Standing up for people in need is an admirable thing for anyone to do – assuming it’s in good faith.
“White Knight” or “White Knighting” is a term that, among others, has garnered plenty of attention from people on social media over the years. However, prior to its modern meaning as many now know it, it was a term simply used to describe a heroic figure who fights against injustice and evil. A literal knight or “knight in shining armor” type of character archetype.
The “white” in the term is often in reference to purity, innocence, heroism, among other words with positive connotations. The phrase is a symbol of open mindedness and chivalrous behavior. Both of which have arguably been phased out.
The term is often used in reference to certain people on social media, in an attempt to “protect” and “stand up for” minority groups. It sounds harmless, but the lengths at which certain folks will justify putting words in the mouths of minority groups is excessive and not the best way to help said groups.
Now, I understand it comes from a place of wanting to do a good thing. People want to be liked. It’s completely normal. People want to help other people. That’s completely normal. But the intent of an action becomes null and void when the action is to the detriment or pity of others. At least, that’s what I figure.
The idea to take to social media and shoot down things deemed as “problematic” against certain minority groups, under the assumption that those groups are offended paints the picture that said groups can’t speak up for themselves.
There are multiple examples of folks who have taken offense to things on behalf of groups they’re not included in. It is a sort of “2nd Hand Outrage” in a way.
Let’s picture a scenario to make this make sense. Envision you’re scrolling through X or Instagram, and you see some artwork of a non-White character. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Now, what if the artist of that work made that character’s skin lighter than usual? Would that be an invitation to harass the artist on behalf of all non-White people?
Let’s look at a character like Speedy Gonzales from Looney Tunes. A character known for being a kind, super-fast little mouse guy – and a Mexican stereotype complete with a stereotypical Mexican cartoon accent and sombrero. The character has been dragged through the trenches of social media controversy because lots of non-Mexican people have been offended on behalf of Mexican people. It is best to encourage people to speak up against things that bother them, instead of putting words in their mouths and speaking for them.
To me, white knighting, at least now, is the act of talking for groups of people, not to come to their aid, but to be perceived as a good person on the outside and look better standing up for those who apparently can’t stand up for themselves.
It’s admirable to want to stand up for those in need, assuming it’s in good faith. However, it is anything but admirable to victimize and infantilize groups of people for the sake of becoming your own self-proclaimed hero. At least that’s what I figure.