Recently a disturbing hashtag briefly took over the Twitterverse: #whitegirlsdoitbetter. Aside from raising a few questions – namely “What do white girls do better?” and “Better than who?” – the misguided and offensive attempt at a cultural movement serves as a talking point about blindness to privilege. The white girls who used the hashtag failed to make a case for their “better”-ness, but their need to assert it over women of other races makes it clear that too many white people seem unable to understand their societal privileges over others.
Fortunately for anyone with a good sense of humor, derisive tweets flooded the hashtag, suggesting that what white girls do better is ignore privilege and borrow fashionable elements of other cultures and races while insinuating their own superiority. Undoubtedly some people who read the hashtag’s hijackers’ tweets will be offended, but these people are the sort who would wonder why #whitegirlsdoitbetter is fundamentally offensive.
Maybe the hashtag’s appearance isn’t so surprising after all. Donald Trump recently caused controversy by stating his beliefs that illegal immigrants from Mexico are by and large “criminals” and “rapists” during his presidential announcement speech. He has been called out for his blatantly racist remarks, but has not backed down on his stance. Yet amongst upwards of 15 Republican hopefuls for the 2016 race he has been ranked at second place in various polls. He has no official policies or plans to speak of, so his racist comments and his refusal to acknowledge their wrongness must have struck a chord with some members of the general public. People who support Trump for his comments sport the same mentality as people tagging their tweets #whitegirlsdoitbetter.
Think of the controversy over the Confederate flag. That the flag was still flown in the 21st century is nothing short of a disgrace. For many, the flag is a symbol of hate and oppression, a reminder of the days of segregation and slavery. For others, the flag is a symbol of heritage and history. Those of us who don’t ignore it see it as a celebration of a past steeped in racial animus and inequality. Dylan Roof’s use of the flag in the Charleston church shooting only served to underscore this point. Still, the flag will be flown because the people who fly it refuse to acknowledge the fact that what it represents is nothing to be proud of.
It’s 2015. Same sex couples are free to get married, but we are still an unequal society. Racism is not dead, contrary to the narrative some white folks would like you to believe. People questioned #blacklivesmatter, and some white people were clueless enough to ask, “Why isn’t it #alllivesmatter?” #blacklivesmatter became a cultural movement because black lives were being cut short as a result of police brutality and institutionalized discrimination at horrifying rates. Other minorities deserved representation in the cultural movement, to be fair, but white people did not; in the western world, we live with the implication that white lives inherently matter. When violent white criminals are apprehended alive while nonviolent non-white (often black) suspects are brutalized or killed, the implication is that white lives matter more than others.
If nothing else, the one thing the white girls behind #whitegirlsdoitbetter actually do better than non-white women is illustrate just how out of touch some white people are when it comes to issues of race and identity.
By: Matt Olson | Copy Editor