My white guilt is ugly. It’s selfish and problematic and knowing that I have white guilt, adds to my white guilt. If you’re white too, I know you know what I mean. It’s uncomfortable, and we don’t want to look at it, acknowledge it, or admit it but the world is burning and it’s not us who is under fire. Fear, unrest, resistance and the pursuit of justice is palpable at every turn right now. Fellow white folks, now is the time to use your guilt for good. We have work to do. We cannot look away.
But it is hard to look. Let’s be honest with that. It doesn’t reduces your solidarity with Black Lives Matter to admit that what is happening around us is at a terrifying breaking point and that it may get worse before it gets better, but – and I’m looking at you, fellow white folks – don’t expect or seek sympathy. Don’t tell the black people in your life that you ‘understand’ or that you ‘can’t imagine how hard it must be’. Take a second to remove yourself from the center of the narrative and listen. This isn’t about our pain or our discomfort, this is about leveraging that pain and discomfort to uplift the voices and actions of the folks that are actually suffering, who have suffered at the hands of a system our families built and perpetuated. You’re scared, this is hard, it hurts your heart, but we still need to take action, stand beside them, and stand between them and the forces that seek to silence and destroy. We have work to do.
If nothing feels like enough, then don’t stop to talk about it, keep working at it
Much like many of you, I have donated, I have retweeted, I have shared resources. I have read and wept, wept and prayed, and wept again. I have checked in on black friends, I have promoted black artists and sex workers, and none of it feels like enough. Call it white guilt, call it sympathy, call it doing my best to be a citizen of the world, call it what you want, but I know it’s not enough. How could it ever be enough? We have work to do.
Take a second to remove yourself from the center of the narrative and listen. This isn’t about our pain or our discomfort, this is about leveraging that pain and discomfort to uplift the voices and actions of the folks that are actually suffering, who have suffered at the hands of a system our families built and perpetuated. We have work to do.
Check your priorities
I’m seeing a lot of (mostly white) folks drowning in their white guilt, worried that their blog posts and projects need to be put on hold, saying that it feels trite to be talking about anything other than the crescendo of world events right now. On one hand, yes, even this blog post feels like small potatoes, but on the other hand, we still need art. We still need creative energy in the world, we still need normalcy, and we all need time to rest and put our minds on the things that bring us hope, joy and distraction. Don’t stop what you need to do to stay healthy, sane and on track, because you’re no good to anyone if you’re depleted. Do your thing, but prioritize your allyship. White folks should be committing to learning to become better allies and using white privilege for good. We have not done enough. We have work to do.
White folks should be committing to learning to become better allies and using white privilege for good. We have not done enough. We have work to do.
There is no “end” in sight
If you’re feeling guilty for what you’re doing in your own life today, and worried that it’s not enough when so many people are in the greatest fights of their life for justice and equality, ask yourself how you felt 2 weeks ago, 3 months ago, last year, ten years ago, because all of this was happening then too. If your white guilt is making you feel some kind of way and you feel the need to performatively take time away from your own art and work, ask yourself where that conviction was before #blacklivesmatter was everywhere on every page of every social media outlet in the world. I will absolutely admit that I have done a shit job of being an active ally for #blacklivesmatter in the past, despite believing in the cause and wanting to see change happen. It’s become a cliche, but we do need to be the change we want to see in the world. Not just talk about it, not just tweet about it, not just scroll past it. We have work to do.
Find something valuable to do with your privilege, and start doing it. Now.
Find a way to contribute. If you can’t protest, donate. If you can’t donate, share reliable resources. If you can’t share reliable resources, well, you’re definitely part of the problem. Find something valuable to do with your privilege, and start doing it by calling in your white friends and family. Not just once, not as a token, not because you want to be able to post on instagram and prove that you give a shit. Teach your children, educate the older generations that maybe aren’t grasping the core issues. Examine your life and words and actions and sit with that guilt and discomfort. And then do something constructive with it. This is a war that will rage until the system burns to the ground, and so it should. There are and will be many roles to play. If you can’t resist by one means, find another. Just like in any war, not all hands are needed at the front line. There will be more hands and voices needed long after the riots end, long after the smoke appears to be cleared.
Buckle up, Buttercup. We have work to do. We have so much work to do.
Every Damn Day In June is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a writing prompt run by the most excellent and effervescent, Hyacinth Jones and all it requires is that you write every damn day in June. Link up your posts on Hy’s site and join in!