The internet is telling me that as a white person I should feel guilty for all the bad things that have happened to BIPOC people in North America not only as far back as 1619 but all the way back to 1492.
I have been told that, no matter what convictions, stereotypes, and values I might hold about various ethnicities, and no matter what my own individual record may be of treating nonwhites in my public and personal lives, I am (a) racist. How so? By dint of being white in a culture that not only historically, but still systemically, has treated BIPOC folk far worse than white people.
Dozens of times I have been informed of my white privilege. I may not feel I am privileged and may not be able to point to any actual instance of racial privilege in my life. But I am privileged all the same because I don’t have to endure what is routinely experienced by my BIPOC neighbours.
And if I deny that I should feel guilty, or am racist, or enjoy privilege, it is then asserted that I am reacting out of a pathetic and immoral sense of fragility. I can’t bear the truth and I am defensively refusing it.
A column cannot possibly deal with these huge issues as they deserve. So let’s call this a report card along the way, with a lesson plan for what good steps I might take in future.
First, I reject “white guilt.” While some cultures hold descendants responsible for the sins of their ancestors, the Bible’s vision of justice is that “they shall no longer say: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But all shall die for their own sins” (Jeremiah 31:29-30; see also Ezekiel 18:1-4). Likewise, in the New Testament it is individuals, not families or other groups, who are and will be confronted by God’s judgment (Revelation 20-21).
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