Last night I tweeted something quite awkward from my past. It was around ten years ago when I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I ended up hanging out at a bar with my friends and a Native American man we met there. After far too many drinks I began to drunk-cry and apologize for the crimes of my ancestors. I’ve never been ashamed of that night. I realize how ridiculous I probably sounded, especially since I have no control over what happened four hundred years ago. Still, it’s something I look back and laugh about.
However, one person thought that I should be shamed for my little drunken outburst. (Which, I’m sorry, but everyone who drinks has had one at some point.) She proceeded to laugh at me for my “gross example of white guilt,” and she retweeted me with the words, “white tears and white guilt oh myyy.” At first I was furious, and when I’m that angry, I become flustered and unable to articulate exactly how I feel. I decided against telling her off. Instead I blocked her and decided to examine myself.
This is how it went down.
I’m not ashamed of who I am and where I came from. I feel no remorse over the color of my skin, and I don’t blame myself for the atrocities of the past. When I look back at those who came before me, I see a multitude of traits…some worth having pride in and some…not so much.
I am white. I openly call myself an American mutt since I can claim over 6 ancestral origins. While I don’t know much about who my specific ancestors were, I am fully aware of the things that occurred when this country was in its infancy. This country, its people, its melting pot of cultures…we all have something to be proud of. We are builders, philosophers, social shakers, technological leapers, and artists. We cling to our ideals while shedding society’s outdated rules.
But there are also things…things so terrible, so unthinkable, that to pretend they never happened and don’t continue to happen, is to close one’s eyes and accept blind ignorance. I know full well what this country was built on. I’m not proud of the methods, of the blood and tears, of the people whose backs were broken so we could forge the building blocks of our nation. When I consider the crimes of this nation’s past, I feel sadness and yes…remorse. I know that I was not there and I cannot be blamed for what was done, but I can’t look back and say, “That’s okay.” Because it’s not okay. It should be acknowledged and embraced. We should remind ourselves of the dangers of prejudice or we may find ourselves in the worst depths of violence and injustice again.
I’m proud that we’ve moved forward and even as we struggle, we take our giant leaps between our baby steps. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do and a lot of changes to make. Admitting that doesn’t mean I am ashamed. I simply live with my eyes and heart open.
As for the woman who attempted to bring me down, I feel pity for her. She lives with a small mind and shriveled heart. She will not understand how to love humanity in ways that would free her from such pettiness. Her life will be filled with hatefulness and misunderstanding. I hope that someday she will recover. I hope she will open her eyes and understand that it isn’t about guilt, and it isn’t about color. It’s about making the future right, and accepting each person as they are.