How Can I Cure My White Guilt?

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Has no Rx for his orange obsession.
A/V Subscriber
Nov 8, 2004
Wishing I was in Stillwater
Two words: Kill yourself. From NYT:

How Can I Cure My White Guilt?
The thing about privilege is that it can be used for good.

By Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond
Aug. 14, 2018

Dear Sugars,

I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color. I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else.

I consider myself an ally. I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it?

Another part of it is that I’m currently immersed in the whitest environment I’ve ever been in. My family has lived in the same apartment in East Harlem for four generations. Every school I attended, elementary through high school, was minority white, but I’m now attending an elite private college that is 75 percent white. I know who I am, but I realize how people perceive me and this perception feels unfair.

I don’t talk about my feelings because it’s hard to justify doing so while people of color are dying due to systemic racism and making this conversation about me would be again centering whiteness. Yet bottling it up makes me feel an existential anger that I have a hard time channeling since I don’t know my place. Instead of harnessing my privilege for greater good, I’m curled up in a ball of shame. How can I be more than my heritage?


Steve Almond: Shame and anger are powerful emotions, Whitey. And yet your central struggle is around identity. You write that you don’t know your place. In fact, your letter describes your place as a kind of prison cell of privilege. What you really feel is trapped within an identity that marks you, inescapably, as an oppressor. This feeling is especially acute right now, I suspect, because you’re suddenly immersed in a milieu that reflects your privilege back to you. We do live in a culture steeped in white supremacy and class bigotry, as well as patriarchal values. But the solution to this injustice isn’t to wallow in self-hatred. Instead, heed the words of the writer bell hooks. “Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege,” she writes. “We have to share our resources and take direction about how to use our privilege in ways that empower those who lack it.” You’re not going to empower others by disempowering yourself.

Cheryl Strayed: I think Steve’s onto something when he notes that your anxiety is acute now because the racial mix at your college is reflecting your privilege back to you, but I’ll go even further: My hunch is that you’re truly seeing it for the first time. You grew up in a neighborhood and attended schools where you were one of the relatively few whites. It’s possible your status as a situational racial minority gave you the illusion that you didn’t have much in the way of racial privilege. Now that you’re living in a community that, at 75 percent white, roughly mirrors that of the American population, you’re feeling the full force of what it means to be white in a white supremacist culture and it makes you feel uncomfortable because up until now, in some unconscious way, you’d exonerated yourself from it. You were the “good white person” because you grew up among people of color. Now you’re another white face in the crowd at your elite college, and ashamed of it.

SA: As a straight white male raised by two professionals in an American suburb, I know I was born into a life of extraordinary privilege. But it wasn’t always that way. It took me many years to begin to recognize these advantages as unearned, the product of corrupt systems stacked in my favor. The rise of political actors and demagogues who promote white supremacy, misogyny and racism is, in part, an effort by the privileged to reject these truths. They’ve created an ecstatic cult of victimization and recast the pursuit of justice as an assault on their selfhood. But a nation founded on the ideal of equal opportunity will never fulfill its destiny unless those with power confront their privilege. Embrace that mission and it may become easier to accept yourself as flawed but sacred. You can’t change the story you were born into, Whitey. But you can be what bell hooks calls a “radical visionary” who uses privilege to define and determine truly equitable standards. Seek out the causes and classes and candidates that speak to your vision of America — one in which the lives of the disenfranchised matter more than white people’s feelings. Anguish is understandable in this age. Action is required.

CS: You ask us how you can be more than your heritage, Whitey, but what Steve and I are suggesting is that you need to own it first. As you seem well aware, your race granted you privileges that were and are denied to people who are not white. This is true for all white people in America, no matter how racially diverse their childhood neighborhoods were or were not, no matter how much money their families had or didn’t have, no matter how difficult or easy their lives have been. Every white person should be ashamed of that injustice. Which is different than being ashamed of being white. You don’t have to relinquish your heritage to be an ally to people of color, Whitey. You have to relinquish your privilege. And part of learning how to do that is accepting that feelings of shame, anger and the sense that people are perceiving you in ways that you believe aren’t accurate or fair are part of the process that you and I and all white people must endure in order to dismantle a toxic system that has perpetuated white supremacy for centuries. That, in fact, those painful and uncomfortable feelings are not the problems to be solved or the wounds to be tended to. Racism is.


Legendary Cowboy
Jun 18, 2008
Dallas, TX
I read something the other day about how the race war isn't actually between whites and everybody else... it's between white "elite" and everybody else, and those elites are positioning themselves as "allies" so that they can maintain power... the sooner that non-elite whites and non-elite peoples of color realize that their interests are virtually the same, the sooner we can become a better nation.


Federal Marshal
Oct 13, 2004
Every person born in the United States for the past thirty or forty years is a person of privilege given to us through the deaths of those who made it possible. It matters not the race of the man, but the color of his heart . As a privileged (earned) nation, we do indeed have a responsibility to lead with integrity and honor. I think the best way we can do this personally is to honor and respect ALL of those in our lives with the kindness due God's creation. It's just the right thing to do.
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A/V Subscriber
Jun 16, 2011
Every person born in the United State for the past thirty or forty years is a person of privilege given to us through the deaths of those who made it possible. It matters not the race of the man, but the color of his heart . As a privileged (earned) nation, we do indeed have a responsibility to lead with integrity and honor. I think the best way we can do this personally is to honor and respect ALL of those in our lives with the kindness due God's creation. It's just the right thing to do.
Well said.


Federal Marshal
Jan 11, 2010
In Pokey's head
Caucasian is outdated and offensive. It is analogous to Chinaman or Negro. Anglo American is acceptable however.
The archaic categories of races were Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid (black, white, Asian). Decades ago (circa 1850) schools taught these were the 3 great races and all others were hybrids of some combination of these three to include neanderthals and other less sapiens etc.

They were wrong of course but it sometimes seems the stereotypical assertions are bad history repeating itself.


Federal Marshal
Oct 15, 2003
So Cal
I'm just thrilled that I can identify as redneck, that pain of white privedge must really suck.
maybe that's the ticket.... I can get rid of white privilege by claiming to be a neo-nazi who is identifying as a skinhead..... they don't consider it a privilege to be one of those, do they?

maybe I can simply "identify as" as a different race several times a week, is it still considered a privilege if we're identifying as an underprivileged black woman? (Rachel Dolezal)


Territorial Marshal
Aug 11, 2011
I swear that first part reads like a liberal suicide note. Somebody needs to talk whitey off the ledge and let him/her know that there is more to life than just trying to please black people to make themselves feel good.
And the only systematic racism I know of that is trying to kill black people is abortion. Unless you include black on black violence due to gangs and such.

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