No one ever taught me about Emmett Till. When I was 11 years old, I was sitting in a room filled with black men at my uncle’s New Jersey apartment. As they joked around with one another in the bawdy way men are apt to do when they’re by themselves, a traditionally attractive white woman popped up on the television screen.
After one of the guys said something about how fine she was, my uncle replied, “Boy, don’t mess with white women. You know they will Emmett Till yo’ ass!” Everyone burst out laughing except me. I had no idea why that joke was remotely funny, but when I got home I looked up the name “Emmett Till” in a World Book Encyclopedia.
I saw the pictures. There was no nuance and very little detail in the 400-word entry (I wouldn’t know that some people believed the white woman in the case had lied until a few years later), but I distinctly remember the fact that the article mentioned how they tied him to the fan of a cotton gin before they threw him in the river.
I was 11 years old. I was a black boy. I couldn’t swim. I lived in the rural Deep South on a dusty road. My family home was across the street from a cotton gin.
I do not hate white women. I am afraid of them.
Politicon—the political convention that seeks to do for political figures what Comic-Con has done for nerds—held the heavyweight championship of Beckying with a debate between Chelsea Handler and Tomi Lahren this past weekend. (Don’t sleep on Handler—who is as problematic as Lahren in different ways—just because you like her politics.) The only reason anyone would call the entire spectacle even remotely interesting is that skinny, blond white women are always graded on a curve.
In fact, the only thing any news outlet has mentioned about the much-hyped spectacle is that Lahren—the conservative firebrand, right-leaning, Barack Obama-hating enemy of the Affordable Care Act—is currently on Obamacare.
Before Obamacare, a parent could not carry a child on his or her insurance after the child reached the age of 19, so some outlets are reporting that Lahren is “benefiting from” Obamacare because she is still on her parents’ insurance. That is being generous. The Affordable Care Act is not an insurance plan; it is simply a set of laws that govern insurance and set up health care exchanges. But if there is such a thing as “being on” Obamacare, Lahren is on it.
There is nothing wrong with being on Obamacare. It is not for poor people. Before the ACA, it was hard for entrepreneurs, college students and people who worked part time to get medical insurance. Lahren is exactly who Obamacare was created for. Every time Broke Becky (I bet she collects unemployment, too) gets her Pap smear, she has the black president to thank, except she has spent her entire professional career standing in front of a white lynch mob and pointing her finger, trying to kill Obamacare.
That’s why I’m afraid of white women.
They will ask you to don a pink hat and march with them. They will readily paint themselves as allies, or as fellow oppressed people. They will convince you that they are in your corner. They will show you how white feminism intersects with racism. They will explain how white male patriarchy has always been the problem.
Then they will slide behind the voting curtain and pull the lever for Donald Trump. They will call the police because you looked like you didn’t belong there. They will say you raped them because they missed their curfew. They will stand and watch men tie your baby boy to a cotton gin fan and toss him in the river. They will keep their lies a secret for 50 years.
That level of duplicitous evil is scarier than any horror movie or demon story could ever inspire. I’m not saying all white women are like this, but it is demonstrably true that any white woman could do this. At least a few of them have. We saw 53 percent of them do it.
You might think it hyperbolic to compare Emmett Till’s accuser to Tomi Lahren, and you are right. Tomi Lahren and the people who pitch lies to uninformed white people for their own monetary or political advantage will ultimately be responsible for more deaths than Carolyn Bryant Donham’s lie.
Lahren is like the white people who rail against the mothers who use food stamps to feed their children but are cool with the Caucasians benefiting from corporate tax loopholes, farm subsidies and Medicare. She is the particular brand of feminist who will talk about the women’s wage gap and the glass ceiling but will remain silent when she finds out she makes more than her black co-worker. They hate affirmative action but benefit from it the most.
Lahren is just one of many white women who are willing to flash their flawless smiles as they stare directly into your eyes and make their lies sound like violin music. They have learned to use their white-girl magic to create the illusion that they are not practitioners of sorcery while they ride their brooms off into the sunset. They profit off privilege while warning others about the dangers of trading in it.
I do not hate serpents or pit bulls; I am afraid of them. In fact, I am only afraid of poisonous snakes and pit bulls that bite. Unfortunately, I can’t tell which ones are harmless and which ones will kill me, so just to be safe ...