Friday, February 24, 2012

White Male Guilt & The Notion of Personal Responsibility

Y'know, sometimes it only takes one random person on the internet to completely change how you think.

All this time I'd been conflicted over my opinions on race, class, and gender. I'd been conflicted on how to resolve the disparity between what I know, and what I feel. I was, and am extremely torn between explaining how female privilege operates, and acknowledging my own male privilege. To this day, I am still unable to claim my White privilege due to my Jewish background, yet I simultaneously accept that it influences my life in incredibly subtle ways. In short: I am a man ideologically opposed within himself.

But then I read this paragraph,
"Though I’ll do my best to combat all forms of crimes against women I’ll not accept personal responsibility for any act I myself did not commit. Though I’ll be there to support any woman as best I can through whatever suffering she may have received at the hands of men, I’ll not take it on emotionally as my own. I will recognize whatever systems privilege me as a white American heterosexual male but I will sharply delineate what is institutional and cultural privilege and culpability from what is personal or interpersonal privilege and culpability. I will not accept personal blame, guilt or shame for 1000s of years of women’s past and ongoing suffering."
Hot damn!

The answer to my own guilt, shame, ignorance, confusion, anger, victimization, and survival from issues of race, gender, and class, all neatly packaged within such a small space...

I recognize my privilege. I acknowledge the cultural and structural institutions that drive everything from micro-aggression to macro-oppression.

But I refuse to feel guilty. I refuse to be personally responsibility for White racism, male misogyny, or whatever bigotry happens to be summarily applied to my identity.

I will stand up to racism, sexism, and classism wherever I see it, whenever I see it.

But I won't internalize it. I won't project it onto myself.

And that's all I have to say about that.


6 footnotes:

Santo said...

Stop with these inane [i]"-isms" will you? They are theoretical constructs, not real entities of any kind.

You've been given a brain tattoo my boy!

Zen saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road ... kill him!

Zek J. Evets said...


Well for theoretical constructs they sure do have a "real" effect on our world!

Perhaps instead of killing the Buddha, you should ask yourself if the words you type on this screen are theoretical constructs of random light and imaginary numbers, then why bother?

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

The way I see it, as long as one doesn't commit OR condone an act of racism or whatever other isms, then there is no reason to feel guilty. But if you start to feel guilty, I think it is because you realize you are either committing a wrong or are condoning a wrong and you don't want to take the gutsy or necessary actions/steps to fix the problem. I think that is why white guilt exists...they want to feel bad but they don't want to do anything about the situation to actually improve it.

Of course, there are people who commit and condone and refuse to see that and don't feel guilty. Those kind of people disturb me and remind me of sociopaths who have no ability to feel.

RVCBard said...

Speaking of guilt, I would like to correct a misconception that seems to be fairly pervasive when it comes up. That is, that women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and so on want you to feel guilty or ashamed for being male, White, straight, able-bodied, cisgender, etc. In my experience, I have heard more people protesting about not wanting to feel guilty than I have heard people actually expressing remorse no matter how ignorant, hateful, or harmful their words or actions.

I can count on one hand the number of times someone has acknowledged, let alone apologized for, any hurt they caused me when they said or did racist, sexist, and/or homophobic things. Of those people, maybe two (and that's being generous) had any clue about what was truly wrong with what they said or did. Nobody except those rare individuals knew or cared that what they should be sorry about is not being who they are, but for actively adding to the heaps of poisonous bullshit I have to wade through everyday as a queer Black woman in America.

Frankly, I don't need anybody's guilt. I need your resolve. I need your humility. I need your fortitude. I need your patience. I need your compassion. I need you to be fully present, fully human, and to get your ego out the way.

Zek J. Evets said...


For me, guilt has often been an internal thing, something I rarely express or recognize publicly. Certainly I think about it, and process it, but I'm not very likely to clue people in to that existential world.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's like that with a lot of people.

But that said, neither of us need guilt, and it's my intention to get over mine.

RVCBard said...

"Certainly I think about it, and process it, but I'm not very likely to clue people in to that existential world."

That puts you about 5 steps ahead of most people, who seem to need to tell me some variation of, "It's not my fault" even when blame is not the topic of discussion.