“We’ve met many times before actually…Do you just not see black guys?”
“What???” I said and he had to repeat it over and over again. Maybe I didn’t want to hear him. But I kept hearing “Do you just see with Blank Eyes?”. I kept hearing both questions at the same time and I couldn’t figure out which one was real and which one was in my head. I had to turn to my friend for clarity. “Black guys” she said. And he continued, “Maybe guys like us don’t exist to you, maybe….”
And I thought, those two questions, they’re synonymous. My people must have blank eyes. Like, mass murderer blank, like sociopath blank. We have to have blank eyes to just not see someone’s existence, right?
I opened my mouth to explain myself, to apologize, to try and lighten the moment, anything – “no, no, I’m so terrible with faces, I never remember anyone, this happens all the time with me, it’s not personal, it’s not you, it’s not your skin, it’s not my skin, it’s not about race I swear, I swear, I swear.” And in my chest, I felt the white guilt gathered. I actually recognized it.
My intention, or my perception of myself, cannot trump my context.
So instead I said, “I’m being called out right now? Drag me.” I mean, he already was. Except, not really. Because it wasn’t about dragging me, it wasn’t really about me.
We already know this but, the weight of a white person not recognizing/not seeing a black person is pre-set. Is centuries deep. It’s about me and more than me. I am reminded that I am my context. My intention, or my perception of myself, cannot trump my context. The project of white supremacy is centuries old and it is me.
I still cannot figure out why, but, as he spoke, I desperately wanted to hold him. How inappropriate… perhaps the whole situation wasn’t even that deep for him. But I wanted to take my actual heart out of my chest and give it to him to , I dunno, to eat? Or to keep on his mantle as a trophy? Because surely the death of me and my whiteness is the only apology that would ever have any meaning.
White guilt [is] not about self-reflection. It is the refusal of accountability.
I wanted to apologize, I did. But I am living on stolen land.
I wanted to apologize, I did. But no reparations have been paid.
I wanted to apologize but I imagined that all of my ancestors were standing behind me. Still, like the statues of Rhodes and Van Riebeeck, without remorse.
Whites, we live in a state of delusion. The delusions of individualism – that we do not belong to a collective, that we are not a people, we represent ourselves only, we are a-contextual beings. The delusions of capitalism – that it’s not an ill-disguised racial hierarchy and poverty is to be blamed on the poor and so the well-off, by virtue of being well-off, are deserving of being well-off. I think that, when we are faced with reality, when we are presented with the edge of our psychosis, we become hysterical.
Delusions of capitalism – the well-off, by virtue of being well-off, are deserving of being well-off.
White guilt is a kind of hysteria, isn’t it? It is not about self-reflection. It is the refusal of accountability. It is a frantic denial. It’s like an “Out, damn’d spot! Out, I say!” kind of hysteria.
It is not productive – we are not actually trying to be productive.
We are not trying to relinquish our privilege. But, perhaps there is some forgotten corner of our collective unconscious that cannot un-see the blood on our hands. And so, we make donations to charity, we go green, we swear that we’re “good whites”, under the delusion that these are things with which we can cleanse ourselves.