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True Solidarity: Moving Past Privilege Guilt

As I prepare to head to the White Privilege Conference in Madison, WI this weekend, here’s my latest piece published at Everyday Feminism.  As I have been helping plan some of the parts of the conference meant to inspire people to take action during and after the three-day event, this post seems particularly relevant, as those of us with privilege must find ways to move past guilt and toward accountable action.

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I remember well when I was first confronted with my privilege.

I had just started college, and some activists called me out on the ways in which my class and race privilege were showing up in the classroom as well as in activist spaces.

Of course I was indignant. “I’m not privileged! I work hard for everything I have!”

And while I did indeed work hard, that assertion is obviously laughable.

There are all sorts of aspects of my identity that afford me privilege: my race, my gender, my religious upbringing, my intergenerational wealth, my ability, and on and on.

But that didn’t make it any easier for me to hear, and as I realized they were right, I fell into a bit of depression, carrying tremendous guilt and struggling to understand how this could be true.

I felt as if I was a bad person simply for being who I am, and I was trapped in shame.

I’m a racist, classist, sexist, ableist homophobe who is ruining everything everywhere.” Yeah, it’s a little dramatic, but it’s honestly reflective of how I felt.

In the midst of my wrestling with this guilt and inertia, I noticed a quote on the dorm room wall of a girl I was totes crushing on:

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I didn’t think much of it the first time I saw it. Or the second time. But since I was hanging around in her room a lot, the quote kept showing up for me, and after a while, it really hit me.

I had to find a way to move out of guilt if I wanted to make a difference.

In time I came to realize that if privilege guilt prevents me from acting against oppression, then it is simply another tool of oppression, and sitting in guilt means further colluding with the system that is making me feel shame.

In turn, we have to find a way to move through or past guilt and toward action against oppression.

And though the process of overcoming privilege guilt must inevitably be intensely personal, there are approaches to ending feelings of guilt that all people of privilege can take.

Approaches to Moving Through or Past Privilege Guilt

1. Self-Reflect

If you’re struggling with shame about your identity and your privilege, that guilt is rooted somewhere, and understanding those roots is important.

Is your guilt coming from your active collusion in oppression? Is it rooted in past action? Is it rooted in feelings of powerlessness about the big-picture problems of oppression?

Without a strong understanding of where our guilt comes from, it is impossible to overcome guilt and accountably act for social justice.

After all, if our guilt is rooted in past oppressive actions, knowing so allows us to forgive ourselves and, perhaps, apologize to others for our hurtful behavior so that we can move forward.

If our guilt stems from our own collusion with oppression, lacking such awareness will only lead to “White knighting,” a term I use as a catchall for acting for or on behalf of those we wish to help. Having knowledge of our own collusion, then, allows us to begin to take steps toward solidarity.

2. Understand and Accept Your Role in Oppression

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible

I have a bit of a crazy week this week, as I am heading off to the White Privilege Conference in Albuquerque, NM.  I look forward to presenting a few workshops and to learning a tremendous amount from the other presenters!  To read a little about what I learned last year, check out my post, Reflections on the White Privilege Conference.

As I’ve been preparing myself to learn and grow at the conference, I’ve been watching some of the documentary Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible on Youtube.  Since I don’t have a lot of time to write this week, I figured I’d post the documentary (broken up into 5 parts on youtube) in hopes that my readers will reflect on its messages.  It’s my hope that you’ll watch it (or at least watch part of it) and engage.  Let me know your thoughts and reactions in the comments section!

CFW’s 2011 Year in Review

After spending a little time this morning going through my blog and looking back over some of what I had written this year, I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of my top posts from the year.

Thus, without further ado, here are

The Top Posts of 2011 from Change From Within

10. The tenth most visited post that I authored in 2011 was one I wrote after visiting the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial in southeastern Colorado – Cultural Amnesia: The Sand Creek Massacre.  Though it is perhaps easiest to forget that we live on the lands of a genocide, we must never forget what has happened in our own back yards.

9.  The 9th most popular publication that I wrote in 2011 was in response to the oh-so-common idea espoused among White folks that because of the election of Barack Obama, we now live in a post-racial society.  I posit, though, that Post Racial = More Covert in Our Racism.

8.  The 8th post popular post on my site was also the most popular post among our White Supremacist buddy over at Unamusement Park who decided to hijack the comments section for his White Supremacist ramblings. The blog, though, was a reposting of a profound piece by Ewuare Xola Osayande in a critique of Tim Wise (and other White Anti-Racist activists such as myself).  On White Anti-Racist Activists by Equare Xola Osayande

7.  Coming in at number 7 is one of my posts that was republished at the Good Men ProjectMy Take On Sex was a response to a young man who was interested to hear my perspective on sex and relationships, as he couldn’t find many perspectives outside of the Christian one he heard in his church community.  The comments section also turned into a rousing debate on abortion, a debate that is still continuing.  I would love to see some comments from more of my readers!

6.  Rounding out the latter half of the Top 10 is a piece that ruffled some feathers locally and got some national traction in the #Occupy movement.  Occupy Denver has a Race Problem criticized the local iteration of the #Occupy movement in its lack of responsiveness to the needs of communities of color.  It posited that if Occupy Denver doesn’t work to be more inclusive, it will quickly become irrelevant, something I fear is happening.

5.  The 5th most popular post on Change From Within in 2011 is one that still saddens me incredibly.  It was my last-minute plea to join in the multitude of voices trying to stop the execution of Troy Davis.  Injustice Anywhere: Stop the Murder of Troy Davis called on my readers to join in the activism that ultimately failed to save the life of a man who was convicted of a murder he very likely didn’t commit.

4.  The 4th most popular post was another repost blog from White Anti-Racist activist Tim Wise that I posted right before attending the White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis, MN.  Tim Wise and White Privilege reposted one of Wise’s pieces where he critiques the racism often present on the American Left.

3.  It’s notable that the 3rd most visited post I authored in 2011 was only written on the 1st of December, and it holds the record for the most single-day hits on Change From Within.  Profitable Objectification: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show problematizes the perspective from which the “fashion show” is presented and how this can not only affect women’s body image but can drastically impact the way that men see women.

2.  The second most visited blog that was published on Change From Within in 2011 addressed the issue of immigration and the English-Only movement in the U.S..  Speak American” – Multilingualism and the English-Only Movement looked at the ways that English-Only as a mindset and policy is not only unconstitutional but actually works to the detriment of the United States and its citizens.

1.  Finally, the single most popular blog post of 2011 was authored January 26, 2011.  It’s Not Just Rap – Misogyny in Music looks at the way that violent misogyny is not a problem solely in rap music, as often asserted, but is actually simply a problem in MUSIC.  From Kanye West to Avenged Sevenfold, from NoFX to Trace Adkins, misogyny is rampant in our music culture, and it’s time for us to do something about that!

Thank you to all my readers for helping to make 2011 such an incredibly successful year at Change From Within.  I look forward to what 2012 will bring, but in the mean time, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Did your favorite post not make the list?  Feel free to post in the comments!

Reflections on the White Privilege Conference

Wow!  A lot has happened since I posted my “Tim Wise and White Privilege” entry last week!  I was pretty excited to go to the White Privilege Conference, as I was one of the features presenters at the event, and I was looking forward to going to some great workshops and hearing some great keynotes.  Little did I know, but I was about to have my world rocked.

I was once told by an incredible professor and mentor that if I ever find myself quite comfortable, it is time to look around because growth never comes in a space of comfort.  We only change and grow when we are challenged, and to truly be challenged is to be pushed to the boundaries if not outside outside of our comfort zone.  Well, I was definitely challenged in ways that made me profoundly uncomfortable during the conference, and while that is tough, I am so happy and better for it.  That being said, I still have a lot of processing to do, so my posts in the next week will likely be a part of that processing.  What better way to process than to throw some of those ideas out to my readers to see what you all think!?

As a result, this week’s post is meant to give you an idea of some of the things that were discussed at the conference (and I was only able to attend a minority of all of the things offered) while providing me a space to think through all of the amazing and challenging things presented throughout the White Privilege Conference experience.  The following list is likely to be somewhat “stream of consciousness.”  Each bullet relates to others and also very much stands as its own point.  These are some of the conclusions and questions that I am struggling with.  Please comment on any that challenge you!  Agree, disagree, challenge!  Discuss!

Take Aways from the 12th Annual White Privilege Conference held in Minneapolis, MN


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Tim Wise and White Privilege

This week I am so excited and honored to be speaking at and attending the White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis, MN.  As a result, the concept of “white privilege” is very much on my mind, and I have been thinking over a few of my past posts about white privilege and privilege in general.  If you haven’t yet checked them out, I would love to hear your thoughts!

However, I know that in the midst of the week’s work, I will not have time to post a unique article of my own (but I definitely will post with some reflections on the conference next week).  Thus, I have decided to highlight one of my favorite authors and an important voice in anti-racism work and in highlighting the role that white privilege plays in our society: Tim Wise.  I encourage you to check out the video below where he talks about the ways that white privilege was constructed to only give the average white person a perceived or relative leg-up over people of color but actually hurts everyone in the long run.

I also encourage you to check out his article entitled “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Glenn Beck? Racism and White Privilege on the Liberal-Left.”  It was originally published here, but I have reposted it below.  I find this article particularly important to consider for someone like myself, as I surround myself with very “liberal” people and often find myself pointing the finger elsewhere when it comes to racism and white privilege.

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With Friend Like These, Who Needs Glenn Beck? Racism and White Privilege on the Liberal-Left

His words rang out with an unmistakable certitude.

“This is the most racist place I’ve ever lived,” said the man sitting across from me, a black writer and poet whose acquaintance I had only made earlier that day.

His expression made it clear that this was no mere hyperbole spat out so as to get a reaction. He meant every word and proceeded in about twenty minutes to lay out the case for why indeed this place where we were talking — San Francisco — was far more racist, in his estimation than any of several places he had lived in the South.

Worse than Birmingham.

Worse than Jackson, Mississippi.

Worse than Dallas.

San Francisco. Yes, that San Francisco.

From police harassment to profiling to housing discrimination to a persistent invisibility he’d felt since first arriving, there was no doubt that the ostensibly liberal enclave was head and shoulders above the rest.

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