Sometimes I feel guilty for being white.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being white.

Dear Christina, Sometimes I feel guilty for being white, like I have this privilege that others don’t have, and the guilt eats at me at times, and it makes me feel insecure and small. How do I handle these feelings? I want to help people of color more, but I don’t feel like I can and I just don’t know what to do. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in the shame of being who I am.

Dear Swimmer,

First, let me say, thank you for sharing your thoughts so honestly and so compassionately. There are so many people who feel the same as you and I feel like your sharing will help so many other people too. So, thank you. Truly and completely. Thank you.

It makes me so sad to hear about the guilt you hold for being who you are. You are beautiful and you’re perfect, just as you are. Truth is, I understand how paralyzing guilt and shame can be. I've been there, my friend, many times over on many different things. And I've learned throughout these experiences that oftentimes feelings of guilt and shame are cover-ups for never really stepping into the power we hold as individuals and agents of change. You see, if you can continue to feel guilt and shame, then you will forever feel insecure and small and thus you will never use your beautiful, built-in, natural-born platform and power for creating the change you’d like to see in the world.

As a biracial Black woman, I don’t want you to feel guilty, insecure, or small. I can promise you that. I love you and honor you and respect you — just as you are. And I want you to feel like God gave you the skin color he gave you — and your heart and soul — because he KNEW you could use all of these tools to align yourself and others on the values required for living in a loving and tolerant world.

Now, let me ask you a question that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to. And I don’t ask with judgment of any kind. It is a genuinely curious question that you can choose to answer for yourself or not. Do you think that the guilt you feel is because you are white or is it because you are white and you are not doing anything to use that “power” to be a vocal part of the change you want to see in the world?

Now, I know this question may feel confronting and so too may the answer, but I only ask it because within the answer, I believe you will find freedom from the shame you feel you’re drowning in. And the truth is, it doesn’t mean you need to do anything with the answer; it doesn’t mean you need to take action in any way, but honestly answering this question for yourself will help to guide you on the path that leads to feelings of fulfillment — for being who you are.

In the world of spirituality, we would say that you chose the body you have long before you came into this life and you chose the body that would be most helpful to accomplishing your mission in this lifetime. Now, assuming this is true for a second, are there ways that you’re not using your body (skin color and all), and your God-given, natural-born power, to be an agent for the change you desire to see within and around you?

If so, you and only you have the power to bring yourself into closer alignment, but you don’t have to. Doing so is a choice, a choice that will probably bring much joy and fulfillment into your life. But, it is a choice. And you can make it whenever you feel guided to.

As a person who could benefit by your efforts in the world, I would like to share something personal with you: Whenever I see a sign in someone’s yard in my neighborhood that shows that there are people who care not just about me as a person, but about me as a Black person as well, I feel humbled and grateful; I feel protected, and I feel safe — like there is someone in the world who would fight for my rights if it ever came down to that. So, even if your action is to simply put up a sign in your front yard that works like a beacon of light for others, I’m here to say that it matters. Or, maybe you wear a shirt that shows you care. Your actions don’t have to be grand to have profound effects. There is not a day that goes by when I do not look for signs in the eyes of those around me; trying to find the places where I am safe, protected, and respected for being me.

I believe you showing the courage you did by writing in to me is a symbol of how much you care. Thank you for caring so much and thank you for sharing. 

I hope this message has been helpful to you. In your submission, you said you feel you’re drowning in shame sometimes. My greatest hope for you is that you choose to not only keep your head above water, but choose to swim. You deserve to. And the world needs you to.

Plus, I suspect that you’re a badass swimmer, when you want to be. ;)

Thank you for being you.

With love and gratitude,

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