A Guide to White Guilt

A Guide to White Guilt

What is it, what’s wrong with it, and how can I solve it?

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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My Asexuality Is The Last Thing I Hate About Myself

Oh, by the way - mom and dad, I'm Ace!

This week my fellow UCF Odyssey writer and asexual Chris Mari wrote an article explaining his asexuality and his complete detest for it. He goes into detail about how is sexual orientation developed, what it is, and how he feels about how it affects his relationships. It is a really insightful article about the accepting process of discovering your own sexuality.

However, I feel like Chris is taking this the wrong way. Being asexual, or any sexuality for that matter, is nothing to be ashamed of and you should never hate yourself for it. It took me a while to figure it out and it took me even longer to accept it. But once I did, my life, relationships, and my view on my asexuality got better. I don't see it as a curse or a disease. I see it as being a part of the awesome person I am (not to brag).

There are many things that I don't like about myself, but my sexuality is not one of them. I hate that I am messy, that I like to mix all of the fountain drinks into one cup, and that I am a terrible driver. I do not hate the fact that I am a five-foot-two asexual woman who eats a lot of pasta.

To be clear, like most sexualities asexuality has a spectrum with different attraction levels and variances between each individual. There are many types of asexuality and each type varies on sexual orientation, lack of sexual attraction, and romantic orientation, which is completely different from sexual orientation. At its core, being asexual means that you lack sexual attraction to others, have low sexual desire, and never initiate sexual activity.

Asexuality means many things to many different people. You can still be in a sexual relationship with someone and still consider yourself to be asexual. You can be attracted to others and still have romantic relationships and still be asexual. It does not have to confine you, your relationship, or you sex/non-sex life.

Unlike Chris, I figured out my asexuality as a teen. Around my senior year in high school, I noticed that I wasn't experiencing the same feelings towards sex and sexual desire as a lot of my friends. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me. I blamed it on me being "too mature" for relationships in high school, and that "all the guys in my grade were unattractive." Which, by the way, was not true.

It wasn't until I started Googling these question I had that I found out what the issue was. I am asexual. And it wasn't until the first relationship I had that I realized I was more of a gray-asexual than strictly asexual. I sometimes feel sexual attraction to others, but only when a strong emotional connection is formed, and even then my sexual attraction is little to none.

Having sex does not mean having a relationship and having a relationship does not mean having sex. Trust me, I know. A romantic relationship is built on a strong emotional connection, respect, and intimacy, which does not necessarily mean sex. My past relationships were built on strong emotional connections and mutual respect. Sometimes there have been feeling of sexual attraction, but in a lot of cases, there weren't. If/when I am in a relationship, there is a lot of emotional intimacy, caring, and a lot more Netflix binging than in most non-asexual relationships.

Chris, it sounds like you are still dealing with the fact that you are asexual. And let me tell you, from my own experience, once you accept it your feelings towards it won't be so negative. There is an entire community of people like you and I that understand what you are going through. But this is something that you shouldn't hate yourself for.

Being asexual does not mean you are broken, have a disease, and are not capable of being in a relationship. If you surround yourself with accepting people, accept who you are as a person, and find that person who loves you for who you are and not your asexuality, then you will see how awesome it is to be who you are meant to be. Trust me, it's good to be part of the plus! We give it that extra credit!

Cover Image Credit: Jon Ly

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I Asked 20 People If They Have Ever Experienced Or Whitnessed Racism And Here Are Their Responses

Modern day racism is a thing.

It is 2018 and we are still faced with the issue of racism. Many people don't recognize it as a major issue and no one is doing anything about it. At a time like this, rather than teaching our kids to be extra careful because of the color of their skin, we should teach them love and acceptance.

People are taught racism. People are taught racist stereotypes and "jokes." People are taught ignorance.

I asked 20 college-aged people if they've ever experienced or witnessed racism, and these were their responses.

1. “I told a friend of mine that I liked a guy who’s black and she said that I ‘shouldn’t date anyone black around here because they all dress and act kinda thuggy.’” - female, Caucasian

2. "A girl told me ‘I would date you because you act white’” - male, African American

3. "One of our friends informed the rest of us that her friend had been in a car accident that morning. We were obviously all concerned so I asked her if they knew who the other person in the accident was, when this girl proceeded to say that it was probably 'some n*****s'.'” – female, Caucasian

4. “A female’s father didn’t allow her to date me in high school because of my skin color. She was just like my dad said we can’t date so we just stopped talking to each other.” - male, African American

5. “I had just gotten my honors tassel and National Honors Society sash and the boy that was next to me said, ‘You’re smart? I didn’t know Mexicans could be smarter than me’” - female, Mexican

6. "I had people tell me that I was dating a 'mix breed' and a 'mutt.'”- female, Caucasian

7. “At school I went to get some water and above the small one was labeled ‘blacks’ and the big one was labeled ‘whites’” - male, African American

8. “I was falsely accused of sexual harassment and this white female only had her word, I had evidence, witnesses, and proof counteracting her accusations but all they decided to do was effective immediately throw me out on the streets, ban me from campus, my job on campus, ban me from all eating establishments on campus, and expect me to continue to go to class because that’s all I’m allowed to do.” - male, African American

9. “My friend was getting arrested and my other friend said ‘all these n*****s’. Not knowing I was right behind him.” - male, African American

10. “I had a woman tell me at my job I needed to go back where I came from because in the US we 'speak English not Mexican' just because I was speaking Spanish to little kids” - female, Columbian

11. “I was in class and we were watching a movie about racism and a white male leaned over and said to me “I’m gonna make you my slave like all the other n*****s” . So I informed the teacher and the principal escorted him out and he was suspended, but I was harassed for months by his friends” - female, African American

12. “I’ve been told that I ‘spoke well for a black guy’” - male, African American

13. “People ask me if me or my parents are illegal immigrants, and then I’ve gotten 'you’re pretty for a Hispanic girl'" - female, Hispanic

14. “My grandmother on my dad’s side always says racist remarks around my mom who is Filipino” - female, Filipino and Caucasian

15. “I remember specifically walking out of school one day and hearing a male voice shout “N***** lover” and very loud laughs and screams.” - female, Caucasian

16. "I was at Walmart and a black woman was yelling at kids she had with her for misbehaving. They were genuinely being crazy, but most 5 year olds are! An elderly woman in front of me said 'maybe if she didn’t have that many kids for a government check, she wouldn’t have that problem.'”

17. "And my only response was, 'Are you sure they are all hers? Would you say that If she was white!?' And the woman couldn’t respond. I told the mom I respected how she was trying to keep her kids well behaved in a store. She told me only ONE was hers and the other three were from a brother who was in school trying to earn a degree and get a job. " - female, Caucasian

18. "This girl named Holly told me that I was 'pretty for a black girl' and tried to touch my hair." - female, African American

19. "There are several, which is sad, but I’ll just share one. I’m really involved in theater and after a show one day a bunch of people from the cast went out to Texas Roadhouse and I remember these two men sitting across from me and they just had this look of disgust one their faces and I kept wondering why they were looking like that. I was the only person of color at the table and I remember that night I walked out to my car and they were right beside it my friend walked with me and then to his car. The whole time I was kind of tense because I had the gut feeling that these men had something against me and I couldn’t figure out why until racial slurs flew out of their drunken mouths and I don’t think I’ve ever feared for my life more than I did in that moment." - female, African American

20. "Sometimes when I go out into public, people use their fingers to squint their eyes or they tell me 'ching chong'" - female, Korean

Many of these stories describe experiences in which a family member or friend were the ones being racially insensitive. People have gotten too comfortable being racist and treating it like a joke. Teach love, not hate.

When you catch someone making a racial comment that makes you or someone around you uncomfortable, address it.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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