I actually blogged about this months ago, but a conversation I had with a black woman fairly recently made me realize that it's something that I definitely need to talk more about in greater detail. I'm actually thankful to this woman for the conversation as I'd been meaning to talk more about this topic. Thankfully what was said made me remember and so here we are.
First, what do I mean when I say "white knight"?
The term is borrowed from internet lingo. On a forum or blog, a male participant will come to the rescue of a female participant who is being called to task by that community for her behavior. An important dynamic is the fact that the woman in question is often wrong in what she did or said, and that's the reason why she's being called out. This is either lost on the male who speaks up for her or he simply doesn't care: His "chivalry chip" has been activated and he will defend "his lady" to the death.
The "white knight" is viewed with a great deal of contempt: First, he has rode to the rescue of someone who is perceived as not worthy of his defense. Second, he's completely ignoring why that person was called out in the first place (they were W-R-O-N-G). And third, and perhaps most importantly, their attempt at defending this person is meaningless, because they likely will not be reciprocated for their trouble. Not in the real world, and probably not online either. Yes, that last part was actually implied in the original definition. It's what also let me know that this is exactly what I'm seeing with some black women.
The black community has become a place of massive role reversals. The thing is, black women simply are not benefitting from having this happen. This hasn't stopped the community at large setting up black boys as being pampered and treated like princesses and black women expected to uphold the pillars of the community and be treated like workhorses. In so many ways, black women have had their femininity stripped from them with the expectation that they defend and protect black men. Black men are not required to do so for black women.
This is more telling than people appreciate. Think about it: What ethnic groups can you think of where the women are expected or called on to protect their men? Do you think men of many ethnic groups would stay quiet about the fact that their women are putting on armor to defend them like delicate damsels from the evil dragon? I don't think so. Would women of other ethnic groups speak out against men trying to protect their image and how they are perceived? Of course not!
So, what you have here is an extreme role reversal: Black women playing the role of male protector for black men. These men at the same time do not need to defend black women, because they have not been conditioned as a group to take on that role. If they were, we would not see such a common reversal. And before anyone gets confused, I'm not speaking about men being able to defend their own honor; that's to be expected. I'm speaking of men who are noticeably silent when their women are slighted, but say nothing when these women defend their honor (or become resentful when these women see it as a priority to defend THEIR OWN honor rather than working to defend theirs).
Let's view an example of what I mean:
A post is made where black men are called to task for saying hurtful things about black women who want to date interracially. It's pointed out that far more black men date and marry out than black women. It's noted that these men can be hypocritical about this and guilt-trip black women about being open in their relationship choices. It's stated that black men are less likely to marry over all, and of those who do, a good portion do not marry black women. There is a sense that black women should ignore these men and their abuse and look after their own selves and their own happiness.
Enter "Claudette". Claudette does not like that this post is saying negative things about black men. Claudette is offended at the notion that the post has not made exceptions for good black men. Claudette knows several men in her family and friendship circle who love and speak highly of black women. Why aren't there posts made about those black men? Why is it that there is always something negative being said about black men by black women? If more black women acted right, maybe black men wouldn't marry out so much in the first place?
Black men who do comment attack the bloggers for saying things about black men in general, agree with the notion that black women should not date out and imply that it's on black women to keep birthing black sons. They are silent about the abusive way that black women are treated. Claudette is also silent in this regard.
The problem with black women like Claudette is that it is completely lost on them that (1) the discussion is meant for black women and their supporters, and not black men and (2) the feelings of black men on the matter (unless they're actively working to find a solution that benefits black women) are therefore irrelevant. Also (3) black women who white-knight for black men do it without realizing that if they desire to be loved and protected as women, they should not be seeking to treat men like "slighted ladies". This is allowing them to fill a role they themselves probably want. Also, (4) no man worth his salt finds it desirable or attractive for women to go around "defending their honor" and emasculating them.
What black women who white knight don't realize is that they are hated for their emasculating behavior and that they very likely will not be reciprocated. You see, to be emasculated is still considered extremely undesirable in our global patriarchy. Having women "fight for you" puts forth the perception that you are too weak and helpless to fight for yourself; having other men think that of you can be humiliating.
To paint a picture, it's like putting a black man in a gown, wearing those pointy princess hats, up in a tower, while you put on armor to go to war for him. Now, I probably would look good in armor and I'm not afraid of fighting for my own honor and beliefs...but I'm not foolish enough to think that putting a heterosexual black man up in a tower with a princess gown because, "poor him he can't fight for himself", isn't at least going to earn me a side-eye at the end of the day. That and even after going through the trouble, I myself know as what many of these mules and workhorses elect to do is thankless work. Like the traditional white knight, they will get eff-all for services rendered.
Around the internet the "white knight" is a laughing stock, seen as too stupid to realize that that their work is meaningless because there's really nothing in it for them. If one is going to be hated, shouldn't one at least receive something in return?
Please don't feed me that "knowledge that you're doing the right thing" line; you haven't been paying attention if that's the only take-away. Remember, the white knight's "damsel" is wrong in the first place; that's the whole point!
(Part 1 is pretty much giving a general explanation of the term. Part 2 will focus on the problems caused for black women who "white knight" for black men...)