The latest episode of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Red Table Talk discusses the divide between women of color and white women. As all of the hosts of the show are Black, the discussion focused mostly on the relationship between Black women and white women.
Somewhat early in the episode, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, Jada’s mother, said that her mother told her, “You can get along with white people, just don’t bring ’em home.” I’m assuming she meant this mostly in a romantic sense, but she could have meant in any sense given the time period.
When I was young, my grandmother told me not to bring a white man to her house, romantically speaking. I wonder if she gave this same talk to her son, my uncle, who ultimately had two white wives. In case you’re wondering, my grandmother welcomed them both into our family as far as I could tell, but whether she was reluctant to do so, I have no idea.
As the episode continues, Jada says it’s on all women to fix the relationship between Black women and white women. I disagree. I think it’s on white women to fix the relationship between Black women and white women because from what I can see, they’re the ones doing most, if not all, of the harm: from vicious attacks on Twitter for simply stating that most white women voters are still voting Republican to silencing women of color who point out to them, white women, when they overlook Black women or other women of color (see Rebel Wilson’s latest Twitter debacle).
Later in the episode, Jada’s mom brings up that Black men dating white women may contribute to the fractured relationship between Black and white women. Jada responds by saying that’s not white women’s fault and she’s tired of women being blamed for the actions of men. Jada is technically correct but it’s intellectually dishonest to suggest that Black men dating white women has absolutely nothing to do with the acrimonious relationship between Black women and white women since this “choosing of white women over Black women” can reinforce the idea that Black women are difficult to deal with, ugly and without value.
Then, Anne, a white producer of the show, comes out and eventually asks Jada’s mom what she as a white woman can do to make things better. Adrienne says there’s nothing you can do, I need to do the work myself, which suggests Black women are responsible for the rift between white and Black women, which as I said, I don’t think is true. Had Anne asked me this question, I would have said, “If you’ve ever attacked a Black woman in the past for telling the truth, speaking about her experiences or making you uncomfortable by discussing race, don’t do that again. Don’t minimize her experiences either. Tell other white women not to attack Black women or minimize their experiences. If you see a white woman attacking a Black woman, step up and tell her what she’s doing is wrong and springs from white privilege.”
Finally, noteworthy anti-racism activist Jane Elliott joins the group. If you’re not familiar with her, Jane Elliott is the third-grade teacher who conducted the famous “Blue eyes-Brown eyes” exercise with her students the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I’m not sure how much was edited out of this episode, but Jane comes to the table and immediately goes on and on about how there’s only one race: the human race. While technically true, people of color experience the effects of racism every day and going on and on about how we’re all one race does little to fix poverty, the poor healthcare and poor education many people of color receive and all of the other problems people of color face because they live in a white supremacist society.
My biggest problem with this episode is it ended with the idea that Black women are as responsible for the divide between Black and white women as white women are and, again, in my experience, that’s just not true. I think Black women have very little responsibility, if any, for this divide. I also think this “we all just need to come together” narrative can be problematic. I have no problem working with white women who want to dismantle white supremacy (and patriarchy of course). But I have ZERO desire to come together with someone who wants to continue to benefit from my oppression just for the sake of unity. Because if you don’t desire to help me end the systems that contribute to my oppression, that actually isn’t unity at all, is it?