Q: You give so many problems on your blog, but no solutions on how they can be prevented. It makes me feel like a bad person by reading your blog, but I don’t want to be like that. I’m not sure how I sound to you, seeing as you tend to be very critical, and I really don’t want to sound like I’m complaining or whining. Honestly, it just makes me feel kind of helpless, when I see all these issues, and have no idea what I can personally do to help prevent them in the future.
A: What the common stereotype of ‘critical’ means: “This reaction is some annoying ass white guilt bullshit.”
What ‘critical’ actually means: I’m going to work through this reaction with you using a critical lens.
The first thing I want you to see is that asking white folks for solutions on racism and white supremacy is like asking a murderer for solutions on lowering the amount of dead bodies. Audre Lorde once said “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” which I really think suits this discussion. We will never completely abolish our power and privilege on our own. We can educate ourselves and each other as contributions to racial justice, but when it comes to serious social change, POC are the only ones qualified to develop solutions and lead the way. Whites don’t struggle against oppression, so it is not our struggle to solve. We have power, not solutions. And, unfortunately, there is no simple ‘apply ointment A to wound B’ formula for solving racism.
The second thing I want you to see is white guilt. When our reaction to education on white supremacy is to “feel bad” about how terrible we are, this shifts the focus from the situation to ourselves. White guilt is making the pain of racism about us; it’s feeling sad instead of being responsible by accepting who we are and the nature of the inequality around us. It’s a huge part of white privilege to just “feel bad” about racism when the alternative is actually suffering from it. Shame is extremely unfamiliar to us when we have been constantly taught to feel pride in our whiteness. It required a serious amount of personal work to understand that resentment over the privilege of being white was in and of itself a privilege: even if I resent the privilege, I still have it and I still benefit. If POC learn from an early age to resent the color of their skin, then they will see that reflected in the larger US society. White folks do not have this experience no matter what we feel inside.
If you want to make any progress, then be prepared for white guilt to be your first obstacle. Look beyond yourself when this happens and see the larger structure of whiteness, see the people who are actually hurt by whiteness, because our pain is so small in comparison and simply doesn’t matter. Then be prepared to be uncomfortable with your whiteness, which is gonna be one huge and necessary change after having been comfortable with whiteness to the point of never really needing to think about it. What our ancestors have done should horrify and sicken you, you should be disgusted by white supremacy, you should feel every disturbing inch of injustice that connects your white skin with systems of power and oppression. This doesn’t mean you feel bad for yourself, because this isn’t just about you.
White supremacy is a system of brutality and power that has caused and continues to cause irreversible damage to life, atrocious amounts of violence, and unspeakable injustice. Facing this reality is not meant to be easy, comforting, or even helpful. When you understand that you are reading a blog or reading a book but not contending with hatred, when you understand you have the freedom to think about something else and not inescapably live with hatred every day, hopefully you will see why guilt is pointless. Remember that white supremacy was designed to make us feel good about whiteness, and has been doing so for centuries, so if we get to a point where it makes us feel bad about whiteness—not ourselves—then perhaps this is long overdue.
If you are going to face the graveyards of history, if you are going to face the blood on our hands, then you have to leave the white comfort blanket behind. Once you become more aware of the horrible nature of what you were born into, POC are already centuries ahead of you in knowing exactly how horrible it is. So keep reading this blog, continue educating yourself, then possibly educate your friends and family, and embrace what is true about white supremacy whether you like it or not, whether it helps you personally or not. If you get lost on a trip about ‘poor me,’ then that—I can guarantee you—is no solution at all.