Leigh Anne Tuohy, Racism, and the White Saviour Complex

15 Dec

Leigh Anne “That Nice Woman Sandra Bullock Played In The Blind Side” Tuohy recently posted the following picture and caption on her Facebook and Instagram accounts:

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We see what we want! It’s the gospel truth! These two were literally huddled over in a corner table nose to nose and the person with me said “I bet they are up to no good” well you know me… I walked over, told them to scoot over. After 10 seconds of dead silence I said so whats happening at this table? I get nothing.. I then explained it was my store and they should spill it… They showed me their phones and they were texting friends trying to scrape up $3.00 each for the high school basketball game! Well they left with smiles, money for popcorn and bus fare. We have to STOP judging people and assuming and pigeon holing people! Don’t judge a book by its cover or however you’d like to express the sentiment! Accept others and stoping seeing what you want to see!!!

The comments on both posts are full of people praising her – telling her how awesome she is, how open-minded, how kind. Reading these responses is completely baffling – like, did these people and I all read the same words?

Let’s break down what happened here:

1. Two teenagers were sitting alone and completely minding their own business.

2. A white woman decides that based on the fact that they are “huddled” in corner “nose to nose,” they must be “up to no good.” Because obviously whenever Black people (especially Black men) gather in public, it’s bad news for the rest of us!

3. Another white woman, one Leigh Anne “I Adopted A Black Boy So I Can’t Possibly Be Racist” Tuohy, decides that White Lady #1 is wrong. Which is actually the correct assumption for Ms. Tuohy to make, so I guess this is where some people are getting confused because we see that her intent is good, and that makes us want to believe that the action that follows will also be good. She’s at a crossroad here – two roads diverged, etc. Had she taken the road less travelled, Ms. Tuohy might have said to her friend, “Wow, you’re being really racist right now! I’m not comfortable with how this conversation is going.” Instead, she decided to confront the teenagers who, as a reminder, have done absolutely nothing wrong.

4. Leigh Anne Tuohy walks over to the two boys and sits there in silence. I’m sure that wasn’t scary for two Black teenagers at all, especially given recent events.

5. After what was certainly the most awkward ten seconds of those boys’ lives, Ms. Tuohy asks what’s “happening” at the table. Like, other than two teenagers sitting there talking like anyone sitting at a table might do? Some kids are hanging out and chatting. That is what’s happening.

Unsure of the correct answer to this question – other than “we are two friends sitting together and not causing any trouble,” which probably seemed too obvious for them to point out – the boys remain silent.

6. Leigh Anne tells them that this is her store and they need to “spill.” Again, these kids have done nothing except be in public and be Black.

7. After being interrogated by this woman, and probably afraid that at the very least she’s about the call the cops, the boys show her their phones. This part just breaks my brain, like, these two kids had to show this woman evidence that they are doing exactly what they seem to be doing: sitting at a table and having a conversation.

8. Apparently satisfied with the evidence the boys have presented her with, Leigh Anne Tuohy gives them bus fare and money for popcorn, but not before she has White Lady #1 take her picture with them.

9. Ms. Tuohy then posts this picture to social media and receives thousands of responses lauding her for being such a good person.

Leigh Anne Tuohy profiled two Black kids, invaded their privacy and interrogated them, but somehow people are behaving as if this is some kind of wonderful social justice moment. No. Not even a little. This is some fucked up racial profiling combined with white saviourism, and it is racist as hell. Assuming that those kids were doing something bad was racist. Assuming that she could take up space at their table was racist. Insisting that they talk to her was disrespectful and racist. Wanting evidence that they weren’t up to no good was racist. Treating those boys as props to make her look good and then posting this picture publicly (and honestly, I wonder if the boys consented to that) is incredibly racist.

Also, can we talk about how problematic using the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is when it comes to talking about race? First of all, it begins with the assumption that the “cover” (or in this case, skin) tells you something unappealing about the contents of the book or person. It also implies that there is something unattractive or bad about the “cover” (or, again, skin). I can’t believe that I have to say this, but: there is nothing wrong or bad about Black skin. Black skin is not unpleasant or ugly, and to imply that dark skin might devalue someone is really, really fucked up.

Black people aren’t things. They don’t exist just so that white people can make a point about themselves. These are two real kids who not only had to endure this woman’s microaggressions but have now had their image splashed all over social media – the Facebook picture alone has 150,000 likes and over 12,000 shares. Step away for a hot second from this white woman’s narrative, and think about how those teenagers must feel – having their privacy invaded, having assumptions made about them based on their race, and now having a white woman use their images to get praise for herself.

Now tell me again about how Leigh Anne Tuohy did a good thing.

UPDATE:

One of the two teens involved has responded on Instagram (his name has been blurred out for privacy):

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Person One aka Teen Leigh Anne Tuohy approached at KFC:

Yeah people don’t know what really happened because I actually had money I have a job and have had one for over a year I was gonna pay for my brother the other guy in the picture but he was insisting on waiting on his uncle but his phone was dying so we were charging it which is the reason we were in KFC in the first place.and the game was only a 3 min walk up the street I don’t see why she said bus fare that kinda ticked me off a little but the way she worded it is making us sound less fortunate and that isn’t the case at all & when she came over to us she never mentioned her initial reason was because of her friends comment im just now finding that out

Person Two:

May I ask how she asked for the photo?

Person One:

Yeah she never actually asked for it as she was handing us the money she was like “hey you know what I think this would be a great picture” and everyone with her was yeah totally so we just kinda went along with the situation like sure why not your Michael Oher’s mom but the whole time I was thinking you know why’d she come up to us in the first place I was still clueless up until she posted the picture on social media and stated “the person with me said I bet they’re up to no good.”

970 Responses to “Leigh Anne Tuohy, Racism, and the White Saviour Complex”

  1. Searcher of the Truth February 2, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    Wow. Great point being made here. The sad thing is some people won’t get the point at all.

    • Shella Fronzaglio June 8, 2015 at 8:57 am #

      I love folks like you that think people dont get the pont bcause they disagree…

      • Warrior-Poet January 1, 2016 at 11:53 pm #

        I don’t get the pont?

  2. LiveLaughLove February 13, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

    What did she mean when she said its her store…she has a KFC restaurant now? Nd its one thing to be generous to others…but when you go on social networks to let everyone else know, clearly you weren’t being kind because you have a kind heart…you did it to SEEM kind. So many things wrong with what she did, tsk tsk.

    • Shella Fronzaglio June 9, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

      If you’re talking about Tuohy, yes, she owns 30+ KFCs & Taco Bells. Has since before they took Mike in.

  3. Jim Walls March 1, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    What writers do best:Make a mountain out of a moehill.Racial tensions in this country arent high enough.Let’s stir the pot even more.What real injustices were done here?A white woman who owns a store assumed two black youths were up to no good.She approaches them and ends up giving them money and takes a picture with them.Is she a shameless self promoter?You bet.Did she have any business asking two customers what they were up to just sitting and talking in a corner?Not a chance.But why is this now akin to hate crime or something?We should save our big guns for the real injustices.There are plenty of them.

    • Deb August 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

      It seems like you are the one making it into a molehill. No one said it was a hate crime. But this is part of the everyday racism that occurs in African Americans lives. If you get a thousand paper cuts a week, you may bleed out. This is not big but this happens a lot and they all add up. This real issue here is this white women felt an incredible amount of privilege to go and do what she did and she feels like a good person for doing it. She should not and white people need to know that when you treat black children like they are all criminal, poor, delinquents that is problematic and it may lead to the racial tensions you seem to have a problem with. We are all part of the problem and we all need to do something to stop it.

      • Moi November 3, 2016 at 9:28 pm #

        Interesting comment, seeing as the follow-up indicated the teens were a-okay with it and even excited that she was such a nice person–it wasn’t until the un-admitted, but evident, racist parent got involved that it became a big-deal. That you and so many others are making such a fuss about a simple act of kindness that included an admission from her that her initial thoughts were soooo wrong and that she learned a thing or two about pre-judging someone is beyond me. It’s not everyone who owns up to the fact their pre-judgments of people are wrong, much less does so publicly. Seems like people who try to be kind to others while owning up to their own failings are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. But thanks for the FYI–I’ll be sure to not do any acts of kindness for anyone from any race other than my own from now on–that is the message you are sending, like it or not.

      • Y'all Are Racist November 3, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

        Wow. Unbelievable! Guess what? A white old cracka at a festival really helped me out by ‘letting me win’ a stuffed Dolphin for my lil sis when I spent my last dollar trying and coming up short. It was a gracious act of kindness that I didn’t ask for. He was compassionate towards me because I hung around trying to scrape up another buck to try for the win again. He (We) took a pic after and posted it on fb and I bragged about his kindness to me in the post. I hope it increased his business at that festival because he, of all peeps, deserved it. Do I think him a ‘closet’ racist because he decided to give me a break?? Damn, people, grow up and stop being offended at everything some white folk do like it’s racially motivated. Some folks are just naturally nice.

  4. Tangled Up in Blue Guy March 1, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Reblogged this on Apex of Ludicrous and commented:
    So, why was this her business? She’s a nice lady. Such a nice lady but a bad ally.

  5. Mike@UsneakydevilU March 4, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    To treat blacks as puppies, needing to be cuddled and taken care of is racism disguised as compassion.

  6. chevalier brown April 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    Mrs.Touhy I saw the blind side for the first time yesterday and let me say if there were more individuals like you in this world it would be a much better place…n yes I am 43yr old father iraqi vet n a proud father.

  7. Shella Fronzaglio June 8, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    Taking up space at their table? You mean her table? In her place where they were using her eletricity to charge their phones? Even if they had ordered food she had the right, as the owner to ask them to leave had she wanted. She has a “mom” personality that has nothing to do with race. And the “judge a book by it’s cover” assuming there is something wrong with the cover (skn) is incorrect. If they weren’t still eating, they were loitering. which In many cases is illegal. I also find this VERY hypocritical. It’s ok to assume all whites are racist. Is that not racist? & judging a book? How about all cops are bad? I see “blogs” of this type as just wanting to stir the pot & race bait just like Sharpton does. Racists are not around every corner! Sometimes when someone tries to do something nice – even if they don’t go about it in the best way, is just someone tryng to be nice! But that can’t be because she’s white!!

  8. lisa August 5, 2015 at 5:49 am #

    Omg no matter what white people do it’s considered racist! And of course labeling all white people as racist is racist but no one cares about that. What she did was kind! The picture of course was a plea for attention tho. And y’all saying she used those boys need to understand they used her too! Agreed to the picture cause she was others momma only! And I didn’t see anything about returning the money they didn’t need or ask for. They took it! Both sides did wrong but let’s focus on what’s wrong with the white woman’s actions.
    Sounds to me how Black’s used to be treated-Nothing they did was ever good and they needed to be ostracized! Smh

  9. Haley September 12, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    I’m just curious how the writer of this article isn’t considered racist? Does it say anywhere that it was a “white lady” with her that made the first comment? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. It could have been Michael with her for all anyone knows. & yes, everything they do in HER building at HER business, is HER BUSINESS. People are so petty. Quit with the racist bullsh!t!!

  10. tptuohy October 11, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    The secret is no white person is ever going to do everything right. Here’s another secret … neither is a black person ever going to do everything right. If the shoe is on the other foot, and a famous black man (or woman) has a potential of self promotion something similar is likely to happen. It is not race that makes people self serving it is fame and the need to feel important.

    • J Hannah December 28, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

      This is bull. I’m a white woman and it’s clear as day to me why this was racist and self-serving crap hiding behind, “oh but look I’m such a sweet little white momma figure!” What was she doing invading their space when they’d done nothing wrong? What was she doing taking photos with minors to post on social media to show how she’s *such* a good person like they were props to gratify her ego and her self-image? She was being a racist egotist, that’s what.

  11. Sonya Chapman November 1, 2015 at 3:06 am #

    I don’t think Leigh is a racist so what she took pics with the kids Thats what she does she helps people. I’m sure if it was two white kids she would have did the same thing.

  12. webpage December 8, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

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  13. Crybaby whiteboy December 27, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    These kids should consider suing for unlicensed use of their image. They did not consent to having their faces plastwred over the internet with this slanderous story. Apparently these pasty white wining pigs missed that point.

  14. Tamera January 25, 2016 at 5:31 am #

    The writer of this blog missed the point. Leigh Ann wasn’t the one who judged the boys- it was the other person who said they thought the boys were up to no good. Leigh Ann just found out what was going on in her store and then did what she felt was right by offering to help. She thought they were going to miss out on the game because they lacked the necessary money, because they said they were trying to “scrape up” the money. In Leigh Ann’s mind, two boys got to go to the game because she took the time to care. They didn’t have to accept a penny from her. They could have explained they wanted to wait for someone to bring the money. The boys chose to accept the money. The boys also could have easily said that they preferred to not be in the pic. If they really didn’t need her help- then why did they take the money and use it?? She didn’t force them to take it. As far as her posting the pic- she posts a lot of pics of daily happenings. She also helps hundreds of people and never says a word about it and never posts pics about it. The lady is already very famous and extremely wealthy. She is already at a celebrity status. She doesn’t have an agenda or anything to prove. She has already given to so many people and genuinely cared and she has done more than her share of kind deeds. This was just an incident that she wanted to share with people about not being quick to judge teenagers. Leigh Ann’s point was totally missed and that’s very unfortunate. This lady is a jewel. Leigh Ann is the real deal. How many other parents knew about Michael Oher’s plight in life but chose not to help him? She chooses to help people and she gets criticized. It’s sad that people can’t just accept a kind heart when they see one.

  15. Sarah January 30, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    So someone’s not telling the truth. She says they were scraping up $. They say no they had $. Whose telling the truth?

  16. Bill February 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    You know funny thing about this is so many of you all say it wasn’t nothing wrong with it. Maybe sometimes we read into it to much. One person comment said we think all white people are racist but at the same time. You all the same people that say that you’re not racist but look at black people as low life or thugs. Sometimes we all just need to start thinking before acting or even saying! So this goes for black, white and Hispanic people we are all on the same boat! If this country can not figure out ways to find solutions to these problems. We will all sink with the boat!

    • Dd September 17, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

      Amen

  17. Sarah November 4, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    Amen!!! We can’t read read minds so let’s just assume the best in people!!

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