in far too many instances cost us our families. There was Susan Smith of North Carolina who cried on TV as she told a tale of black man kidnapping her kids and drowning them in the lake, when she committed the crime herself so that she could be with her boyfriend. Or how about the Runaway Bride, not Julia Roberts, who said that she was kidnapped and taken to Vegas by a Mexican man when the truth was she didn’t want to get married for the third time.

    But perhaps what was most impactful was when the sistahs openly talked about how on far too many occasions we are invisibilized, demoralized and devalued by the supposedly “CLUELESS” antics of white women. That we are not afforded the luxury of crying or shifting responsibility for our actions become representative of an entire people. That our passion is often misread as anger and we bear burden of stigmatization in the workplace and our community. We are frustrated and angered when we come up with brilliant and visionary ideas that are ignored when Becky Sue throws a tantrum because “IT’S HER TURN” to lead the project. It was extraordinary and it was healing… FOR THE SISTAHS!!!!

    It would be one thing if the cries of white women were isolated but it becomes problematic when entire institutions and systems come to their “aid” so as to keep them comfortable. As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, white women are recipients of the same conditioning we are and as a result we are pitted against one another and the “ISMs” continue to flourish. Until white women actively admit their complicity and consciously engage in a process to undo their thinking and behaviors, our collective movements for equity will always be compromised.

  12. Lyn Says:

    What a post and some interesting comments. Growing up in the South, I have certainly seen my share of crying white women. Also I have had some white women friends that were there for me when my sistahs were not. I had a back injury and was confined to bed for about a week. Called some of my good church going sistahs and they said they would pray for me. Called a couple of white friends and they came over cooked, cleaned and did my laundry. Also until moving to DC metro area 20 years ago, I have been the forerunner in a lot of job situations down south being their only black employee or 1st black employee. I definitely have had to tolerant and confront my share of crying white women! Now attending a multicultural church with the majority of the pastoral staff being white, has had its own barrel of chuckles of their reaction to me (they are definitely expecting a certain sterotype. Have they been educated). Counseling both white and black women have definitely given me the view that beneath the veneer of tough for educated, career women that have not truly dealt with their emotional junk, they are all the same underneath. Pull the skin off and you got some broken folk and they all will cry when the root problem is touched. Well that’s my two cents worth.

  13. Fal Says:

    Ashe!!! Sojourner 4 Truth!!!

    Get it sis, I ashe everything you said!

  14. Pat D. JW Says:

    Dr. Weems, I’m glad you’re back…Nice site…

    Perhaps not every white woman I know has cried to get her way. However, I do not exaggerate when I state that every white woman I’ve closely worked with and/or have had authority over has cried to get her way, especially when directly confronted. This gets on my last “Black” nerve to no end. At that point, I’m perceived as the big bad wolf and the white woman is little helpless red ridinghood. Even now, thinking about those moments just makes me mad, because as a black woman even when I wanted to cry, had to reason to cry, and should have cried, I knew I couldn’t and didn’t. Black women can’t cry on the job, at least not in front of white folks.

    That’s just my take…

  15. Sharon Says:

    I just want to thank you for an amazing series of insights. As a mother of a budding 10 year-old who herself went down the toilette at 13 or so, I appreciate your frankness, concern, worry, and motherly love. I too want to like mine up till she’s 30 and has some sense. That seems to be the age when I acquired some with regards to men…

    I also was floored by the post on white women crying. I had no idea! And of course, I am giving away that I am a white woman. I see that my struggles are different than those of black women. I compare notes with a good girlfriend, and at times it seems we are facing similar struggles in business…and at times it seems there is some enormous social gulf between us that I don’t know how to cross…and neither does she. Her landscape is so different than mine in so many areas, despite similar education, career positions, family structures, and incomes. But I am so grateful for the connection, despite my limitations in understanding.

    You really woke me up today. Thanks! I too write about women’s issues. You’re making me rethink who I include as ‘us women’. Perhaps I’ve done that a bit too casually.

    Keep writing, please. You’ve got such a heart and such an incredible way of framing things.

  16. Renita Says:

    @Sharon,

    Come on in and make yourself at home. You are welcome in this space.

  17. Tamecia Says:

    The root of this for me is understanding the difference rather than accepting the difference. I do believe women cry over certain things. Other things, not every woman. The RESPONSE is the difference, and that is what I struggle to accept. Those responses feed stereotypes and frustration. Maybe if crying had worked for me, I might use it. (Probably not.) It would be efficient. Rather, crying itself has never resolved anything, it just was a preface to another action that actually changed the situation. If the response to the crying on both sides of this changed, then the act of crying would have different power, and it wouldn’t have the depth it does as a source of tension or stereotype.

  18. nikkilocs Says:

    On a former job I watch this white woman cry two days straight at her desk. She cried
    because the house she owned was too small and she couldn’t build a new one. She cried
    because she had not had her second baby and her first one was almost two. She cried because she had put the word “bi-polar” in WebMD’s search engine and was pretty sure she and her husband both suffered from it. finally someone came and got her and she checked herself into a mental health facility. She spent several months away and came back to work where a lot of people went out of their way to speak softly to her.

    Due to problems of my own (health issues, family matters, finances, and significant others who really weren’t so significant) I too wanted to cry at my desk. But I didn’t. Instead, I pressed on making mention of my personal issues only when asked. No one was as shocked as I was when I was soon accused of not being a team player, unfocused, and difficult to work with. I was eventually fired not because of job performance but because my superiors (white women by the way) felt they could no longer communicate with me.

    Now of course there is always more to a story but I say all this to say, I have little sympathy when I see a white woman crying. Actually, there is a nasty taste that seems to come in my mouth up from my bowels and linger on my tongue with every tear I see drop. I don’t say this with pride. As a Christian and a mother I really have to question myself as to why I continue to feel this way. Have I become that stereotypical black woman? What kind of example am I setting for our young black women? Am I taking away their ability to cry and release the pain within their hearts? Is my determination to present a strong, unite front emasculating young black men? And as a single woman, does this façade make me appear cold and distant to brothers that may be interested? Especially, when they seem so eager to save those who feign helplessness (white and black) These are the questions I must continue to ask.

    Maybe a good public cry would do me some good.

  19. Fal Says:

    @ Tamecia

    I agree with your reflections on crying. Even though my initial post would make it appear that I am anti-woman crying, no just anti-white woman crying (sometimes).

    In particular, I understand that the idea of crying for black women is complex. For Black women, these complexities lie at the intersection of stereotypes (i.e. Strong Black Woman, Sapphire, Jezebel, and Mammy) that dehumanize us and make the option of crying or appearing weak, no option at all.

    If we reflect over what out mothers, aunts, sisters, and nieces have told us in regard to what it meant to be a black woman, we will find many resonances of being strong–responsible, fearless, assertive, and tear less.

    Perhaps we were told to be strong because our mothers and other mothers knew that crying would not accomplish anything for Black women.

    Perhaps we were told to be strong because our mothers and other mothers understood that life as a black woman is not for faint of heart.

    But what cost have we paid to be strong and tear less?

    Hm, it is a question I ask myself daily because I have come find that I have many voice within in me telling not to cry and they sound like my many mothers and then I have one faint voice who says its human to cry, its human to feel weepy, you’re not being white when you weep, its okay to feel emotions, it is okay to breakdown, it is okay Fal, it is okay.

    We as Black women must recognize that it’s okay not to be strong because if we do not recognize this we will continue to suffer from various mental illnesses and physical aliments which is the result of being on our bending knees to long, taking care of everyone else, but not ourselves to long . . . .

    It’s okay for us to weep sometimes . . . .

  20. wisdomteachesme Says:

    i have been reading all the comments detailing the events that have happened in the lives of the women (myself included), that have shared their ’stories’.
    and i must say, that the pain, and hurt-they are large.
    may i ask, now what are you going to do about it all?
    are you going to hold on to the many injustices, all the pain, all the hurt, all the bitter taste that you continue to swallow every time you remember the situation or every time you see another person that reminds you of your hurt, pain and wrongs? are you gong to continue to repeat each detail of the injustices done to you over and over…for how many months and years will you continue to do this? to live within the pain and the bitterness and hurt?
    haven’t you spent long enough at this mountain?

    i can’t fault white women or black women for how each one decides to deal with the hard choices they have to make. that is the path of learning they choose–i’ve seen both cry for different reasons at work or the store etc…..it may affect my life at a distance-but i will not let it crawl into my heart and spirit and make me take it on as a burden for my life.
    how other people treat you because of your skin color or education, or job duties/position, your differences, has no power over how you should keep pressing on to accomplish what has been set in place for you to accomplish, unless you allow it to stop you by believing it can stop you.

    encourage yourself to keep pressing on as you go through these life experiences-glean all that you can and offer the hurt, the pain, and the injustices up to God and He will return a reward-a harvest for your offering.
    Col.3:2 / Isa.61:7-8/Deut.1:6
    may you always remember that you have been given a light to shine forth.

  21. Amanda Says:

    I am not black, nor do I have the same intense aversion to white women crying, however, I feel compelled to comment that the tears of women in general often seem to be seen as metaphors for larger problems in our social structure.

    For one example, I grew up in a household with an alcoholic father (who has been in recovery for over 10 years now). When he and I would argue (which was often), my mother would often make one suggestion to me: “just cry.” Being as young as 12 or 13 years old, I couldn’t “just cry.” I did not want my anger to be mistaken for sadness or weakness.

    For another example, I have heard female friends of mine brag about how they have gotten out of traffic tickets, having to do certain things, etc., by crying.

    I’m not sure what point I’m really trying to make here. What I am saying is that the “acting-out” of emotion in situations where the emotion is not there detracts from the taking seriously by onlookers of emotion that actually is there.

    Maybe I’m a jerk for saying this, but I wish I could pull many women aside and implore them to stop crying unless there really is something to cry about.

  22. Renita Says:

    Alrighty then.

    Obviously we’ve touched a raw nerve here. And since I don’t know where else we get to talk about about a topic like this and poke around to find out what’s really at issue between us, I’m willing to keep the comments section open on this one a little while longer.

    Just be mindful of length. (Some folks’ comments are as long as my post. Geesh. LOL) Don’t be offended if I have to take out my red marker and edit some comments. It’s all in love, sort of.

  23. Charlie - Renita's biggest fan Says:

    Renita,

    Why don’t you have your own television show? You are the best thing this man has read in a long, long time.

    You are so incisive and delightful.

  24. Renita Says:

    @Charlie-RBF

    From your mouth to God’s ears.

  25. Sis. K Says:

    I am learning that to unearth stories that I want to tell, it really helps me to sit at least from time to time, in a writers’ group. I confess that the ranting and daggers that I had expected did not appear at least not in the eight weeks, we (seven white women and me) sat around the table. The tears did come and emotions were high, but it was a safe and authentic space to share and to write. The only thing that seemed black and white were the words on the page.

    katherine

  26. Angela Says:

    @ Fal

    Thank you for your open & honest testimony. All I can say is

    AMEN!!!

  27. Rev. Angela S Says:

    Whew, you have really touched a nerve with this posting! I’ve been reading for some time now. But this one has smoked me out and I just have to join the fray. Thank-you for the disclaimer because not all white women have used tears to control or manipulate situations. Oh but there are some, who have lifted manipulative crying to a high art! Wanna control a situation? Cry! Wanna change the subject? Cry! Don’t want to have an honest confrontation? Cry! I am a clergy-person in a predominately white denomination. I have seen the phenomena in its full expression, more times than I care to recount. Some of my colleagues are quite adept at this “art form.” Admittedly, in the beginning, it worked a sistah’s nerves! Through the years and numerous white women tears, I have simply learned not to care about the feigned waterworks. I have been known to tell my colleagues and sisters in Christ that they are entitled to their tears but I am entitled to my voice. And in “sistah-fashion” I continue to speak my truth.
    I so appreciate the varied voices and insights offered on this site. Thank you Dr. Renita

  28. Jamie Says:

    Wow, this is quite a discussion, and reveals more than a treasure-box of insight into the very questions raised here.

    What comes to mind is this: Beneath the anger, there are often unexpressed tears. Beneath the tears, there is often unexpressed anger. Why are the tears or the anger unexpressed, and the other a ‘default’ behavior? Because that’s what we’ve been taught is an acceptable way, and that the other way is unacceptable.

    If some people within one group of people use tears to manipulate and create certain outcomes, is it possible that some group of people in a group use their anger to manipulate and achieve certain outcomes?

    Is it possible that sometimes the tears and the anger are sourced in a common story that runs beneath all of the assumptions?

  29. Rahab R. Says:

    I just encountered your blog, Dr. Weems, and this blog title made me LAUGH OUT LOUD!

    My best friend and I could not be more different.

    Black people used to ask me if I knew she was referred to by white women on campus as “the KKK girl”. When white people label another white person as a staunch racist, it is quite rare.

    Until she told me, I never knew there were racist terms to refer to Jewish people. She went through all of them our freshman year. I told her I couldn’t tell a Jewish person from a non-Jewish person - and yes - she helped me quickly with that. She was the first (and last) person to ever remind me that Jews were “not white”.

    My best friend.
    We are two radically different people.
    We are two very-much-alike people.

    We met on a racially-hostile predominately white college campus where a football player was lynched (yes, hung from a tree) one afternoon after class in broad daylight in front of a student apartment complex. (No, this was not in the 50s or 60s either. This was in the 80s!)

    Our racial experiences in this country were not similiar. Somehow, we forged a bond. We knew we could not agree on race - so we didn’t talk about it. Reality on a racially-charged campus kept pushing the dialogue into our silence.

    Often, we had to agree to disagree and move on with our friendship.

    She joined a prestigious white sorority known by black students as the “KKK house”.

    She didn’t hestitate to invite me over to meet all her friends when she got accepted and moved in. (The looks on their faces when I walked in - well - that’s for another post.)

    When the popular athlete (who I knew well) was lynched and the blacks on campus were outraged, I protested on campus by carrying a very, very large glass jar to classes and everywhere I went. My white friend never said a word. It didn’t surprise me that she couldn’t.

    We were, afterall, very different.

    A few years ago, we travelled by car through a Southern white town and got lost. When we stopped at a little gas station store operation, she wanted me to go in and ask for directions. I glanced over at her and gave her my classic “gurl, don’t GET me started…” look and she tossed her hair back and went in to ask them for the directions. We have had many moments like that - not needing to say anything because our eyes can say EVERYTHING.

    As she drove with the written directions in hand that the clerk wrote for her, she said, “look for our exit, okay?” and eventhough it was in the 190s, I sarcastically replied, “no, I’ll look for the white hoods, YOU look for the exit!”

    We never forget that we are two women who are existing in the same country yet two very different Americas.

    I am a minister of the Gospel.
    She dabbled in witchcraft.

    We were very different.

    When I speak to alumni friends who are black, they always ask me about the white girl I was best friends with on campus. It seems everyone recalls that strange pairing of the two women who SEEMED to be total opposites. No one seems surprised, though, when I mention that we are still the best of friends and still disagree on issues of race.

    Our friendship has endured from our teen years until now.

    She is now a Christian. I led her to Jesus one night.

    We are middle aged women with graying hair now. And yes, I am still her only black friend.

    So perhaps that is why the blog title, Dr. Weems, made me laugh out loud.

    The white girl and I ARE very different. But one thing I know for sure: there is no one who will cry harder at my funeral or clap louder at my book signing.

  30. Lois Espinosa Says:

    I think that black women are forced to live up to stereotypes that society has of them. If a black woman breaks down and cries, she is weak and somehow unworthy of her “blackness”. Crying is for white women only. I agree with wisdomteachesme, are black women really bullet proof? Are we expected to band our bellies and hold in all the fear, rage, grief and disappointments that life throws our way? I don’t think that we should use tears in order to get what we want as some white women do but sometimes you really need to let it all out. Talk to someone about your problems, cry a little sometimes. What I really have a problem with is when women, no matter the colour of their skin, wallow in their issues and play the part of damsel in distress. There is nothing more irritating! Especially when women play the pity card in order to catch a man or to prevent him from leaving. Women need to take charge of their own lives and fight for their own rights.

  31. lj Says:

    white women always cry about everything. black women never cry about anything. of the 2 clearly, the always crying is more annoying; but OMG, the never crying is far more dangerous, and we let that “never crying” stereotype define us. i have a friend whose husband was suddenly and unexpectedly killed in a car accident. i cannot tell u the countless hours we spent talking about her right (and that of her children) to be sad, confused, angry, hell - stricken w/grief! she didn’t want to cry, didn’t want other people to cry, didn’t want to be seen crying - pick something. have another friend whose marriage dissolved. how’d she feel about it? just fine - no problem - life goes on. when she finally broke down and cried about it, she was more mortified that she was crying than by the demise of the marriage.

    now, i don’t cry about everything, but dog gone it, i do cry. when we have pain, and black women have had some pain, we have got to give ourselves permission to cry. tears are the gateway to healing, and we cannot get off the landing strip b/c we refuse to let them see us sweat. who the heck are “they” anyway, and who cares what “they” see?

    now crying just to manipulate - well that just as inappropriate as using sex to manipulate. but, that’s not our issues. let the white women figure out that manipulative crying is to their detriment. we need to focus on giving our daughters, little sisters, and each other permission to cry. our vision is clearer when the hardships of life are wiped away w/tears, and we cannot expect to advance our causes w/blurred vision!

  32. Neshia Says:

    I really enjoyed reading all the above post;I am a black woman surrounded by 7 white women in class on a daily it’s wonderful to be at a place of accomplishment yet feeling misunderstood by white women who are ignorant, foolish, in the judgement about me. I don’t understand white women and why they think their superior lol in there thinking. Will someone please tell me what is wrong with loving who God has made you to be. I don’t apologize for being intelligent,choosing to believe in spite of the daggers thrown at me. It makes me more determined to learn,achieve,and dream bigger:)

  33. Phil Says:

    Maybe the stereotype of black woman crying exists in urban areas up north, but I can tell you down south, it doesn’t. I’m a white guy who went to a rural, southern high school that was predominantly black. My parents still live in a black neighborhood and we’re not anti-social with anyone there either. The last time I visited them, their black, next-door neighbors were over watching TV.

    I’ve seen white women cry. I’ve seen black women cry. But I didn’t even understand there was a stereotype about crying until I read it here. But being a guy, I feel awkward anytime a woman cries.

  34. Mary Says:

    Ya know, there are some things most women cry over not matter what their racial/cultural background, ethnicity, or national origin. Those of us who have them cry over our children. We all want what is best for them and when we see what’s going on in this sinful world we live in, powerlessness tears just flow.

    I’m reminded of Iyanla Vanzant’s book, “Yesterday, I Cried.” She discusses the different kind of tears we women cry. The gushing, silent tears of a mother are explored in the chapter “What’s the Lesson When You are a Motherless Child Raising Children.”

    Preparing our children, as black mothers, for the world they will have to live in is different than the way other mothers prepare their children; therefore, our tears are so very different than other mothers’ tears. But for our children we all cry when we see them experience situations for which we cannot help them avoid.

  35. Michelle Says:

    Very insightful post and comments. I have never heard this point of white women crying. Of course, it may be because I am a white woman (and perhaps because I live in a small town in Canada). I don’t want to veer to far off course, but my background is in working with troubled kids. We teach them that it is okay to cry and express themselves in appropriate ways (depending on the context). I don’t think crying at work to get your way is appropriate. Unfortunately, I think society in general judges people if they are “too emotional”. You can only be angry if you are a young man. Forget a woman expressing anger! My husband showed emotion during our wedding vows and that was judged. Anyhow, I was very happy to be informed by all the people on this post. I believe you when you say there is a double standard when it comes to black women crying. I believe you.

  36. Beth Says:

    This post and many of the comments are disturbing to me, a white woman pastor. I am surprised at the hostility expressed toward white women. I cry when I am sad and, sometimes, when I am angry, but I HATE that I cry when I am angry. I can’t control the situation and it’s only made worse when I can’t control the tears. To think that this is interpreted by some people as a form of manipulation is tragic. It’s equally tragic to me to learn that black women won’t allow themselves to cry when it is justified. And why do so many of you assume that white women are prejudging you and expecting certain behaviors from you because you are black. Perhaps I am really naive in this area, but I am an intelligent, educated woman and I don’t have a clue about any of this. When I meet someone, whether black or white, it is the verbal and nonverbal exchange that determines my opinion of a person. I am open to taking you at face value; are you open to taking me the same way?

  37. Renita Says:

    @Beth

    I don’t typically come back in and respond to posts and comments that are as old as this one. Because now it’s only me and the latest commenter talking since everyone else is on to the latest blogpiece.
    But I feel compelled to break my own rule and respond to your comment.

    Welcome to the blog. Hope you’ll drop by the blog and often and learn about what’s on the minds and hearts of Something Within readers, especially those who are black and female and in ministry.

    I’m sure you’re a nice person who means no one harm, but you have to think outside yourself and beyond your own personal piety to grasp what’s being expressed here. As painful and as harsh as some of the things said here come across, they are not totally groundless. You have only to know the history of black and white women’s history in this country, and you have only to be honest about how women navigate in patriarchal cultures to appreciate what’s said here. All of which is to say, that it helps to be able to step out of one’s own skin and critically look at whiteness and femaleness in America when you find yourself listening in on black women’s pain.

    Again, welcome to the blog. I hope you’ll stay awhile.

  38. Lydia Says:

    Sterotypes
    They almost seem like rumors if you look real closely and think about it. People complain about racism all the time, and this almost feels like it invokes that feeling within someone. I’m neither white nor black but I know what it feels like to be sterotyped. I believe all women cry over something to judge one race for it seems a little wrong. Through high school I faced plenty of people who used their ways to get out of things both being white and black. I also don’t think it is fair to say a white woman has no right to cry because she’s been through nothing (everyone holds some deep secret from the past whether big or small). I’ve been working on a college essay for racism, and when I saw the amount of websites dedicated to fighting about which race was this and which race was that I was amazed. There are plenty of things I don’t understand, but I honestly don’t understand why almost every fight boils down to race. I honestly don’t mean to offend anyone it is just the way I feel.

  39. RenitaL Says:

    I am a white woman who cries. I just can’t help it. I cry when I am happy. I cry when I am moved. I cry when prayers are answered. I cry at simple pleasures. I cry when I am angry. I cry when I am hurting. I cry at injustice. I cry for others. I cry when someone else cries…I cry reading a book, watching a movie….good gravy, I feel all teary now!

    As a child I wasn’t allowed to cry….”shut the hell up” my grandmother would say, usually followed by, “do you want something to cry about” (as if my beating wasn’t enough..youch!)

    My (black) Momma told me years ago to never let people see my tears if they were the one causing them. She said that I must never give the appearance of weakness. Never let someone know they got to me. Never give someone the pleasure of seeing my pain. She said that crying about our pains and offenses was a luxury, one not all women have. She said that tears of pity were dishonest…”is your God pitiful?”, she asked.

    So, I learned not to cry when I was scolded by a church member, talked about by a collegue, or felt pressure by leaders, or when there was an attempt to publicly humiliate me. I just suck it up.

    I’ve decided that crying isn’t a weakness, its a gift, a priviledge. With priviledges come responsibility. It is my responsibility to only allow public tears when to do so will express my love, my compassion, my joy, my strength, and my passion.

    Now I’ve learned why.
    Thank you for your insightful article.

  40. Elizabeth Says:

    White girl here. Hilary’s move to cry was interesting. She’s a calculating person, so it was no doubt a move to garner sympathy and support.

    An important thing to remember is that people came down on her like a ton of bricks, just like you. The political community, newspapers, and others had more or less the same thing to say as you. Most people hate that kind of thing and are as fed up with it as you (even if they choose to come to the aid of such a woman, sometimes).

    What bothers me about your analysis is that it pits black women against white women, which is just another function of the machine. I know that you must feel frustrated about the number of white women you’ve met who use crying as a way to manipulate themselves out of situations.

    I’m not saying you should feel sympathetic towards them or educate them out of being manipulative morons. I hate them too, and for every white girl who uses crying there are tons who would never think of it.

    It’s just that assuming white women use that as a tool and applying that stereotype to white women as group is unfair. It also ultimately puts you in the category of “machine tool.”

    While it’s tempting to assume that white women are privileged fairies floating on clouds of marshmallows and tears, it’s more constructive to take people on a person by person basis. Harder, yes. More complex, yes. But ultimately more satisfying and broadening.

  41. Renita Says:

    Eighteen months later and people still feel compelled to respond (in outrage) at this blogpost and the comments attached it — even though the conversation is old — and no one reads your comment except myself. And since nothing new is being said, I’m closing the comments on this particular post because I don’t feel compelled to respond. All in all, I’m proud of the post and the passionate debate it sparked which shows that we still have a long way to go on both sides of the divide.