The gift of shame and guilt
A post for white people on racism, white privilege and unconscious bias
When someone calls us out on our unconscious bias around issues of race, and we get defensive, what we are really saying is “white feelings matter more than the lives of people with colour”.
This is the paradigm of millennia – that people of colour should protect white people’s feelings over their own lives or their voices being heard.
That as white people, what takes priority are the feelings arising in us when we have seen that we are racist after all, when we have believed all our lives that we’re not.
The result is that when a person of colour points out our racism in any given moment (however unintentional we believe it was) we insist that they must say it in the ‘right’ way, deliver their message without anger or blame etc (i.e. gently, carefully and sensitively) so we are protected from having our shame and guilt triggered.
Simply put, this has to stop. Instead we need to see that our feelings of guilt and shame ARE the gateway to change, and a huge catalyst to action. These feelings are the ‘spiritual’ teacher (speaking to the white spiritual community, of which I am also a signed up member) and the fuel to take action over and over and over again until racism is gone from our world.
If we cannot be in relationship with these feelings in us then we’re not gonna be able to be a part of change because we will want to deny, defend, counter attack or justify.
In the past few years the issue of people of colour being in my ‘white spiritual/self development’ workshops has come more and more to the fore front. It has felt hugely challenging at times and a massive steep humbling learning curve for me (and I thought I knew the issues already).
I welcome it, even though it’s hard at times to know how to be with it because I feel so uneducated. I have about 1/4 POC as participants on my workshops and courses and that’s not balanced. I can see now that, however welcoming I thought I was being, there are a million subtle ways that the message I sent out is not welcoming, mostly by simply not understanding the depth of the issue.
The pain, guilt and shame I feel about this is hard to be with but that’s the point, it is MY work to be with them. I have to face the fact that I have been a part of the problem when I thought I was so righteously doing the opposite..
The issue of racism and our uncomfortable feelings in relation to it is also the same in all our intimate relating, and never more so than with our primary partners. And if it’s ‘too much’ of a stretch for us to hold these feelings in relation to the issue of racism then let’s deepen our practising of it in our primary relationships.
How much of the time can we own and hold and bring our open hearted vulnerability and own our own guilt and shame to our partner without collapsing or defending? How often do we want to take the victim position and not look at our own position from a grounded, centred, empowered mature place (without the usual huge dollop of self hatred/blame thrown in).
The issue of racism is not a diversion from the global issues of environmental destruction, pandemic, political corruption or financial poverty. It is a deep expression OF it. It’s not a side issue. If I and my work stand for protecting nature and all life as equal and I exclude people of colour I am a total hypocrite. Anywhere that there is imbalance nature will call it out and do what she can do bring balance back. We are being asked right now as expressions of nature to do exactly that.
It is time for us to listen and keep listening; and if feelings of guilt and shame arise in us then let’s seek support to find ways to face what is inside of us. Much of this is in our ancestral line. I have phrases in my psyche that I heard my Father say when I was a child that are truly shocking, and when I spoke out I got slapped down for speaking up – so I learned not to.
Lets listen, and then listen more and listen more …stand beside people of colour, stand for them and stand with them.
In context to the work I offer, I want to clarify that if you come and work with me I will not be hijacking how you need support with this issue or insisting that you engage with this or my views. But I do hold it in my awareness all the time – it feels interconnected with the work we offer here and it feels important to weave it in. It is not an side issue for me, it is yet another example of our broken world
This is a link to a Facebook group that is going to begin on 15th June to help dismantle the system from the inside out. https://www.facebook.com/groups/528048657834066/