Ft. Lauderdale, FL
I appreciate your honesty. It’s refreshing. I am able to empathize with your guilt although I am African-American. As an Ivy League graduate with a Ph.D., I use to sometimes feel ashamed or guilty that my education gave me privileges and access to opportunities that other people were not able to enjoy, especially blacks who did not have a higher education. However, I quickly discovered that guilt is a binding emotion, not an expansive one. Thus, it tends to make us feel constricted, closed, and defensive. It is not a useful emotion because it doesn’t connect us to others or inspire us to take action to create positive change.
In my experience, as someone who has facilitated dialogues about race, part of the reason white people find it difficult to talk about race is because they feel guilty about the privileges their white skin affords them and don’t want to admit the privilege because they want to believe we live in a pure meritocracy. Of course it serves their own perceived self-identity and for some, their false belief that they are innately superior. I have heard many whites say they shouldn’t be blamed for their ancestors’ racism and discrimination. I whole-heartedly agree and never place blame on the progeny of slave drivers, lynchers, Jim Crow proponents, and whites who stood by passively while a precious part of humanity was enslaved and brutalized. What I would appreciate is these descendants acknowledging to themselves and to others how they have achieved material and social benefit from the massive amount of wealth and social capitol amassed as a result of blacks working for free for 400 years and then for paltry, demeaning wages for another 150 years. I would also like them to call racial prejudices and discriminatory practices out when they see or hear them in their families, among friends, and in their workplaces, instead of saying, “Well, I’m not black. Racism isn’t my problem. I have enough on my plate.” Well, Blacks have all the social, family, economic, and interpersonal challenges whites have AND we have to deal with racism! Racism dehumanizes the victim as well as the perpetrator.
I hope you are able to release your guilt and replace it with courage, an appreciation for emotional complexity, inspiration, and the beauty and harmony inherent in diversity.
Why? You didn’t work hard for it?