After facilitating a hearty discussion for a newly formed anti-racism group, Jaleesa, the group facilitator, notices an elderly white man hanging back and waiting for her.
When they are face to face, the man tells her that he used to be a racist. He mentions how he made racist jokes and used racial slurs because “that was the time.”
He says he has changed, and he wanted to share, but his guilt was obvious.
Those confessions by white people to Black people are common.
In place of an open confession, white people may try to present their claims of an eye defect known as colorblindness.
Even if they aren’t colorblind, some white people are still eager for nods, smiles, and blessings as they casually or forcefully recite their diligently documented records of social justice work.
This is too much to handle.
Austin Channing Brown, a Christian ministry leader dedicated to social justice, writes in her book “I’m Still Here” about these confessions.
She rightly says these confessions can traumatize the Black ears and minds subjected to the regurgitated rehashing of racism that belches from white mouths and minds.
Austin Channing Brown says she is not a priest for the white soul, so she turns it around on the confessors and asks them what they will do next.
Like James Baldwin, Austin Channing Brown puts the responsibility on the person who feels the need to share.
Baldwin said, “I’m not interested in anyone’s guilt…”
I agree. As a Black person, I don’t need any white flashbacks. Rather than trying to take me back, I need white allies to have my back.
Whether someone feels guilty doesn’t matter because someone who feels no guilt can still be just as guilty.
In the case against white America, some white people are guilty by their deeds and others are guilty by their missed deeds.
But history and facts don’t change because of someone’s feelings or lack of feelings.
So, the focus should be on responsibility.
The altar call for every soul is a call to action.
I’ve had a few conversations with white people quick to say they feel no white guilt with a blunt arrogance.
As I swiftly exit those conversations, my reply is the same: “What are you doing for racial justice?”
The calls to “Get to work” and to “Do the work” are for the guilty and the guilt-free.
But too many guileful and gutless people don’t want to feel guilty and they also don’t want to do anything.
Their protest over guilt is a way for them to demean others as they remain callously complacent and cruelly complicit.
It’s as if some white people think Black people and progressives are trying to guilt them. But I don’t want to give white people guilt or take their guilt.
When I aggressively and pointedly indict whiteness as a social construct of superiority, unless I name an individual, my pile of indictments is for the pack and not a person.
But people confuse guilt and conviction.
White people, like everyone else, should have a certain conviction. White people should hold the strong belief, or conviction, that white supremacy isn’t fiction.
One reason white people sink into white guilt is that they don’t see how the corrupt nature of white supremacy harms them too.
Rather than being angry and working for mutual interests, those guilty people think they are doing people a favor.
If allowed, white guilt wants to dissolve and resolve into an innocence that blinds white people to the ongoing efforts we need for racial justice.
It’s true, guilt can activate awareness, but guilt isn’t a durable disposition.
Most of all, white people need to deal with white guilt by themselves. Black people should not be the recipients or the relievers of white guilt.
With our efforts for racial justice, we don’t need white guilt or white innocence.
Instead, people should increase their knowledge, develop empathy, and take action.
I want the concern about opioid use in the white community to convert into empathy for what crack did to the Black community.
I want the agitated white people stressed about their “economic woes” to support solutions to close the wealth gap between whites and Blacks.
I want the white people who insist they’re “anxious” about “cultural and demographic changes” to understand that Black residents grapple with gentrification.
I want the poor white people in Montana who also struggle with police harassment, police brutality, and “federal aggression” to demand police reform in the over-policed Black and Brown neighborhoods.
Empathy is the opposite of centering your feelings.
Either way, we will push forward. But we need more people to get out of guilt and get into the work with empathy.
Guilt makes people wilt, but empathy is a remedy.
Instead of guilt or apathy, more white people need empathy to fight the enemy that is white supremacy.
Is white supremacy bad for white people too?
A look beyond morality, justice, and diversity
Don’t Feel Bad for White Working-Class People
They have not been forgotten. This can be a good thing for everyone.
Your feelings about being in the minority are my feelings about my neighborhood
Recent studies and reports show that white people are on edge about the United States as a majority-minority nation.