By Kennedy ([1]) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, ultra-conservative, ex-Rebel Media reporter, Faith Goldy came to Trent University to attend the TCSA’s controversial talk, “It’s Okay to Be (Against) White(ness)”. The event has gained national media attention and incited much discussion on campus about race and identity politics. Goldy, who was famously fired from Rebel Media following her coverage of the Charlottesville white supremacy rally, posted video from the Trent University Student Centre where she is seen espousing racist ideology and harassing racialized students – all while claiming to be the victim of “reverse racism.”

As white women we experience a duality of identities as both oppressed and oppressor. Goldy’s status as a white woman is what allows her to pivot between a tearful woman standing up for “white children” and an antagonistic “journalist,” filming students without their consent. It is also what protects her from being seen as a genuine threat to campus security. It is for this reason that Goldy was able to stand in a public space, within a private institution in which she is not enrolled, espouse white nationalist ideology and avoid being forcibly removed by security.

With tears in her eyes, Goldy recounted for her Twitter followers how white children are being told that their ancestors were “bad and have genocidal tendencies” by so-called “left-leaning” universities. Goldy even went so far as to suggest that Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man whose 2016 murder has become a lightning rod for Indigenous rights and racial injustice in Canada, caused his own death. As Goldy detailed Boushie’s death and what she claimed was “Natives’ bias against whites,” a Trent student can be seen calling Goldy “white supremacy herself” from off-camera. It is at this point that Goldy began filming her surroundings in the name of “protecting her own safety.” By crying and claiming to fear for her safety, Goldy is able to evoke the sympathy of her supporters. This “fear” for her safety hinges upon the idea that this racialized student was reacting with undo aggression towards Goldy, which she was not. In fact, it is Goldy who stood in a public space and actively antagonized those around her, only to cry foul when they did not respond with kindness.

It is not surprising that the majority of alt-right supporters are men and this is no exception for those who reacted positively to Goldy’s video. Alt-right ideology hinges upon the idea of protecting “white heritage” and this protector role goes hand in hand with their belief in biological determinism. These men believe that gender is determined by sex and that there are certain qualities assigned to men and women based on anatomy which make men inherently stronger than women. Seeing Goldy cry while she describes the mistreatment of white students empowers their belief that they must protect white women and, indeed, the white race. When Faith Goldy cries, she empowers her followers to act out their fantasy where white lives are somehow under attack. It is for this reason that we cannot see this false victimhood as simply a harmless emotional reaction.

This manipulative emotional response is reflective of a larger societal phenomenon, which goes beyond the alt-right, wherein the emotions of white women are taken more seriously than the anti-racist activism of people of colour. By making these racist claims in a public space, knowing she could be overheard, Goldy is almost certainly aware of the backlash she may face. Goldy’s video was taken after the event had ended, meaning she was free to leave the building without incident. If Goldy was truly concerned for her safety, she could have left the building following Cappello’s talk and filmed her video privately from her car. Goldy’s choice to film publicly leads me to believe that her intention was to incite backlash from those who supported the event and even to co-opt this backlash in order to show that she was the victim.

Historically speaking, white women have been at the forefront of white nationalist movements and anti-immigration politics, the same as our white male counterparts. To say that because white men systemically held more power that our contributions to white supremacist movements are somehow less impactful, is not only dishonest – but historically inaccurate. In the 1920’s, white women formed their own arm of the Ku Klux Klan, known as the WKKK. This arm worked autonomously to uphold the interests of KKK and further terrorize communities.

In Canada, women’s rights activists such as Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung put forward the 1928 Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act, which used eugenics to forcibly sterilize women of colour and disabled people alike. Although it is true that Murphy and McClung also put forward the case for legal personhood, this personhood did not extend to women of colour until much later. In both cases, women of considerable societal privilege used the guise of women’s empowerment in order to put forward deeply racist and xenophobic ideology. This ability to compartmentalize between gender and race is a luxury not extended to women of colour.

Today’s so-called “alt-right” is no different from their historical predecessors. As long as we are rightfully critiquing the alt-right it is essential that we also unpack our own internalized notions about gender and fragility. White women are capable of the same acts of racism as white men, regardless of our status as people who experience sexism. Because we live in a patriarchal society, our participation in and the benefits we receive from living in a culture which places a higher value on whiteness and white lives is often erased.

We need to do better. In calling ourselves feminists, we must also do the uncomfortable work of recognizing our own complicity in existing power structures. White privilege allows us the comfort of being able to pivot the conversation away from racial justice and towards our own hurt feelings. We must resist that urge. As Mamta Motwani Accapadi writes in her essay, “When White Women Cry,” “privilege is not just about our social identities, but associated with the behaviours that are normalized within those social identities…. Recognize how certain preferred behaviours are associated with Whiteness, while problem/questionable behaviours are associated with communities of colour.” In other words, as feminists, we have a responsibility to recognize when the narrative of white fragility is being used to silence valid concerns brought forward by people of colour.