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. rejoysfull December 30, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    Looks like Leigh Anne can’t do anything right. I think I’ll follow her on Twitter. God less you Leigh Anne!

  2. shespiels December 30, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    http://wp.me/p5ue5h-Z <<you'll be happy you clicked!!

  3. reciprocitylaws December 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Reblogged this on L'horreur islamique and commented:
    Je sens que c’est du lourd…je la garde pour le nouvel an…peut être il faudrait la faire venir à joué-les-Tours non ?

  4. marienabors December 30, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    It does need to be recognized that her intention was to prove her friend’s assumption, about them being up to no good, wrong. She accomplished that, for sure. All that she gave does portray them as less fortunate. Her publicizing this “good deed” is definitely an attempt to make herself look like a hero in the public spector. However, if nothing else, give her the credit for proving her friend wrong.

    • wheatfreesandy January 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

      Exactly what in the pic she posted indicates that anyone, especially her, would consider the boys “less fortunate.” Don’t you think that’s possibly a totally incorrect assumption on your part–as well as the part of so many others assuming the same here?? Nothing in that pic denotes that the boys are poor or ‘less fortunate’–Nothing! If they felt she was insulting them with her offer (which they did not, according to THEIR own words) the one with the job could’ve just said: “No Thanks, I have a job and can pay my own way as well as for my friend, here–in fact, we were just discussing if he wanted me to pay for him or not. But thanks anyway!” Instead they took the cash from the super-nice lady (who, they considered a celebrity, of sorts) and, politely, thanked her for it and were honored and excited to get a pic taken with the woman they, at that point, knew was the person behind the movie one of them really liked (their own words). Now everyone is blowing this entire happening out of proportion and is bent on making these two kids and everyone else think the worst of this woman. Go Figure!!

      • Shella Fronzaglio June 9, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

        Thank you! I try to look at both sides of things AND try to look for the good in people. I would like to think that at the very least, she meant well & since what the guys that were there said support that & since I wasn’t there & neither was anybody else posting, I am choosing to believe the best instead of the worst,

  5. iceturtlegirl December 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Life & Times of Ice.

  6. Dating Ann December 30, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

    This disgusts me

  7. bipolardaisy December 31, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Reblogged this on Bipolar Daisy.

  8. Dear Darkness January 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    Yeah somehow I’m not surprised. I refuse to watch those movies where a white person does such great things for minorities. I also seem to notice it’s almost always black people they are kind enough to help. The whole entire movies to me are basically saying look this person was white and they didn’t screw over a person of color. Yay for them. There is a lot more other stuff that bothers me. I just find those types of stories insulting. You should not get praise for being a decent human being.

  9. bloglady January 3, 2015 at 1:02 am #

    She wants to be seen as a hero.. Save the black males.. This is a form of pride otherwise there would have been no picture…mixed motives

  10. reallyrachel January 4, 2015 at 1:20 am #

    oh thee irony in solidified truth O__o

  11. vlolil January 4, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    Reblogged this on DrVLoLil and commented:
    We see things through our own lens. This is an unfortunate circumstance all the way around. Her only error may have been her effort to create a narrative to accompany the picture.

  12. vlolil January 4, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Her only error may have been her attempt to create a narrative to accompany the photo.

    Reblogged and commented at DrVLoLil

  13. annkelley14 January 4, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    Reblogged this on Ann'sRazzJazz.

  14. caishkova January 4, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    Based on psychoanalytics I would presume they are really good young men, at a glance i noticed: 1. One of the young men is wearing his cross quite proudly, symbolic for religious beliefs – so virtuous men (they associate with those they have common interests in, 2. They look respectable, their apparel appropriate and clean 3. They seem happy, listening to music, talking, using their initiative to charge their phone. They are active teens who needed money – but hey —>. Who doesnt!

  15. hopeforabetter January 4, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    Thank you for this post!!!!!!

  16. msadubb January 5, 2015 at 2:05 am #

    Wow…I agree. You make some really good points and the fact that she just used these teenagers to make herself look like a saving grace is just unbelievable.

  17. capricornusdream January 5, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    Reblogged this on capricornusdream's Blog and commented:
    Amazing how people use others to make themselves feel better.

  18. afrolikes January 6, 2015 at 7:09 am #

    Reblogged this on fashion,life,randomness and good moods and commented:
    I couldn’t agree more.

  19. tessytwoshoes January 6, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    What an idiot this woman is. I haven’t seen the blind side, I don’t know who she is but my goodness – I would be embarrassed if I were her. I would also be employing someone to ensure her closet racist remarks didn’t make it onto social media. If I were the boys I would consider an action in defamation.

    • sepiaroses January 10, 2015 at 2:16 am #

      Haven’t seen “The Blind Side” movie either but I remember how everybody was talking about it a few years ago…there was something about it that just didn’t interest me although I like Sandra Bullock as an actress.

      I think what Tuohy did wouldn’t have been so bad if only she hadn’t posted those boys’ pics without permission…that’s really the major thing everyone is taking issue with, not necessarily giving them the money. It’s the whole public exposure bit.

    • Shella Fronzaglio June 9, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

      You don’t know anything about her & yet you’ll judge. But then most of you already have her convicted because she’s white & old whitey can never do anything without racial malace!

      I coach a cheer squad that was going to be cancelled if someone didn’t step up & it was going to disappoint a lot of girls that had signed up, I was there every day, no matter how I felt or what else I had on my plate, but I guess I have a white saviour complex (check out the spelling of “saviour” since all I did was copy paste too) & then if I fussed at a black girl it was never because she wasn’t paying attention or being disrespectful, it was because I’m racist. But oh let one of those girls not paying attention get hurt & guess who was blamed. I wasn’t allowed to keep girls who hadn’t paid attention from tumbling & stunting even for their own safety, In fairness, I must mention I did have my biggest offender stop me in the store & tell me that she was sorry for being such a brat (her word) & thanking me for not giving up on her. I just grinned & told her that she was a kid & us adults are supposed to understand that & not give up, but that I’m glad she’s pulled it together.

      • scater June 17, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

        I find it highly ironic that you condemn generalizing in your comment, and yet you do the same with your “most of you” statement. Smh.

  20. dcomeaux January 6, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Reblogged this on awriterfirst and commented:
    I find this entire episode very interesting and thought-provoking.

  21. Alby Rowe January 6, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    This is a great piece. I hate seeing things like this.

  22. Brother Dave January 7, 2015 at 4:44 am #

    White, black, brown is not the issue…..they are teenagers! As a father of 4 children, a former live-in halfway house counselor, nurse and pastor…my suspicions are always aroused by huddling and idleness.

    Nothing to get all up about; her friend did not infer that the teens were up to “no good” because of their race. Move on.

    After working with teens (12-18) from every socioeconomic and cultural background…you had better believe that I wanted to know what was going on when conversations were spoken in guarded or hushed tones. It was my calling to protect them from engaging in behaviors that could be harmful and to offer my experiences to help them in making good choices; choices that would lead to becoming productive members of society.

    • tinyboss January 10, 2015 at 1:04 am #

      Did you then take a selfie, write a “sermon”, and post it all to Facebook?

    • Trace February 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

      What is the proper volume a teenager should use when speaking in a restaurant to avoid suspicion and to not be seen as speaking “guarded and hushed”? Is there an APP that can be used to determine if one’s volume is sufficient enough to avoid judgement? I would have naturally assumed they were just being polite. Now, I feel so naive.

    • Lisa Wilder April 5, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

      Thank you for your comments. I too have worked with teens my entire adult life. You made very valid points about “speaking in hushed tones, etc…” Usually when this is happening I also wonder what is going on and if I need to check out the situation. Race has no bearing on my behavior whatsoever. I do believe the photo was a little over the top in the case of Leigh Ann Touhy and the two boys.

      • Brother Dave June 8, 2015 at 7:10 am #

        The young men could have refused her request for the photo op.
        Thank you for your understanding and views.
        This post has nothing to do with race, but there will always be those who will attempt to make every issue such.

    • Ellis Marcelle June 2, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

      Brother Dave: If you walk up to my brother, son, cousin, friend or a child I mentor, randomly, and ask them any questions, I will make sure you are charged with harassment, and depending on where you attempt to take the conversation, we may take gestures to have you declared a sex offender… being a father, former live-in halfway house counselor, nurse or pastor DOES NOT give you the right to approach teens or children unsuspectingly and interrogate them, because of your pre-conceived biases and prejudices, FOOL!!!

      • Brother Dave June 8, 2015 at 7:05 am #

        Wow! I am glad I do not harbor such paranoia. Yikes! By your reasoning we should all just go about our activities of daily living in a protective box. How sad is that?

        Certainly, I will know you if we meet on the street, because I will say “Good afternoon sir, nice weather we are having,” and you will be dialing 911.

        As a halfway house counselor it was my job to utilize my discernment; discernment that comes from God, parenting and personal experiences. Many were the times that I would simply ask the residents, “What’s up guys?” after observing them huddled together in a group. And because I had gained their trust, they would often respond with sharing their problems; problems in school, relationships or with other residents. There was no interrogation.

        You call that foolish? (Thanks for the kind words). I call it being wise.

        And now you can call the government to protect your Socialist views.

      • Shella Fronzaglio June 9, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

        Gestures or measures? Paranoid much? Sex offender? For talking to a kid? WOW your definition of sex is even worse than Clinton’s!! But then Brotheer Dave appears to be white in his photo. Thank you for confirming my point!

    • Shella Fronzaglio June 8, 2015 at 2:24 am #

      I agree about teens. Adults owe it to them to keep an eye out & try to help them make the right choices. Folks never even consider the possibility that maybe she is trying to shed light on the whole racial situation while pointing out that people shouldn’t judge (which is EXACTLY what many of you are doing!). I find it funny, in a not funny at all way that when Sharpton is doing his race baiting, folks want to get behind him with their fists raised in something that reminds me in an unnerving way of the nazis – or the KKK. BOTH sides MUST be willing to work on this & STOP with looking at everyone with suspicion as not everyone has an agenda! If we don’t, it’s never oing to end!! Had this been a black person, it would have been blacks helping other blacks in their community (yeay!), but let a white person try to do something nice & they have an ulterior motive like a white saviour complex. & maybe the bus fair was for on the way home from the game. I don’t know & yet many of you seem to know (that whole judging thing)… Also, neither boy looked like he had a gun to his head in the photo. A simple “No thank you” could have been said to both the money & the photo. Nobody made them take it!

      • Shella Fronzaglio June 8, 2015 at 2:43 am #

        Oh, & just one other thing tor the people wanting to paint the Tuohys as racist: Sean Tuohy picked up a HUGE black man late at night in the south for no other reason than because it was cold & raining!

  23. Nadira S. Al-Ziyah Bey January 7, 2015 at 5:01 am #

    Reblogged this on Nadira's Locs and commented:
    Speaks for itself. Peace, love and all that jazz.

    Naddie ❤

  24. vandamonium January 7, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Reblogged this on Vandamonium’s Weblog.

  25. chisbingred January 7, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    Reblogged this on Words about some interesting things & some not. and commented:
    An interesting read. Not slamming her intentions at all because she seems to have her heart in the right place but profiling to “make a difference” isn’t right either. Everyone (even myself in some instances) just needs to accept that we often pre-judge people of every colour, gender, religion, sexuality etc just because of what we get fed constantly from the media and such but at the same time we should try earnestly not to do that and just BE NORMAL. Yes we may get burnt sometimes but that’s just life. We may also end up quashing well-known preconceptions.

  26. Jane Doe January 7, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    What a bizarre thing to have done, and just wondering if Ms. Tuohey has responded to comments that her actions are racist? I don’t know of anyone, white or black, who would insert themselves into someone else’s conversation in such a way. Is she just an awful busybody, or a racist busybody? Or both?

    • sepiaroses January 10, 2015 at 2:42 am #

      Who knows, really…I don’t personally like calling people I don’t know “racist”. But it’s undeniable that the incident seemed to have some kind of racial undercurrent….and like you said, quite bizarre.

  27. enhancedvibes January 7, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    I completely agree with the assessment of this incident and several of the comments, but want to add something I have not seen anyone comment on. Try all not to hate me.

    Tuohy owns that restaurant. Details are not clear but if teens are just lingering in her place without having ordered any food (again, details not clear), as far as I am concerned, the manager and/or the owner has a right to ask them what’s up. The fact that these teens are black, coupled with how she did it and everything else that came thereafter, was completely disgusting and inappropriate and clearly opportunistic and racially motivated in whatever subconscious backhanded way it was.

    While people keep commenting the teens were in public, let us not forget they were on private property. Restaurants reserve the right to eject people for a variety of reasons. The way Tuohy explained the incident as to why she approached the teens is what makes it unsavory and oh so wrong.

    • tinyboss January 10, 2015 at 1:08 am #

      I agree that it is entirely appropriate for business owners to ask loitering non-customers *to leave* (as you point out, we don’t know whether that describes this case).

      However, it’s not appropriate for her to interrogate them, wielding her ownership of the place as some kind of authority to compel them to “spill” what they’re up to. That’s not her business, not as owner or in any other capacity.

      • sepiaroses January 10, 2015 at 2:30 am #

        Very good points!

      • Katherine White March 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

        I think she’s just a bit of a busy-body mom-type. I think she very well could have done the same thing to 2 white boys huddled together. I also think she probably likes being the center of attention, and maybe this will cure some of that. Because it was tacky.

      • Shella Fronzaglio June 9, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

        If they didn’t want to answer her, take her money or take the photo, they could have walked out! just saying

  28. Courtney McKinney January 7, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Curious American and commented:
    It’s not always about explicit hatred

    • sepiaroses January 10, 2015 at 2:38 am #

      “It’s not always about explicit hatred” Yeah, I agree Courtney. Very true. It’s also about (what are described) as the ‘micro-agressions’. It’s something a whole lot of African-Americans and other minorities tend to experience in so many social/business interactions because of harmful preconceived notions about them. A good book on the topic is Lena Williams’ “It’s the Little Things: Everyday Interactions That Anger, Annoy, and Divide the Races”. It was written thirteen years ago but what the author wrote about really does still apply…

  29. Occam January 8, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    @ sepiaroses: speaking of clichés – you are the biggest one of all. And calling yourself an artist and/or poet — you mean, you’re a misunderstood, chip-toting, angry, overblown, egotistical, keyboard-only, opinionated, ignorant, undereducated, misogynistic, racist, self-absorbed, underemployed, legend in your own mind. Keep taking the Prozac and add some Xanax. Ad hominem enough?

    • sepiaroses January 10, 2015 at 2:12 am #

      Okie-dokie. Hope you feel better getting that out of your system.

      Have a nice weekend! 🙂

      • sepiaroses January 10, 2015 at 2:17 am #

        LOL!

  30. Teatime with the Dragonfly January 9, 2015 at 4:00 am #

    Did you have permission from the teens or their parents to phot their photo on the internet?

  31. BlondeAmbition January 10, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    I agree. Her entire rationale and thought process is totally sketch.

  32. balletandboxing January 11, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    I’m afraid that when I first read your post, I thought you were over-analyzing. Then, I read your follow-up post, and I realized just how badly I had gotten it all wrong. Thank you.

    I realize you are way past the stage of WordPress’s “Very Inspiring Blogger” Awards, but I’ve nominated you anyhow, because you have most definitely inspired me. I look forward to your 2015 posts.

    • sepiaroses January 11, 2015 at 4:09 am #

      I agree. This is a very well-written & thought-provoking piece…I’m definitely a fan of this blog, now.

  33. astera1 January 12, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    Reblogged this on Stew-of-feelings.

  34. Mrs D January 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Reblogged this on ~Welcome To My World~.

  35. Mrs D January 13, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    SMH… I’m just speechless at how hypocritical Ms. Tuohy was.

  36. thilophian January 14, 2015 at 12:48 am #

    racism is an evil like religious fundamentalism- man without skin has only one colour-red

  37. mistercarpenter January 21, 2015 at 4:18 am #

    I tip my hat to you. Well said!

  38. beasleygreen January 22, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    Damn, you should be a lawyer. You stripped that scenario bare. Great post mate.

  39. Paladin Justice January 24, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    Reblogged this on saboteur365.

  40. Paul H. Lemmen January 24, 2015 at 2:19 am #

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

  41. NinjaStroke January 24, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    Reblogged this on My Life, My Wahala and My Interests. Keyword: 'My'..

  42. lovebernieee97 January 24, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on lovebernieee.

  43. vermillionhorses January 25, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    Did they buy anything from this store they were sitting at charging their phones? If not, her reasoning; “It’s my store.” is valid. What followed was uncalled for but is is her store. If they did buy something. … well she took advantage of them.

  44. jmillz888 February 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on Make Your Own Peace and commented:
    Uggh, the “I can’t be racist, becuase xyz people.”

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