Guest Post: Guilt Isn’t the Point

The words that follow aren’t mine. I am at a loss for how to sound eloquent and worthy a read lately. So once again, as I did yesterday, I’ll turn to someone else’s words. Today my husband posted something on Facebook in response to others’ reactions on social media following the Ferguson verdict. I asked his permission to re-post it here because it’s insightful, thoughtful, and honest.

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A few friends in my timeline are (understandably) feeling put on the spot, called out for the mere fact of their whiteness. I can understand the emotional response—the sense that one is being “labeled” as racist when one feels that one is no such thing. Believe me, I can understand it.

But. But.

Really, “labeling” is the least of our problems. When a cultural disposition is baked in, all the way down, what does this quibbling about “labels” amount to? Nada. Nothing. It’s a side issue. It makes this about *me*, rather than about the people who are desperately pleading with me (and all other well-meaning white people) to get over myself and help them change a system that is inherently unfair.

malesincThe color of my skin means (objectively) that I can waltz through my life without worrying that my skin color marks me as worthy of suspicion or worse by law enforcement and others. Sure, I may not be overtly “racist”, which is what most white people who protest that they’re not racist mean when they say this. But that doesn’t magically excuse me from being implicated in the institutional apparatus of racism that results in black men being incarcerated at dramatically higher rates than white men (1), black people being shot by police at a higher rate than whites (2), and black children being deprived of the educational opportunities and resources that might provide some sliver of hope for them to find a place at the cultural table (3).

If we look at the sociological data in this country objectively, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the U.S. is still functioning with an inherently *structural* racism. Those of us who are white, who clearly aren’t harmed by that structure, and who can even be said to benefit from it, needn’t flagellate our individual selves when we see this (i.e., feeling *guilt* isn’t the point), but we really should open our eyes, be *honest* with ourselves about the advantages that we enjoy that are not enjoyed by our black and brown neighbors, and support those who are working to make this ostensible “nation of laws” a more just and equal society.

(Data referred to above: (1) Incarceration: http://bit.ly/1vluzkf ; (2) Police shootings: http://bit.ly/1CV3fML ; (3) Unequal educational opportunities: http://wapo.st/1viEFBd)

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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2 Responses to Guest Post: Guilt Isn’t the Point

  1. Vanessa D. says:

    When I went to school in my small town there were around five black girls and five black boys in my grade. When I reached high school there were three black girls in my grade and no black boys. The missing eight were streamed to a vocational high school. I refuse to believe that 100% of black boys and 40% of black girls were unable to follow an academic high school curriculum.

    This took place in a town that is very proud of it’s black heritage, I can only imagine how much worse those statistics would be in another town.

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