White Guilt, David Bowie & the Colonial Labyrinth

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I once heard a White man say that he wished we could reach the stage of reconciliation because he did not want his children inheriting and living with the guilt that he feels that comes with the history of colonial oppression. His voice strained, his own guilt taking the form of a pebble in his throat.

“I just want us all to be equal,” he said.

One generation of white guilt and the people are tired of carrying it. I did understand where he was coming from but wanted to point out the generations of shame, blame, and oppression that our peoples have encountered…and yes it would be so nice for them to not carry that forward too. Reconciliation shouldn’t come from a space of trying to liberate the White conscience of guilt, but for the actual people experiencing the oppression… shouldn’t it?

I understand that there is a complex labyrinth full of colonial booby traps that has led us to where we are today and we can’t go backwards. David Bowie is posed as the ultimate oppressor that has become the representative of the systems, institutions, and governments, key figures, and yes, the media that does not remain unbiased. The labyrinth has swallowed many of our people whole and just because we have acknowledged historical atrocities does not mean that it is not continuing to happen to this very day. We are still losing people to the maze that is continually being concocted. The future is being built for us, is often built without the thought of us, and even built to work against us.

So I get it, you’re tired. Believe me, we are also tired have having these “unsettling” conversations but for us it is not a matter of whether or not we want to engage in these “debates”, as we do not have the luxury of staying silent because silence equals death. There are real people that we love whose lives hang in the balance. Overreaction? Live the life and feel the loss, feel the moments of post-traumatic stress disorder, let the panic take your breath, and fear the loss of your loved ones based on their sex AND ethnic background… then you can back to me and I will take your comment seriously.

I have been getting a lot of messages from individuals demanding I word things differently on the grounds that my words make them feel like all White people are bad, or makes them feel guilty for being White. I am part White myself, my maternal Grandfather was a White man from Montana and have no special place in my heart to hold a hate on for White people as a whole. I can just as easily acknowledge that I hold privileges because I am light skinned, more privileges than my younger brother whose skin is almost as brown as my grandmothers. There are forms of oppression that I will never know nor fully understand, but my lack of experience of it does not mean that it does not exist.

Last month I sat with a Congolese activist who told the table (all who were living in well off European countries and North America), “The Congolese people sacrifice everything, including their lives, so that your countries can have plastic shopping bags and cell phones. The Congolese people are left with nothing.”

Privilege is me not knowing or living these circumstances and having the ability to come back home, to a place that uses plastic shopping bags and where people get new cell phones every time there is an upgrade so that they can stay on top of things.

There is no way I would be like, “Can we just skip this conversation? It make me feel uncomfortable for being from a first world country. We like, so go through oppression too you know? All lives matter”.

Fuck. Right. Off.

See what I am saying? So the next time you want to chirp up about how something makes you feel bad for being White, realize that the situation is not about YOU as a human being Carol and Paul, it is about a larger context and the lived realities of individuals who are trying to change shit so that they are no longer the lived realities of their children or grandchildren.

We have been carrying around trauma, loss, rape, murder, and genocide for generations… for generations, and although it must be annoying to have to encounter guilt from time to time please refrain from letting us know how WE can continue to ACCOMMODATE you.

(Taken from a future unwritten chapter on how to burn bridges and offend some allies when you stop being polite after one too many situations where you bite your tongue)

In Spirit,

Helen K

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