A Guide to White Guilt

A Guide to White Guilt

What is it, what’s wrong with it, and how can I solve it?
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As others prepare for their next semester of college, I spent my last orientation week as an undergrad volunteering to facilitate peer discussions about race with the incoming freshman class. My university, thanks to a group of passionate brilliant students, began a diversity orientation even called One Community two years ago, and given the social climate currently in America, they decided to focus this year’s event on race.

Long story short, we have a panel of students share their narratives and experiences with the new freshmen, and then afterwards break the freshmen up into small groups paired with a facilitator in order to have a constructive small group discussion. This was my second time facilitating for this event, and what I found right away was the amount of guilt expressed by white students about their white privilege. Other facilitators later echoed similar experiences, discussing how some felt lost on how to even address the phenomenon. It was this experience which inspired me to write this article.

So what is white guilt? Washington Post writer Krissah Thompson references the case of Rachel Dolezal in her definition, saying that Dolezal is “an archetype of white guilt played to its end.” The root of white guilt is that, upon recognizing the racial inequalities in their community/ies, white people feel ashamed for being white.

This is in fact an important feeling, because it signifies a recognition of racism and racial privilege. I personally feel it constantly. Every time I see another news story of a Black person killed by police, I feel guilty for being white. Every time I experience Black people talk about the hardships they face every day because of their skin color, I feel guilty for being white. Every time I am reminded in any way, shape, or form about the continued existence of systemic racism, I feel guilty for being white.

Dear fellow white people: this is normal. This is okay.

So if it’s okay, what’s the problem? I’m glad you asked. The problem is when we let white guilt grow past that inner dialogue. White guilt is inherently problematic because it is the result of us (white people) thinking that we are somehow personally responsible for the racism we see and hear about. On some level we know that it isn’t our fault individually, but we cannot shake the feeling of being accused and so the result often becomes an attempt to silence discussions on race [insert All Lives Matter movement here].

The definition of privilege entails that those who have it cannot easily see it. So when white people first encounter discourse of race privilege not only do they feel they’re being accused of something, but also they feel said accusation is not even grounded in truth. In that context, hostility and defensiveness are understandable though not productive.

To discuss your white guilt in spaces dedicated to racial justice and healing for people of color is in fact hypocritical because you are exerting white privilege by taking up space to talk about your guilt for white privilege. To ask (or worse, expect) people of color to recognize anything concerning your white guilt is directly reinforcing white privilege.

While I understand your white guilt, I don’t feel sorry for you. And I don’t feel sorry for myself.

Getting past white guilt is deceptively simple, and it starts by recognizing that this guilt stems from a place of self-pity. We feel bad that we are benefiting from something under which others suffer, and that’s good. But it’s not enough. We need to do more than feel bad; we need to find ways to help change society so that these privileges do not exist.

White guilt is inherently unproductive because it implies that the guilt is all there is. No action is being taken. No method of alleviating this guilt is being researched. And when action is taken, usually it is not positive action.

By realizing and internalizing that white privilege is not any one person’s “fault,” and rather a system of our society that we need to change, white people can simultaneously alleviate the source of their guilt and the source of others’ oppression.

Cover Image Credit: www.vox.com

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Why Growing Up In Lynn Massachussetts Made Me Racially Color Blind

One girl's story about how her city made her realize how important diversity truly is.
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When I was in second grade at Hood Elementary School our teacher asked us to look at our classmates next to us and write down something that we all have in common. While everyone seemed to be writing down the same basic ideas, such as parents, clothes, fingers, toes, etc.., I wrote down "We all have hearts." As the teacher read my answer aloud, she was blown away and all my classmates sitting next to me came up and hugged me. Even at such a young age in such a diverse classroom, we all recognized the inside of a person's heart is way more important than how they look on the outside.

The city of Lynn, Massachusetts is known for its rare, beautiful diversity. I had the privilege of growing up there and honestly I would not have wanted to be raised anywhere else. The unique acceptance of such diversity in a big city is the reason I am the woman I am today. When I first meet someone, I see no color. If I am judging someone, I am not judging their race, their clothes, or how they look but I am judging how they talk to me and how they treat others around them.

Growing up in Lynn gives you the advantage of viewing people inside out, race having no value in how you see a person. The melting pot that is my group of friends has truly given me such insight on how different cultures live and celebrate their lives. Yes, I am a white girl who knows how to Bachata, a specific Spanish dance, and I thank diversity for that. Even at only 20 years old, I feel like I have lived a lifetime due to all of the different cultures I have been able to embrace while living in Lynn. I have seen strangers, and even friends my age experience all different walks of life. From the bottom end of the spectrum on Union and Essex street, to the highest end moving toward Ward 1, I have seen it all.

As I moved away from Lynn and into the spectacular city of Boston, I realized something. Making roommates with strangers from towns I had never heard of before made me realize how much I missed Lynn. I have met people here in the city who never even had a black person in their school and when I try to converse with them about race or politics they are so one-sided because they have only ever seen one side. I feel sorry for them because they were never able to experience all the amazing people and cultures I have been able to experience. They have never gone to a party with Spanish, Cambodian and Jamaican music playing all at the same time. They have never tried a pastellito. They have never danced Bachata. They have never seen how truly beautiful diversity really is.

In the wake of everything going on in our country lately between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, I ask you to stop, take a second and picture the other side. Take your one-sided mind and open your eyes because the only way we can save ourselves from this is to be unified. Diversity is beautiful, and you are, too.

Cover Image Credit: ushersnewlook

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My White Privilege Vs. My Friend's Black Oppression

WE NEED TO USE OUR VOICE AND TAKE A STAND!

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Now, I know many of you are going to read this article and scoff at the term "white privilege." Well, let me just be blunt and say that you are an ignorant person that needs to wake up and see the world for what it truly is. It is not all rainbows and butterflies for everyone out there because not everyone in this world is given the same opportunities and the same treatment as us.

When I say "us," I am referring to white people and yes, I am including myself.

I am going to get real and for you ignorant people, if you do not get the message after this, then I feel sorry for you and I will pray that one day your stupidity is swallowed by the truth: white privilege, racism and oppression is REAL.

Breyonna Miller is a 21-year-old African American female that attends the College of Charleston with me. I, Lyric Richardson, am a 21-year-old white female. We are both majoring in special education and plan to graduate in the spring of 2019. Our dreams consist of teaching in our own classrooms and helping children with disabilities work towards independence.

We have a ton in common with each other, but our lives are so different just because of our skin color. This is evident with just a few experiences between us being compared.

1. Interactions With Law Enforcement

I was pulled over once for speeding. I was pretty mad about getting pulled over because I really did not think that I had been speeding. Naturally, I got quite an attitude with the officer. I even threw my license and registration at him when he asked for it. In the end, I received a ticket that was dropped in court when I chose to appeal it.

Breyonna and some of her friends were leaving a party two summers ago when she was pulled over. Her car was suspected to be the car of people who were shooting guns in a parking lot. The girls in the car were dressed exactly as you would think girls coming from a party would be dressed. It was clear they were not the people who had been shooting up a parking lot. However, the police refused to allow Breyonna to say a word in defending herself. Instead, they held the girls at gun point and told them to "keep their f***ing hands up before they shoot."

After Breyonna and her friends were forced to sit there and fear for their lives, the police told them to leave after discovering the girls were not who they were looking for. Breyonna drove away with no apology from the officers, and an emotional and mental scar permanently etched into her life.

2. The Educational System

I soared through school with high grades and all the support I could possibly get from elementary school all the way to high school. My teachers constantly reminded how successful I would be in my future. My high school guidance counselor spoke with me once a month to make sure I was applying for college and thriving in my academics.

All in all, I was put on a track that set me up to be successful. To top it off, I was encouraged to apply for all types of scholarships to help me pay for a college education. I was also rewarded these scholarships and three years later, I am still receiving them.

Breyonna was considered the "token black child." Yes, she was placed in classes that were considered honors and even though she deserved to be there, the teachers did not see it that way. In the teacher's eyes, they now had to "accommodate" for this black child that was placed in the classroom because the school needed some way to show that there is diversity among the academic achievers.

Breyonna was motivated enough that she pushed through and fought her way to college. Like most students, she needed some financial assistance. Breyonna applied for ROAR in which she would receive a grant to help her continue pursuing a degree. However, the College chose to discontinue this program, so Breyonna was forced to make up the difference by pulling out of her own pocket.

3. Blunt Oppression and Racism

I can honestly say that no one has ever truly insulted me based on my skin color, age, gender, intelligence, or any other aspect of my life that hurt me. Every now and then I hear a blonde joke or my male friends try to intimidate me in sports. However, none of these things cut me so deep that I could not recover.

In contrast, Breyonna has been left speechless at some words that have been thrown at her. She works in a fine dining restaurant which can be automatically associated with wealthy white people. She once had customers tell her to clear their table "like the servant she is." We all are raised and taught to defend ourselves when such hurtful things are said to us, but when someone says something so blunt and casually like that, you are left with no words to defend yourself with.

This is the sad world we live in today and the unfortunate news is that this type of hatred and oppression is not going anywhere anytime soon.

We cannot force people to change their hearts that are full of hate, but we can certainly educate them on the matter. I know this article will not change how some people see the world and it will not make them want to be a better person, but my hope is that for those of you it did reach, do something about it

Actions speak louder than words.

Do not just apologize for being unaware of white privilege. Do not just recognize that racism and oppression exist. Be aware, use your voice, and take a stand!

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