There is nothing, nothing like seeing a handsome, straight, cisgender, wealthy, able-bodied white man cry to remind us how horrific black people had it during the civil rights movement.
That’s right: blond-haired, blue-eyed Chris Pine is a symbol of the black blood spilled by police dogs, billy clubs and Klansmen on roads from Mississippi to Alabama. When I posted the image on Twitter, there were those who thought that Gawker was being subversive, mocking the idea that white tears have cleansing power. For the first time in six years, the Oscars ratings dipped—down to an estimated 36.6 million viewers. This makes it even more egregious that a white man’s tear has become the viral takeaway from a whitewashed award show where most black people in attendance were only there to perform and present awards to their white counterparts. For the white women who seem baffled by the backlash from black feminists against Patricia Arquette’s tone-deaf post-Oscar statement about wage equality, which amounted to a rendition of “[White] Woman Is the N–ger of the World,” see any of the links above.


Unfortunately, this is a lasting legacy of civil rights in this country: white reaction to black pain being perceived as more powerful than black reaction to it—and even more powerful than black pain itself. Kirsten West Savali is a cultural critic and senior writer for The Root, where she explores the intersections of race, gender, politics and pop culture. Research ConsortiumCollaborative of progressive, African-centered scholars, think tanks and research centers dedicated to utilizing theoretical and applied research to address issues of vital concern to people of African descent and enhance the development of Black communities. But that was the gist of the headline over at Gawker christening actor Chris Pine the “face of civil rights.” Why? His face, not that of Selma star David Oyelowo—whose face was flooded with tears that caused a visceral, reciprocal reaction in many black people watching—is mainstream media’s symbol that we have overcome. The message here being that we can dance and sing for their entertainment, but we shouldn’t expect to be acknowledged for talent not done in their service or for their amusement.


But what do media outlets—posting pieces primarily by fangirling white women—decide to focus on? This raw, fearless performance was done despite the shutout of black actors, a continuation of the grace, dignity and commitment to equality that African Americans are known for in this country. Because he shed a lone, beatific tear in response to John Legend and Common’s performing their powerful song “Glory” from the Selma soundtrack at the 87th annual Academy Awards. But in a nation steeped in the blood, bones and sinew of desecrated black bodies, where so-called allies become heroes and people of color are forced into the margins of our own stories, I have no reason to believe that this time is any different.



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