Why Fixating On Your White Guilt Isn't Productive
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

Dear White People, Fixating On Your White Guilt Isn't Productive

Rather than letting your guilt immobilize you, be willing to learn and, most importantly, admit to your own mistakes and shortcomings.

7717
Dear White People, Fixating On Your White Guilt Isn't Productive

The recent momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement has initiated an outpouring of social media activism, with information about systemic racism and Black history in the United States being widely circulated. A number of these social media posts focus on privilege and are specifically addressed to non-Black people, especially white people. Learning about and acknowledging privilege is extremely important, but in many cases, conversations about the racist history of the United States and white privilege lead to a particular response from white people often referred to as "white guilt," in which a white person may feel guilty for the racist actions of white people in the past as well as their privilege in the present.

One of the most common displays of white guilt that I've seen is an urge to make jokes about being white. As an Asian American, I've found that many of my conversations about race and oppression with white people will lead to jokes about how terrible white people are or how they're ashamed of being white. When I talked to some of my BIPOC friends, they also reported having a similar experience — white people will approach them with jokes about how they hate being white.

While these jokes seem harmless on the surface level, they really just create an uncomfortable situation for BIPOC.

I don't speak for all BIPOC, but I can say that from my perspective as well as the perspective of many of my friends, these jokes really only show a white person's need to separate themselves from the "terrible" and racist white people that they're joking about and, ultimately, a need for validation from BIPOC that they're not racist and that they really are "good people." Personally, this behavior frustrates me.

If you're experiencing white guilt, understand that it's not a BIPOC's job to absolve your guilt, and your behavior likely isn't very helpful.

This need for validation and absolution is a major reason as to why white guilt really isn't productive. Even if you're not engaging in this particular behavior, chances are that if you're feeling white guilt, you're also looking to "cure" your white guilt. When your focus is absolving your own guilt, what are you really getting done? When your activism is motivated by a desire to rid yourself of your white guilt, who do your actions really benefit? White guilt and behaviors resulting from white guilt are almost always self-serving. Ask yourself if you're looking to help marginalized groups or if you're really just looking to help yourself.

When your goal is to absolve yourself of your guilt, your resulting actions — making jokes about white people to BIPOC, publicizing every bit of your activism, asserting being non-racist to others — only benefit yourself.

This is not to say your white guilt immediately makes you a bad person. In fact, the issue often comes from a need to maintain an identity as a "good person." Even as a BIPOC, I've experienced the same fixation with being "good" while contending with my own privilege as a non-Black person. I can understand why it's difficult to negotiate feelings of guilt and shame as a result of your privilege, but it's vital to let go of the "good person" identity. You can have good intentions and still end up saying or doing something harmful. Instead of trying to present yourself as a "good person," put your effort into self-reflection and becoming more self-aware. Make sure you're especially aware of how your own activism functions and who benefits from your actions. Rather than letting your guilt immobilize you, be willing to learn and, most importantly, admit to your own mistakes and shortcomings.

There's no shame in learning and unlearning.

Ultimately, no one is asking you to feel ashamed of being white, especially considering that it's not exactly something you can control. What you can control is what you do with your privilege and your willingness to support those who are less privileged than you are. Being an ally to BIPOC means moving past your white guilt and taking action. You've acknowledged and contended with your privileged position, and you know that there are people who are less privileged than you are, who are discriminated against and oppressed.

Now ask yourself: What are you going to do about it?

Report this Content
Robert Bye on Unsplash

I live by New York City and I am so excited for all of the summer adventures.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

83457

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers

1566419

Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

976692
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

900115
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

585717
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

373325
Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?

491967

Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments