Tag Archives: white guilt

Tumblr Q & A: white Guilt

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.


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White Guilt 101: No Sympathy for the (white) Devil

Here are two ways to break this down.

Tears, or what happens when those of us who are anti-racist witness racism:

Being disgusted by racism might mean our racial politics are in the right place, but the attitude that whites and racism are so offensive they can’t be dealt with means we cry about racism when it isn’t happening to us. We find it so unbearable that we shut down and retreat. We forget that whites defending racism, or practicing it, is normal–meaning we shouldn’t be shocked to the point of breakdown. Letting racist comments go, resisting education, or giving up on arguments about white supremacy because we’re too upset benefits whiteness. Whites expecting sympathy because they can’t deal with other whites completely ignores the fact that POC have to deal with that shit all the time. One tough conversation, one ugly (but fleeting) moment of awareness, shouldn’t hurt us. We have the social safety to cause a scene and not be in danger, we have the freedom to walk away and not be dehumanized in doing so, we have the privilege to move on and forget about it.

Emotions, or what happens inside us when we deal with the subject of racism:

If legacies of white supremacy cause us to feel bad for ourselves, we are co-opting pain from an experience that isn’t ours. Whites don’t experience racism, so we don’t feel the same pain a person of color feels; our emotions don’t matter when it comes to white supremacy because this pain is not about us. White privilege in this context is believing our hurt feelings take precedence over the subject at hand and feeling justified when the subject is derailed. Making an issue, or even a spectacle, of our pain makes it seem as if we suffer equally with POC because “it hurts all of us.” Consider these questions: Is hearing a white person use the N word the same as being called the N word? Is a rude comment about white Christians the same as demonizing the entire religion of Islam and the POC who practice it (Islamophobia)? Is dealing with a nasty friend or relative the same as dealing with histories and cultures of oppression? Is philosophical confrontation of personal whiteness the same as lived struggle against institutional racism? We might all “bleed red,” but a pin piercing a finger tip that draws blood is not the same as decapitation. Wounds are not created equally.

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