On shame and blame and pain.
I woke up wanting to talk about white people and men — with love.
As I am a white person, and even as a queerio I love so many men.
Something a friend who is a white man said to me— about being ashamed — made me realize I need to emphasize something.
There is no reason to be ashamed of who you are.
There is no need to assign blame.
As we look at systems borne of racism or patriarchal thinking shame and blame are distractions. The systems are, we simply need to dismantle them.
Shame, guilt, fear and blame are all part of the root problem as they limit us, they narrow our focus, rob us of potential. Trauma is like that, it sets up cycles of self-limiting behavior. Trust me, I know. Self-loathing is not part of the solution.
Though we spend a lot of time looking at how marginalized people suffer — as we should — the truth is we all suffer. There is no need to add shame and guilt to the pile of suffering. Our goal is suffering reduction for all of us.
I understand the confusion. There are so many awful stories of troubling behavior coming from white people or men. So much anger at systems of injustice. It may seem like folks are mad at individual white people or men, and it is difficult to resist reactions based in defensiveness or shame and blame.
But these systems hurt all of us and the anger is never skillfully directed at individuals. White people and men are also harmed in this process. No one is able to be who they really are — we are all held back, caught in problematic habits of thinking and acting. As a white person, the goal is not shame but sharing my good fortune. Opening up space for others is freeing. Listening instead of talking can help me learn.
Yesterday I saw a meme showcasing how after WWII black soldiers were not able to use the GI Bill to purchase homes. That program helped a great many white families begin to accumulate wealth. The injustice in that is now clear. There is no shame for the families who were able to benefit, there is no point to assigning blame for limitations in the past. But we need to do useful things, now, to help the folks who did not benefit.
I also saw a movie trailer about black women engineers who working for NASA helping launch the program’s first successful space missions. I didn’t hear about them in school, but if I had it would have enriched my world and shaped my view of that which I and all other women — black,white and all colors and ethnicities— are capable.
Without these stories my world is smaller and my actions less skillful — a portion of my world view is blocked. I am lessened. Without them we are all lessened.
The goal is to not create hate or shame or guilt but to open up the world for all of us so we can see each other and ourselves with clarity and precision. Then the actions we take can also be more skillful and our world more just. They dynamic is the same regardless of whatever difference we are examining. Eventually we will be able to open our US to include everyone. There will be no THEM.
We will all be better off.