I originally read the profoundly beautiful essay, “What Can the White Man Say to the Black Woman?”, by Alice Walker two years ago and it had quite an impact on me. I questioned what could the white woman say to black women? They too had a hand in committing atrocities against black people, most notably in the many white women who stood by and did nothing to challenge the racism that POC suffered under, as well as the sexualized gendered racism that millions of WOC endured at the hands of white men. In honor of Ms. Walker’s essay, I wrote my own on what can the white woman say to the black woman.


For 400 years she stood by and watched black women, men and children be sold on the auction block;

She stood by and watched the children of rape, the slave master’s children, torn from the arms of crying mothers;

Mothers who loved the child who were forced onto them; the innocent children who would be damned to a life of slavery because the white slave father decreed it so.

What can the white woman say to the black woman?

When she stood by and watched black women work in the fields doing the work that was the domain of men;

When she stood by and looked on as black women labored under the burning sun in the cotton fields, in the master’s kitchen, in the rice fields, chopping cotton, hoeing lands, plowing behind mule teams.

When she stood by and watched the constant pillaging of black women’s honor, heard the painful screams and cries of black women and girls who were raped by the white slave master, the white son, the white overseer, the many white men who visited the plantation, who used black women and girls like so many sexual outhouses, like so many sexual toilets.

What can the white woman say to the black woman?

What can she say to the Native American sisters of black women, native women who saw their land taken from them, little, by little, by greedy Europeans who cared nothing for the values and love of the land that the native peoples had; the reverence for the non-ownership of the land, a reverence that Europeans disrespected and denigrated by cheating and stealing the land from the native peoples until there was nothing left, save reservations onto which the whites crowded the original peoples who walked this land in the millions, and only now, number in the thousands;

What can the white woman say to the black woman?

When all the world over, culture, after culture, fell prey to the rapacious onslaughts of white domination: Africa, Asia, Central America, Mexico, South America, the Carribbean, Australia, Polynesia.

The Pequot.

The Cheyenne.

The Nez Perce.

The Zuni.

The Zulu.

The Matebele.

The Khoisan.

The Humong.

The Aboriginals.

Cultures that had thrived for thousands of years only to be destroyed in a generation by the enslavement of the indigenous peoples, peoples who had no protection against the Maxim, the scourge of measles, smallpox, mumps.

People whose languages were stripped from them.

The Fulani, the Ibo, the Yoruba, the Mandinka as they were herded onto slave ships through the cruel Door of No Return on Goree Island and at Elmina Castle. Whole races of people who could only look back in sorrow on the only world they had ever known, a world they would never see ever again, as they were hearded into the belly of the slave ship into a living nightmare;

A nightmare of being transported through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade on slave ships where for every one slave who made it through the voyage, one living human being also died; where male slaves were packed below deck,”spoon-fashion” so as to allow maximum space for numbers of humans to waste away in their own feces, vomit, and flux, which killed so many on this 3 month voyage; where above decks the defenseless black women and girls were subjected to the most gross sexual abombinations and perversions imaginable; where the sick and dying were tossed overboard, while still alive, to the jaws of the hungry sharks, sharks who learned to follow the trail the slave ship left in its wake, the trail and stench of death.

What can the white woman say to the black woman when even at the end of slavery, when white men continued to rape and impregnate black women and girls, she stood by and did not speak up in their defense, where she allowed the mass spectacle of lynching to take the many lives of innocent black men, women and children, human beings whose flesh was charred and smoldered to remains that were passed around after lynchings as souvenirs?

Lynchings she attended with glee and joy, as she and the rabid mob consumed foods she had prepared for the festivaties of brutal carnage, foods to be eaten as if at some pincic, some party, some carnival of death?

What can the white woman say to the black woman?

When she has been spared the degradation that so many native women, black women, Asian women, Latina women suffered, because she was put upon the pedestal of white purity by the white man, so that he could pursue his most base desires in the rape and debasement of so many women of color?

What can the white woman say to the black woman?

Here is what the white woman can say to the black woman.

She can say I stood by for so long and watched the untold suffering of so many non-white people go unabated, century after century.

She can say I stayed silent, when I should have spoken up more often.

She can say I should have helped more than I hindered, I should have stood firm against anything that was told to me about my supposed frailty, fragility, and virtue, qualities that ALL women had, that all women had a right to have had acknowledged, and that I was not the only woman in the world who lived and walked this Earth, as there were other women who cried, who bled, who hungered, who thirsted, who lived, who died, just as I could.

Women who had just as much a right to BE in this world just as I had.

She can say I will now, finally, learn to follow, and stop belittling the accomplishments, the capabilities, the desires, the needs, the life experiences of women of color, because they too, have a story to be told, they too have validity and value in this world.

She can say that she never was in a position to be a leader, that she never had the right to have self-appointed herself as the final arbiter of what is and isn’t feminism, classism, or racism, that her’s was NOT the final voice on all things and issues that affected women and men of color.

She can say that when she was leading, she should have been following, where she could have put a stop to much of the cruelties of genocide, hatred, and decimation of native peoples the world over, she instead, stood by in silence and watched the world go down in madness from the legacy of slavery, imperialism, colonialism and destruction of all people and cultures non-white.

She can say I ask for forgiveness for all my indifference in the horror of all that non-white peoples have suffered in this world at not only the white man’s hands, but, also at my hands;

She can say I will work to free your people from the stultifying crippling effects of pollution let loose in your neighborhoods by way of dead animal incinerator plants, sewage treatment plants, and waste factories.

She can say that she will open wide the free access of education to all children; better health care for all citizens;

She will work hand-in-hand, with women of color to lower high infant mortality rates, rampant drug abuse, short life spans, inadequate sub-standard housing.

She will say that she will no longer be an impediment, an obstacle, a barrier to the fulfillment of more healthier lives of the children of women of color. She will accept that she should do for the childen of women of color that which she so easliy and freely does for her children, by looking at the children of women of color as a joy and not as a threat.

She will say that she will finally truly be a true sister to her darker sisters of color, by agreeing to listen to them and learn what she can from their wisdom, that she will cease trying to be the leader she never was, for she never understood where she was going.

She can say I will be content to sit, IN SILENCE, for 250 years, and meditate on this.

This is what the white woman can say to the black woman.


by ANN


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  1. januaries

    At first I was surprised that this post got no comments, but as I read and reread it, I was seriously wondering whether there could be anything like a reply to your powerful words.

    It is true, all that you say, undeniably, beyond a shadow of doubt. And I don’t want to write “however,” because it seems inappropriate to me to try and introduce any kind of qualification… Let me just say that your post made me think about how space was divided throughout the centuries, in what ways places and spaces, and also knowledge was made available, where we sit within the historical chain, where we sit within the chain of awareness and responsibility, and how curious and fluid a concept whiteness is.

    Because whiteness has so long been the unwritten category, white people have either felt comfortable and neutral or sought definitions via other factors. And they’ve been very good at inventing categories and color scales: it’s incredible how in terms of privilege you could become “less white,” if you lived in the wrong place, spoke the wrong language, whatever.

    My thought here is that it’s difficult for a white person that is “not-so-western” and from among those whites who have historically and etymologically been slaves in many periods to enter your discussion and place him/herself within it.

    I don’t quite know how much a difference it makes if you’re a US white or a European white, specifically a European from a country that had never invaded and colonized any place in Africa. But then, your country might have had some futile desires of colonizing it, no? Or it might — and probably had — have subjugated other peoples, geographically more accessible and considered inferior by unimaginatively stupid criteria. If my ancestors weren’t aware of the true dimension of black suffering in the States, South America, and the Caribbean (just think of the journalism that was accessible to them; objectivity? Let’s not joke.), were they by any chance “morally superior” to those who took part in the oppression? Of course not, but with this sense of a slightly difference between them as “those who might have done” and “those who did,” how do I place them and then myself?

    No “but’s” to what you’re saying. I don’t want to give the impression that I wish to reduce the gravity of the atrocities. I just don’t quite know how to map the space of oppression.

    For a long time I naively strived to believe that women fostered a greater sensitivity towards fellow human beings, but that, obviously, is not true. Yes, white women did all the things you wrote about and I will not try to sneak in a “but.” Even white feminists, of whom I really wanted to conceive as wise and insightful, they too only shifted their blinders so that they could see the road they wanted to see.

    What I would like to ask for is a reformulation of your initial question: What can the white woman say to the Black woman?Nothing, because the position is wrong in itself. I would rather want to ask — and be curious and hopeful about the answer — how the white woman can come into a dialog with the black woman, a genuine dialog, where listening, asking questions, and learning are the essential components. Your answer will be a good starting point for me. I might never say anything to you, but I hope we can talk.

  2. Pingback: Question 1: Who Can Be a Black Feminist? « Scribblings with Green Chalk

  3. Ann


    “I would rather want to ask — and be curious and hopeful about the answer — how the white woman can come into a dialog with the black woman, a genuine dialog, where listening, asking questions, and learning are the essential components. Your answer will be a good starting point for me. I might never say anything to you, but I hope we can talk.”

    White women will first have to ownup to THEIR history of complicity of racial hatred with the white man, against black women.

    Learning the TRUE history of feminism in this country would definately be a start. Feminism for black women meant the humane treatment and acceptance of people’s differences that black women espoused in their resistance against virulent racial and sexual destruction meted out to black women during slavery, reconstruction and segregation.

    Black women’s lives have been a struggle of resistance against all that has sought our destruction.

    White women’s learning and understanding of the major impact black women have made on the history of America would help.

    White women turning away from the hated lies of black women being regarded as less than human, of the constant devaluation of black women, the lies that black women never have been women, and never can be women, because the white man decreed it so since 1619—-for more white women to speak out against this sexualized gendered racism would certainly help.

    In the end, the meta-narrative would be for white women to relinquish their strangling hold on being the supposed “epitome of true womanhood”.

    Many white women envy the beauty, the grace, the endurance of black women—but, want nothing of the life history it took for black women to get to that—-everything but the burden.

    Until white women cease to lord their “whiteness” over black women, count on not much improving the relationship between black women and white women.

    I suggest workshops where black women and white women come together from various backgrounds, speak to each other and truly listen to what each other have to say. Yes, there will be much anger in the beginning—and can you blame black women if they do not react so sweetly and humbly with white women? White women will have to sit and listen; sit and hear what black women tell them; and maybe their feelings will get hurt, but, hell, black women have had to live with a hell of a lot worse for all of these 400 years of depraved racial/sexual abuse that has sought to destroy us and the black citizens of this country.

    And we still do have much to live with.

    White women will have to accept the facts that they STILL benefit from the continued degradation of black women. In order for one to be on top, one must be on the bottom. Until white women are ready to relinquish the worship of all men who lust after them not because they are smart, intelligent, loving and kind—but, only because they have white skin—-not much chance on there being any kind of meaningful dialog between white women and black women.

    Until white women are ready to come down off of that pedestal the white man put them upon, while he ran off to rape, torture, beat to death, tear to pieces, and ground into the ground millions of black women and girls, figure on the wide chasm between black women and white women never closing, but, instead remaining as an enormous gulf between the two groups of women.

    For more on my views on how white men have screwed up relationships beween white women and black women, read my post here:


    There is much that white women have to own up to and accept in their hand in America’s racist history against black women and girls.

    It starts in the homes of white women: how they raise their children, how they accept and accord humanity to their fellow black sisters, and how much white privilege, whiteness and protection of American society (at the expense of black women) that white women are willing to confront, and dismantle, before white women can truly become “sisters” in the spirit and in solidarity with black women.


  5. Ray

    Lots of time and energy spent on a grievance piece. Why worry about what the the white woman can say, do or think.? Why not spend the effort devising a way for black people to save themselves, instead of rehashing 300 years of pain from one persons perspective, like this laundry list of injustices speaks for “black people.” How about this for a title, “What can black people say to each other” — stay out of jail, finish high school, read something, entertain aspirations other than being a pro athlete or entertainer (or criminal if that doesn’t work out), raise your kids, save some money? I hope Obama wins, then black people will have no more excuses or symbolic questions for white people.

  6. Ann

    Many Black people do stay out of jail, finish school, and lead productive lives. There are many people, individuals and organizations in the Black community that address education and employment. YOU pass by many of these Black people everyday.

    As for this statement:

    “I hope Obama wins, then black people will have no more excuses or symbolic questions for white people.”

    Whatever happens after November 4, 2008, there will still be racism that Black people will face.

    There have always been racist Whites against Black people; during Reconstruction and segregation, when many Black people sought a better way of life.

    And those types of White people still exist, nor will they go away with the election of Obama.

  7. Mike

    No white person regardless of sex born after the 60’s has any guilt to bear.

    And as a European I feel none.

  8. Ann

    It is not about guilt.

    You can keep your guilt. I certainly do not want it. Guilt has never helped anyone, especially the wronged party, in this case, Black people. Your guilt keeps YOU stuck in a mired stance that helps no one, not even yourself. Your ACTIONS to combat white supremacy is what this country so desparately needs.

    Speaking for myself, I do not want your guilt. Your guilt will never change the wrongs done by Whites against Blacks.

    Your guilt will never rectify the racial profiling, the continued redlining, the vicious racist stereotypes, against Black citizens.

    What I want from White people is to be treated as a human being.

    What I want from White men (and women) is to have my womanhood validated and respected.

    What I want. . . .

    . . . .will never happen in my lifetime, for millions of Black citizens of this country.

    But, still I rise.

    As for your being a European. . . .

    . . . .I am an AMERICAN CITIZEN, and proud of all that my people have contributed to this country.

  9. Shani

    The essay should have been titled: What can white man and woman say to the black woman?
    White women were just as guilty and evil as the white men who committed those atrocities. They actually benefitted from it. Being women, you would think that they would have been more sympathetic to the plight of black women back then, but they weren’t.
    As a matter of fact, white women shouldn’t have anything to say to black woman. Keep quiet.

  10. Jules

    I read words like frailty, fragility, and virtue, qualities that ALL women had in this article and I find this funny. They say behind every good man is a good woman – if you reverse that sentence or replace the “good” with “bad” then you will understand my point.

    A woman makes a home and bring up a good/bad family – I personally blame most of the atrocities created by white people through history on white women not the white men – where were their mothers, sisters and aunties when they were doing what they were doing? Surely most men fear their mothers than any other authorities…therefore they are more likely to display the values which their mothers possess and teaches them.

    Even till today, white women are the most arrogant, self-centred, and ignorant of all the other races when it comes to human dignity. My last comment is based on several articles I have read about white/black beauty and inter-relationships.

  11. May

    I cried when i read your powerful words, never have i ever heard my deepest thoughts written down so movingly. Thank you for powerfully protraying what I’m sure millions of black women secretly feel yet, we have no one to turn to to listen to our plight. All we’ve ever wanted is to be treated as equals. In a supposedly civilized world, don’t these people see how they continue to benefit at the expense of people whose toes, for generations and generations they have literally and figuratively stepped on??

  12. Nubian Queen

    Thank you my sista. White women cant say anything to us. They should feel ashamed for what they did.

  13. Marte

    I am a white woman, with two black children, and under no circumstance would I wish upon them or any other woman in this world the pain and suffering that many women have gone through over the years. However, I am a little provoced but your quiestion. What can white woman say to black women…is it really your opinion that white women today are to be held responsible for what white women did 50, 100 or 150 years ago? Does that mean that germans today should be held responsible for what Hitler did in world war two? Or should All the father`s who take good care of their children m´be held responsible for the ones that don`t? It is sad and pathetic that we in this day and age still have racism and un-equal rights for a lot of people, but I don`t think phrasing questions like the one you phrase helps any either! It helps create, or sustain this always gaping hole between races. Shouldn`t women stick together? Black or white. Many women, not only black, have been surpressed over the years. It is time that it`s women together against unjustice, not black against white.

  14. dellmedion

    After reading this piece, all I can say is those white men who committed these crimes against humanity are in hell. Those who suffered at the hands (or penises) of those white men are in heaven. May God be with those who suffer the most.
    It was a sad read. It maked me feel bad as a male. Boys and men need to be taught the power of their penises and the consequences of rape and maybe males can stop rape.

  15. dellmedion

    It should be noted that Whites exterminated the native Tasmanians and to this date there is no full-blooded native Tasmanian left. I read in a book years ago the British calmly stated the last full-blooded native Tasmanian died in 1876. It was so cold when I read it.

    So not only Africans transported to the Americas sufffered atrocities and mass rape from white males.
    But what can you do? It happened. All you can do is to continue to fight racism and make this nation and the world a better place. Take pride that because of the Black American struggles, there is a thing of human rights that was born out of the sufferings of African Americans. Black Americans should be proud of that and their stories and struggles are things to be proud of and have contributed greatly to the world. Black Americans have made Whites a better people because God knows they were cruel in the old days as your dissertation states (I just added what Whites did to the native Tasmanians and even Aborigines of Australia and the Blacks of South Africa — even creating a Coloured caste there).

    A lot of White people went to hell I must say.
    God has the last say on judgment day and He will judge those people on how they treated other people. Just be assured of that.

  16. chidoka

    what can the white woman say to the black woman? nothing.nothing really.As the saying goes, “too much water has passed under the bridge”. she can do something though,not turn her face any time and anywhere there is discrimination against people of color.Her ancestors kept quiet and watched while all the wrongs were been committed. she at least can speak out and say no today.she cannot afford to be silent anymore.She has been silent for so long.

  17. Milly

    Strong and powerful words, indeed.

    What can the white woman say to the black woman?……………let’s hear what you white women readers have to say to black women…..today…..in the year 2014?

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