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How The University Of Missouri Is Drowning In White Tears, Explained

Members of Concerned Student 1950 celebrate after the resignation of Missouri University President Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus Nov. 9, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
Members of Concerned Student 1950 celebrate after the resignation of Missouri University President Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus Nov. 9, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (Brian Davidson/Getty Images)

Can you explain what "White Tears" are again?

Sure. “White Tears” is phrase to describe what happens when certain types of White people either complain about a nonexistent racial injustice or are upset by a non-White person’s success at the expense of a White person. It encompasses (and makes fun of) the performative struggle to acknowledge the existence of White privilege, and the reality that it aint always gonna go unchecked.


Thank you! Can you provide some prominent examples of it?

No problem! A great example of one is Fisher v. University of Texas, a court case that basically boils down to a slightly above average White woman upset her slightly above-averageness didn't grant her the birthright privileges she believes she deserves.


Oh yeah, I remember hearing about that on 60 Minutes. If I recall, Fisher was upset that she wasn't able to get into college with her grades, despite the fact that Black and other minority students with similar (or worse) grades could get into school.

Actually, that's not completely it. Fisher was qualified enough to get into 98% of the schools in the country. She could have gone practically anywhere from Slippery Rock to Spelman. (I kinda, sorta suspect she wouldn't have wanted to go to Spelman though.) Her problem was that she couldn't get into the one school she desperately wanted to — but some Black and Black-ish kids could — and this lawsuit is the equivalent of a five-year-old with hundreds of Hot Wheels mad his sister is playing with the Camaro.

So "White Tears" is basically White people being brats?

Basically. As I've written before, we see it when Serena Williams wins a major. Or graces the cover of another magazine. We saw it after the Emmys, when Nancy Lee Grahn felt a need to pour a bucket of freshly squeezed White Tears on Viola Davis's acceptance speech, tweeting “Im a [f—king] actress for 40 yrs. None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve. Emmys not venue 4 racial opportunity. ALL women belittled.” We saw it when the Hunger Games was released and Amandla Stenberg's "Rue" ended up being Black on screen despite the fact that she's described as Black in the book the movie is based on and when it was revealed that the upcoming Star Wars would have a Black character. And, in the post-racialest paradox of all time, we see it with the #AllLivesMatter campaign.


How is #AllLivesMatter a post-racial paradox?

It's a reaction to #BlackLivesMatter. Which is a reaction to police brutality against Black people. Which (police brutality) exists because of a belief that Black people are less than human and/or must be controlled. Ultimately, #AllLivesMatter is a White Tears waterfall attempting to drown #BlackLivesMatter, which exists because of police brutality, which exists because of a bottomless American pond of White Tears.


I see. So, how is what's happening at the University of Missouri an example of this?

Man, it's not just an example. It's the best example. Seriously, if White Tears ever makes it into the Oxford dictionary, beside the definition should be a picture of Tim Wolfe


Why Tim Wolfe? We all know he was forced to resign because of his (lack of) response to the numerous racially charged incidents at the university, but how is he specifically an example of White Tears?

Man, the very first thing most of us heard Wolfe say was "I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer." And then, moments later "Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success." In a span of 10 seconds, he managed to be reflexively passive-aggressive, bitchassedly defensive, obliviously narcissistic, hilariously myopic, and wrong.


And then, when he resigned, this was included in his speech:

This is not — I repeat not — the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation. We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening, and quit intimidating each other.


In a vacuum, these words seem innocuous, fair, and right-minded. But considering the context — that this is a speech he's giving because he was so inept at listening to and respecting the needs of his students that one student even promised to starve himself to death unless he resigned (Seriously, how shitty to you have to be at your job for someone to say "Man, I aint eating again till this motherfucker gets fired"?) — this is White Tears in a nutshell.

I'm convinced Wolfe's mouth is nothing but a 24-hour White Tears watercooler, where anyone feeling particularly thirsty can just grab a paper cup and sit underneath him.


It's not just Wolfe though, right?

Oh, definitely not. As a result of the Black students basically just saying "Hey, we don't feel safe here. And we like feeling safe more than feeling unsafe." — which is really all the protests are about — their lives have been threatened. And even actual facility members have jumped into White Tears mosh pit. Melissa Click, an assistant professor of mass media, resigned yesterday after video emerged of her harassing a photo journalist who was attempting to take pictures of a protest. Another professor challenged to students to attend class and ignore the death threats. What's happening there, ultimately, is White Tears distilled. It's White Tears Brita.


Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't also say that many White students, faculty, and administrators there have pledged their support of Concerned Student 1950. And, this isn't just superficial support. They're signing petitions, joining protests, offering votes of no confidence, and even threatening to walk out.

So, the White Tears are bringing White and Black people together? That's a good thing, right?


I guess so. Plus, instead of having to run to CVS several times a day to restock on Kleenex to wipe up the White Tears, if all the Blacks and supportive Whites put their money together, they can just go to Costco and get them in bulk. It's a win win.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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“Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.”

Right. The problem isn't that we don't have equal opportunity, it's just that we don't think we have equal opportunity. If only the Black folks would just engage in more positive thinking, then things would be alright!

I can laugh off most of the BS that gets spun at us, but this….This is the sh*t that gets me. Every. Time. The implication that all of the lived experiences that I've had; that my mom has had; that my friends have had; that Black people I don't even know have had didn't really exist. It was all in our minds. FOH.