White Guilt is actually White Narcissism
Emma Lindsay

I agree with so much of what you’ve said. It is perhaps a quibble, but to me using the label Narcissism elevates (or lowers — I guess it depends on the specifics) this pattern of thinking/feeling/acting to a disorder. The everyday word Shame matches better for me. I am deeply ashamed of the ways my culture and I have perpetuated the racist system, even when I was too young to be aware of benefitting from my status as a white girl.

I usually distinguish guilt as a feeling about behavior that can lead to correcting behavior; shame is a feeling about being inherently bad or flawed. There’s no effective way to remove that feeling (maybe massive amounts of counseling, meditating, prayer, or healing) and so it festers and we yearn to shift the blame to others.

The “no-win” situation white people now find themselves in regarding our disgust with our own past (from 500 years ago to 5 minutes ago) simply has to be uncomfortable. The ugly old cliche of the dilemma, “When did you stop beating your wife?” is alive and well in us around race and gender still. There is no good answer. I am far from done with the internal struggle over how to support dismantling racism personally and politically, so I may as well learn to live with that squirmy feeling of diffuse guilt and shame. It’s mine, and it’s my inheritance as a white woman as surely as my privilege is.

Thank you for expressing so eloquently what so many of us experience in our secret shame. We are the ones who have to change, not our black fellow beings. We can’t even soothe ourselves by asking them for help — we can stand ready to respond if we are asked to help, and we can learn to take responsibility unflinchingly for what has been done in our names for centuries.

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