The Difference between Guilt and Responsibility

In my growing awareness of power, privilege and oppression, I find that it is very important that I not only learn the difference between guilt and responsibility but that I also internalize that message and act on it. My own guilt about the legacy of racism paralyzes me as it does others in the racial justice movement. It does not serve me or anyone else in the pursuit of racial justice. Rather, when I can shift that attitude to one of taking responsibility for understanding racism, understanding my white privilege (the ways that I have received advantages as a white person), and taking action on causes that move us toward equity, then I can be part of real change. Tim Wise says it really well in the video below in response to the question, “Should white men feel guilty about racism?”

Solid Ground as an agency has made an explicit commitment to fight for racial justice and ending poverty. A part of that struggle has to be shedding our guilt and taking responsibility!

One Response

  1. Your comments regarding racism, “The diference between Guilt and Responsibility.” As a child growing up my parents did not focus on racism as part of our teachings we were taught the importance of living and working where every one so chooses and to stand up for that which you believe, I have done that. Before ‘bullying’ became popular I stood up against it while attending school as a young child not by words but by action, I stood in between the child being bullied and the bullies. I never needed to wait for someone to tell me a situation was wrong or bad, I knew it when I saw it and took what every action I felt necessary to help eliminate it. When ever I embark on a project I would do my research to confirm that which I knoe is wrong locally/nationally.

    Too many, I find attempt to analize making excuses as some of your statements show. “In my growing awareness of power, privilege and oppression, I find it necessary to learn the difference between guilt and responsibility.” I have known the difference since a child because of the manner in which I was raised and because of the things my parents exposed me to much the same I have done for my children and grandchidren. I do not understand the present mindset of our society which has been going on for the past three decades, we must have someone take the responsibility of telling us if we are wrong or right or what is our responsibility to our society, our children, our marriages, etc. The more intellect we acquire the less common sense we have.

    The main reason why white men should feel guilty about racism is because they have had control for such a long period of time. They enjoy the power, the privilege and some do enjoy the oppression. If one is unable to see the difficulties, the pain and suffering of others they are unable to see what part they take. The attitude is if it is not happening to me it is not happening. I see this in a number of the- so called agencies who are suppose to help people including Solid Ground to many of these people who work in such agencies are unable to relate. Siince Seattle lives in a world of illusion I find them guilty, big-time.

    When one is surrounded by a society that expresses and encourages words and actions towards others that is insulting and degrading and encourage physical attacks and does/say nothing to counteract automatically is a form of racism. Looking the otherway or ignoring what is being done or said you are part of the problem this is not hard to analyze but, most discouraging. As a African-American/Native American I have never allowed the cancer of racism stop or prevent me from what I want or wish to do I have taught my children and grandchildren the same as my parents taught me. I still get looks when I am in a place, location or situation whereby the populas is caucasian. I look at it being their problem not mind.

    African-Americans ask me, “Why do you go here or there if the environment is mainly caucasian?” To me, a stupid question.” I tell them because I want to and I do and go where ever I please and their racism is very much a problem if one wish to respond to the sickness.”

    I am not one to take anything for granted I have had to many challenges in my life. What I find curious is the fact you and other caucasians take everything so easily and so much for granted as if you are automatically entitled and ‘damn’ everyone else. No ethnic group can take anything for granted because we have to take into account each morning we wake up who may attempt to attack by way of word or sick deed especially when looking for housing or employment. I got the picture several years ago when the American public voted in Ronald Regean Americans are more comfortable with stupidity than intellect. Look at the pouplarity of Reality Shows. Most have no sense of history let alone the political process, they enjoy and encourage ‘dumbing down.’ Many are under the impression there has been a hold on the practice of racism since a man of intellect took the White House four years ago, not so, racism is alive and well. There is no question in my mind across this country some African-Americans do not apply for positions they may be well qualify but do not respond to the call because there is a large number uncomfortable and fearful of the ‘White environment and society.’ To me this is another segment of racism, ‘self-inflected.’ My father would tell my siblings and me do not every come to me telling me you were unable to do one thing or another because of your race/culture, I stand by that today.

    There is no racial justice, there is no housing, there is no employment justice only your white privilege. You are right you have white privilege and advantages, no fear of what may occur when you walk out of the door to try to live your life the best way possible for you and your family. If you are sincere about your intent to help change your position on racism I would suggest you not only continue to work with organizations and causes, at this time there are very few especially in Seattle but, encourage your colleagues and friends to open the door to those who truly need help to accomplish their goals for themselves and famiies. Causes can be slow in implementation.

    In this country we are quick to go international. We adopt or sponsor families abroad, why not do the same for local communities? Why not adopt or sponsor families who are truly trying to work toward positive change in their lives through education, employment and housing. We can have all of the discussion in the world, I love discussions but, how about setting up a program of action you will get a better picture of what you can and will do. It means stepping out of the box and into an area you have never considered. I am sure it will enhance your life. You can than say you were truly working toward change and understanding. What every racism you may have been raised with or acquired will give you a better understanding of each other and why racism is just as bad on one side as it is with the other.

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