Today, I digress from a usual and customary post designed to enrich, encourage, inspire or otherwise positively impact women. Particularly Christian women in business.
But after an incident early this week and an awesome article on Facebook today; I decided to digress and share my personal feelings about the state of our current societal and cultural ‘norms’! It’s a risk. In fact, it’s a BIG risk. But the combo of the two events smacked me in the face as I came to the realization that life events mimic the wisdom of life in general. So I choose to walk to the edge of a limb, poised to take a leap of faith into a highly controversial, but important life topic!
I Didn’t Do It!
At some point this century, I started a doctoral program at a seminary in Dayton, Ohio. I was excited and eagerly entered the chapel on orientation day to listen to the main speaker. . . a Caucasian dude from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. For a change I was part of the minority audience of Caucasians and women. As the white male from the South became more and more energized shaming white folks for slavery; the crowd became equally more energized. The fellow crowned his shaming by labeling what white Americans “feel” as “white guilt“. His premise? That we who are white feel guilty because of the oppression of black Americans in the centuries since our founding. Doesn’t matter that we may never have owned a slave, been part of a family who discriminated against folks of color or had a prejudiced bone in our bodies. We were judged “guilty” by the white dude from south of the Mason-Dixon line, for not other reason than our whiteness!
Needless to say, as the energy in the room reached fever pitch; I bolted for the door. When I reached my black adviser’s office; I was trembling and in tears. He was shocked by my report as he had no idea such a presentation had been scheduled for orientation. He was my saving grace for that experience. . . one I’ve never forgotten. And one that gave me a brief glimpse into what my black friends (and former beloved black sister-in-law) must have felt at times throughout their lives!
The Times, They Have Changed!
Yesterday a.m. I read a brilliant article on Facebook written by a black man, Shelby Steele, in the Wall Street Journal. It’s what prompted a decision to write what may be a highly controversial post. Here’s a couple of excerpts from the piece by Mr. Steele: “America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. . .
White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. . .White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.”
“When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.“
WOW! This hit me like a ton of bricks.
Let me preface the following with the following: I believe that white privilege is real. I believe it because black friends relate experiences they have had that can only be labeled as the result of “white privilege”. The other truth underlying this post is that the article by Mr. Steele is mainly about liberalism. He uses the current political climate of “correctness” as an example of his observations about the state of liberalism today. The 3rd truth is that this post will be LONG.
The “ton of bricks”?
I’m part of a local organization seeking to renew and revitalize our home community. Early this week, I sought a quick answer from the leaders of the organization that should have been a simple “yes” or “no”. However, a “no” response reminded us that we ought be considering diversity/inclusion when looking at leadership for the organization. As I read Mr. Steele’s article and reflected on my response following the stark reminder about diversity/inclusion; I realized that my initial response had all the earmarks of “white guilt” underneath an attempt to explain why another proposed leader is “white”!
In fact, I said to the author of the rebuke. . . “It’s not deliberate!”. And it wasn’t.
But it is basic human nature. And basic human nature doesn’t have a color. And also basic because we tend to think within our own “tribe”. And personally basic because I didn’t want to be painted with the “prejudiced” brush! Nothing angers me more than to be considered prejudiced or racist because I think first in terms of my “own tribe”!
Some Truths I’ve Learned Over the Years. . .
Shortly after the previous situation I mentioned here, I had a conversation with a local educator. We discussed diversity and inclusion. He told me how much time and money a former school corporation spent training teachers so they could get kiddos of different races, cultures and ethnicity to co-habit in the classroom. While the kiddies might start out co-mingling; when free to do so, they would return to hang out with those of their own “tribe”. Hum, imagine that!
- As humans, we are drawn to engage with those who are most like us – from race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or you name it. It’s just who we are. Try as we will to do otherwise, the first step forward will most likely be to the person across the room who looks like me in terms of race, creed, ethnicity, etc.
- We all have some prejudices. Beware the person who loudly shouts, “I AM NOT PREJUDICED ` DON’T HAVE A PREJUDICED BONE IN MY BODY!” I used to say the same thing until I realized that I have lots of prejudices. I am prejudiced against deceit, manipulation, deliberate cruelty to others. . . lots of prejudices. And they show when dealing with folks who are deceptive, manipulative and who can be deliberately cruel. Basically I’m prejudiced against the color of one’s heart; far less than the color of skin; ethnic origin or cultural background. But to say I’m not prejudiced is a deception in and of itself. . . And the same is true for most folks, regardless of color, ethnicity or cultural background!
- I don’t need to feel guilty for something I didn’t do. Nor do I. And I don’t need to fear being thought of as a bigot when I disagree with lifestyles that go against my personal values. I believe it is the Lord of Life who stated we are to “separate the sin from the sinner”. Love the person; hate the sin. Not easy in practice; and even more so when a cockeyed world calls us bigots as we struggle to practice it in real time! And have the courage to speak our truth to a world just waiting to catch us being ‘politically incorrect’!
- Walking on eggshells for fear of being politically incorrect and trying not to offend another who is not of my ‘tribe’ is no fun. It makes getting to diversity and inclusion, because we really want to include others who are not part of our “tribe”, feel it’s not worth trying anymore. Seems nothing I do changes the situation. Truth is – when walking on eggshells for any reason pisses away my power and opens me to anger because I have done so! Just so as not to be labeled with a politically incorrect label. BS. . .
So What’s A Person To Do?
Own our truth. That’s the 1st thing that comes to my mind. Own who we are and own that we don’t have to be beholden to the current societal neuroses. Own that sometimes we error on the side of our human nature. Own that if we are white; we have a leg up on those who are not, but don’t play into the whole false narrative called “white guilt”.
Slavery is bad. It was bad when it was blacks, Irish, women and children who suffer greatly at the hands of greedy sex traffickers today. Work to reduce prejudices where we live and work to the extent we can because the truth is; prejudice will always exist because not everyone is just like us. But we can build bridges to those who are not like us simply because to do so is to prove the naysayers wrong at every turn of a politically correct phrase!
And pray. For ourselves to gain greater understanding about our own behavior and wisdom about why we do as we do. For others, that they will experience greater understanding and wisdom as well.
Then the next time we are met with a rebuke – real as it may be; step back and reflect before responding. I am posting that piece of wisdom where I will see it every time I open phone or laptop so that I will “do as I say. . . not as I do!”
Linda S. Fitzgerald, M.S.Ed, CEO & Visionary Partner
A Women’s Place Network, Inc. dba
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Excerpts from the WSJ article by Shelby Steele, March 5, 2017
Shelby Steele photo from Pinterest