Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dealing with White Guilt and Racism


This is a follow-up article on a series about the Dixon White's Racial Healing Challenge, and it will deal with the issue of “white guilt” - what is it; to what extent is it beneficial or not in efforts to end racism?

See Dixon White' and His “Racial-HealingVideo-Selfie Challenge”
 
Dixon White's purpose for his well-received selfie-video racial healing movement is – to fight against racism...for racial healing and trying to get people, especially white people, to address that, as he said in an interview earlier in April. 
However, many critics lash back by saying Dixon White's (not his real name) videos are promoting “white guilt,” something that White denied in a later interview with ABC News' “Nightline.”
A whole bunch of them, and that’s the problem is that white guilt is a defense mechanism,” White said. “I’m not asking anybody to be guilty or feel guilty. I’ve never told anybody to be guilty. What I’ve asked people to do is to take on one of the most immoral things in our society, which is racial and social injustice.” - Read more here:
 
To understand this unease towards “white guilt” - here are a few definitions.

Racism – One guest article on the Huffington Post explains the difficulty of talking to white people about racism, defined as:
Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system -- a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group. - Read more here:

White guilt is the individual or collective guilt felt by some white people for harm resulting from racist treatment of people of color by whites both historically and currently.

An academic, sociological definition of white guilt is presented in, “An Analysis of “White Privilege and White Guilt by Simone Kirwan, from the faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, in which the author defines “white privilege” as:
an innate collection of favoured benefits or circumstances which are not earned, that have been granted to white people, who are often considered to be ‘the mainstream’ in Canada and the U.S. Thus, one is born into white privilege based on the colour of one’s skin and for no other apparent reason.”
In contrast, “white guilt” - as quoted by the paper's author from Shelby Steele (2006) – is:
the vacuum of moral authority that comes from simply knowing that one’s race is associated with racism. Whites (and American institutions [and Canadian institutions, too]) must acknowledge historical racism to show themselves redeemed of it (p. 24).”

The paper continues: 
some white people who are apprised of their experiences of white privilege may feel badly about the intrinsic benefits they perceive that they obtain simply because they are ‘white’, and, to compensate for this, they are overly sensitive, extremely aware, or excessively tolerant toward non-whites.
Thus, the author does not see 'white guilt' an effective means to counterbalance the historical effects of racism perpetuated by the mainstream against those deemed to be 'coloured.' - See more here:

One commentary suggests the same idea - that white guilt is not effective in helping end “systemic racism,” for it can lead to avoidance of the primary issues altogether, as well as the manifestation of defense mechanisms, including denial, projection, intellectualization, and rationalization.
"[...]The point of identifying and exposing inconsistencies within the social systems and cultural norms of the United States isn’t to make whites feel guilty, but to garner greater empathy that will inspire change. The main problem with white guilt is that it attempts to diminish the spotlight aimed at issues germane to marginalized groups and redirects the focus to a wasteful plane of apologetics and ineffective assessment." - Read more here:

One article, though, has a different idea about how to white people can help combat racism, and it is not about making them feel guilty:
I think a far more effective method would be to challenge people to recognize their own racist behaviors—assuming they have them. That’s really the only way change can come about because racism is built on ideals and truly it’s not enough to just think, am I suspicious of black people or do I think they should be followed around in stores, it’s why do I think that way and how do I implement practices that reinforce my own privilege, like not hiring black people or voting for legislation that disadvantages them. - Read more here:

Questions for the readers: Share with us your thoughts.
What do you think of Dixon White's Racial Healing Challenge and its impact on the fight against racism?
What makes people wary of talking about racism?
To what extent is white guilt influential or not in efforts to end racism?

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