Should You Feel Guilty for Being White?

Should You Feel Guilty for Being White? October 17, 2017

I wince every time someone asks me if I expect them to apologize because they’re white. Because that’s not what I’m saying. It not only paints me into an irrational corner by misrepresenting my argument; it shows that whoever I am talking to does not care about listening to me and only wants to strawman me  so they can discount what I’m saying.

Most black people I know are not insisting that white people in America need to apologize for their skin tone. To state the obvious, we all know that your skin tone is not your fault. You do not have to do penance for the color of your skin, and anyone on the right who claims that we ARE saying you have to apologize for your skin tone is simply not listening.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that this clarification probably pointless. In spite of the fact that this is my third paragraph now, front and center at the top of this post, insisting that I’m not saying that white people should feel guilty for their skin tone, many who read this post will insist that this is exactly what I’m saying. And when someone is that insistent and determined to misrepresent those who speak up in defense of minorities in this country, I tend to think that maybe, just maybe, they have ulterior motives. Maybe they’re a bit racist, and the strawman justifies that racism.

No, I’m not saying that they should feel bad about being racist if they are; that’s beside the point. Truth be told, I don’t really care how you feel. I care about actions, and have absolutely no interest in guilt-tripping anyone — what I do when I look at the past history of racism is try to figure out ways we can fix present and future culture so that the strains of inequality stop happening.

You see, the problem is that most people who are against social justice are extremely sensitive every time someone brings up the past as relevant to the present moment. They are so terrified that people are trying to make them feel guilty that they do not care about history or current accounts of racism — merely bringing this up, they think, is a personal attack against them.

But again, most of us are not trying to make anyone feel guilty. I have no need for apologies. I just want change. When I read about black men shot by white cops, for example, I’m not interested in white people throwing a pity party, let alone interested in inviting them to one myself (the idea is a bit icky and gross, to be honest with you). I just want change, any way I can get it, so that I don’t get shot.

Besides, in my experience, making white people guilty inspires fear and resentment in them more than it inspires change. But white people seem so susceptible to guilt that it seems I can’t talk about race problems in the US without inspiring guilt or a denial of guilt in white people who eavesdrop.

But this is not about your guilt, though, white people. It’s not. That’s such a masturbatory way to look at the problem…

It’s about people who are not being treated fairly in society, and how it affects them. And all of us.

Now, I’d say how you should care about black people, but I know that’s pointless. Over the last few years, I’ve kinda resigned myself to the fact that many white people do not care how much black people have to struggle in this country. Actually, more than that — they see this struggle as a reason to leave black people alone, in their communities, with their limited resources, and let them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

We tried that already. It was called segregation. I thought we agreed it was a bad decision — but at any rate, that’s what many people these days, with pre-1964 wet dreams, seem to believe. So they do not care what happens to black communities, unless it’s something negative that proves their point. Even more, many wear their callousness towards black communities like a badge of honor.

I’ve become convinced that I can’t get people stuck in a segregation-era mindset to care about black people. Because they’re scared to care, I think. Because they are afraid that the moment they do care, they’ll feel guilty about what racism has done in those communities, and there is no penance that will be enough to remove that guilt. So their fear keeps them callous, and their projection labels those fighting for their rights as fragile “snowflakes,” when the real ones afraid are them — the anti-social justice advocates who are terrified of guilt from admitting the reality of horrible racism that happened in the past and that continue to happen in the present.

The attempts to change people’s minds so that they care are often tiring, and I’m not sure they will ever get these people to care. I’m not gonna lie — sometimes it’s easy to resent the political speeches, the marches, the advocacy, and the whole bit that’s done on black people’s behalf. Because they turn me into an issue — which I am, but at the same time, that’s uncomfortable. I’m not just a political topic. I’m not a manufacturer of pity or guilt. At the base of it all, I’m just a person.

I’m a human being. I’m not just a talking point. I’m not just a theory. I’m real, with real experiences, dreams, goals, feelings, and the rest. I’m not an agent of guilt; I’m a person who is being treated unfairly and would like justice. And that position has been so trapped in politics and the insecurities of so many white people in this country that I feel, in writing something that I hope will produce change, that I have to lose or disregard some of my humanity for a moment. That I have to look at myself not as a person, who is valuable because I’m a human being, but as a thing who has to prove its use to you to justify its existence. To be clear, at this point, I don’t feel angry about this necessity — at least, not most of the time. More often than that, I simply feel resigned to it.

It’s like that “Kill The Poor” skit below. In it, members of parliament and the prime minister are discussing an economic problem, and the prime minister says to run the calculation of what would happen if they killed all the poor. At first the MPs protest, but finally they do it, and then says, “The computer says it won’t help, so we won’t do it.” The Prime Minister is horrified and says:

I shouldn’t have asked you to run that [calculation of killing all the poor] through it, because it turns out to be the come out positive, you would have started work by now. Here I am blue-sky thinking amongst friends, and I didn’t realize, is there any coldhearted pragmatism that’s keeping you from pumping gas into little.

I’m confused, sir.

No, just because the computer says that killing all the poor will help the economy, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it, it’s morally wrong Anne that’s why we can run it through the computer because we know whatever it says, we are not going to do it, that’s the page I’m on Anne; are you going to burn the book?

So…yeah. I’d like to think that you will take the value of black people in this country for granted, admit that segregation is wrong, and help black individuals simply because of the apparently mind-blowing reason that we are human beings — not out of guilt, but out of a genuine sense of concern, like you would have for others in this country who share your skin tone. But I know that’s impossible, for many, and would get them labeled “cucks” and all kinds of other slurs. You can’t care, because you are afraid that if you do, we will try to make you feel guilty for being white even though that is NOT the point.

So, anyway, if you don’t care about marginalized people in this country, here’s why you should fix the problem: Unequal opportunity hurts all of us.

Every day there is inequality in job hiring, for example, we are not getting the best people for jobs. We’re losing money as a society. Our GDP is going down. If you’re going to be coldhearted about it, there’s a reason for you. Don’t worry about caring about black people, or “black lives matter,” or any of that. Worry about society. All of it. Making it better.

We can’t do anything about guilt. It just makes you whiny, impotent, and trapped in anger and resentment, snowflakes, at least in my experience. So fine. Stop feeling guilty. PLEASE stop feeling guilty. It’s annoying, angering, masturbatory, and doesn’t accomplish a thing. Your desire to create an egalitarian society for the benefit of our collective well-being actually might prompt some real, actual change.

That’s what most of us our saying, anyway. We’re not complaining about your lack of guilt; we’re complaining about your lack of action.

Another thing: When you read about the past, read it to understand, not to feel guilty. Also, you didn’t have anything to do with the past in the past, so don’t ruin that by being part of perpetuating the past in the future. When we’re trying to make you acknowledge the history behind  racism in this country, we’re usually not trying to make you feel guilty; we are diagnosing and helping you diagnose the problem. Because we aren’t segregated anymore. We’re in this together. And we have to go forward with the mentality that we will work on inequality together if we’re going to progress as a society…whether you care about us black people or not.

And finally, hardly anyone is ever saying that white people can’t speak. When someone says that black people are saying that, I know that they’re exaggerating.

What most of us are saying is that black people are a bigger authority on what the real-world experience of being black in America is than white people, overall. So if you really want to solve the problem of racial inequality in America, and identify the problems that cause it in order to make us a healthier society, the best resource for you to locate the sources of the problem is other black people. This does not mean that black people know how to solve all the problems, necessarily; if we could, we would not have the problems. But these conversations can empower us to locate sources of the problem in history and start working towards solutions — much more than conversations that are only between people in this country who do not experience these problems. That’s what we’re saying most of the time.

Please, pay attention to the context before you skip to conclusions, and if you’re not going to care about black people, at least focus on creating a better society for as all as we push forward.

Thanks for reading.

PS: I want to thank all 34 of my patrons for supporting this blog. It’s a pleasure to work with you.

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