If I am to honour courage, and the quality of spirit that is being asked right now, I must own up to the state of emotional distress I have experienced. I cannot remember a time when I have cried so deeply at the state of the world, or have felt the extent of suffering for others so profoundly. The pain our black community must be feeling is insurmountable. As I cry, I will never truly understand.
For some white people, they are starting to feel the shame that comes with injustice. Injustice is synonymous with shame, and shame as a feeling doesn’t discriminate. It is painful and it is uncomfortable, and privilege will prevent you from feeling it.
As a white woman, I have awakened to the cold hard truth. The truth of my own discomfort, for all I have not done, and for all the ways I have not shown up to fight injustice. Even after working with youth violence in Africa. I faced it and I lived it, but I know in my heart I didn’t do enough. This truth, it is unsettling, and it is the level of emotional unwinding that is needed to dismantle the elusive veil of white privilege.
Understanding the truth is understanding our own complacency. We must be prepared to take a challenging and kind look at ourselves, and the ways we have not shown up to the issue of injustice. It is a feeling, and it is uncomfortable, and it is important to face into.
Here is how it might show up:
- Feeling ashamed because for so long you haven’t recognised how racism and injustice might feel for others.
- Feeling guilt because you never took the time to understand what it must feel like to live in fear of racial violence
- Feeling embarrassed because you never learnt about how to stop racism, when all the knowledge was available
- Feeling disgraced for not having taken action to racism earlier
- Feeling overwhelmed at the realisation that the system serves white people only
- Feeling confused that because you are white, you are part of the problem.
As white people, we will never feel the injustice to the extent of our black equals, but we can start by being honest with ourselves, and accept the deceit of our own privilege. Our feelings, and our ownership of them is what will build capacity for genuine empathy. Through empathy, we can meet others where they are, and begin to build the bridge towards solidarity.
The journey of realising the extent of white privilege is not meant to feel good, it’s meant to feel uncomfortable. It will also feel messy, but it is the most important work of our time. It is the road to true healing, and it is the uncomfortable personal work that will move us towards solidarity and with hope, equality.