Opinion: I appreciate your white guilt, but I really don’t want it

Illustration by Sammy Newman

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Dear White People,

This isn’t a Netflix show. This isn’t a Justin Simien movie. This is real life. There’s a serious elephant in the room that we need to discuss: your white guilt.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I don’t have white guilt.” Maybe you don’t. But maybe you aren’t aware what white guilt truly is. Think on your life, think back to your last interaction with a person of color; did you pick your words more carefully so you wouldn’t come off sounding racist? Did you stay quiet because you thought you’d offend someone? Have you made fun of yourself and your privilege? If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you’re suffering from white guilt.

Well, my diplomatic white peers, I appreciate your white guilt, but I really don’t want it. You see, your white guilt actually does more harm than you think. I appreciate the abundance of care you have for my feelings, but your delicate tiptoeing around me makes me wonder: What would you say if you didn’t filter your words so carefully?

Your political correctness leads to uncomfortable, disingenuous conversations that feel forced and one-sided. Your self deprecation causes painfully awkward silences because I have no clue how to respond to you.

The worst thing your white guilt does is make you the center of attention. Isn’t that what you’re trying to avoid?

White people, let me set the record straight for you: It’s truly not that deep. I understand that you feel shame on behalf of your oppressive ancestors, but I don’t need you to apologize to me every five minutes. If you feel so compelled to reimburse me for the past, I take Paypal, Venmo, Cashapp and just straight cash. What I don’t need is your constant self-reproach and condemnation. 

I know you don’t mean harm with your actions; in fact you mean the complete opposite. I understand that this comes from a sense of you wanting to be my ally. I get it, you voted for Obama, and I see that you have black friends — you don’t have to keep reminding me. I’m going to let you in on a secret: Your “I’m not racist” act just makes you microaggressive. Whether you want to admit it, your cautious treading around me allows me to believe you have a preconceived notion as to how I’ll react. Due to your implicit prejudice, you probably think I’ll get angry and hostile because you’ve offended me. Well, that in itself is microaggressive. 

Microaggressions are more than just insults and explicit prejudice. They come in all sorts of forms such as implicit bias and uninformed stereotypes. Sometimes, we don’t even know we’re being offensive until it’s too late. I’m not saying your white guilt is offending me, I’m saying your white guilt is unnecessary. I promise you, as long as you’re not out here being wildly racist, it’s not that deep. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for ignorance on white people’s end — that happens more than enough without my approval. I’m just coming to the conclusion that you don’t need to go through an agonizing cycle of self-hate in order to realize your white privilege. Sulking in your white privilege, forcing me to coddle you in this systematically burdening era, isn’t getting us anywhere. Frankly, it’s just annoying black people. Black people, and all people of color, aren’t asking you to diminish yourself so we can all be on the same level. We’re asking that you remove your institutional barriers and help lift us up.

White guilt isn’t going to close the pay gap. As a black woman, I’m still set up to earn 61 cents to the white man’s dollar. White guilt isn’t going to release the disproportionately incarcerated black male population from prisons. One in every three black men will still be incarcerated, as opposed to the one in every 17 white men. White guilt isn’t going to stop the police brutality against black communities. Botham Jean, Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown and so many unarmed black people are still dead and will continue to die. 

“If you feel so compelled to reimburse me for the past, I take Paypal, Venmo, Cashapp and just straight cash. What I don’t need is your constant self-reproach and condemnation.” — Tagwa Shammet

My favorite quote is one by Angela Davis: “I am no longer accepting things I cannot change. I am changing things I can no longer accept.” Well, my darling white people, if you’re so guilty about what your ancestors did, start making a better future for communities of color. Davis said this while your ancestors oppressed her, while they held her down and tried to strip her of her will to be great. Since you’re so obviously distraught about the past, fix the damage your predecessors did. 

You apologizing to me in the privacy of a classroom, a party or wherever we are isn’t going to help me. I want your help to build up my community. I’m tired of you telling me that slavery makes you uncomfortable or that you would have marched side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr. I’m tired of you bragging about how Obama is your favorite president or how Beyonce is one of your icons. Sitting in a history classroom, having all the white students stare at me during the slavery unit, made me feel far more than discomfort. I still march forward with the vision of MLK and my ancestors. Obama and Beyonce are my idols because they showcase black excellence in this white society. Don’t belittle me by saying my struggles are suddenly yours. They’re not.

Racial equality is apparently difficult; it’s not going to happen overnight. But, for as many of you white people plagued with white guilt, there are those without any sympathy for the black community. Start educating your fellow white people with all this lovely information you’ve learned to stay politically correct. Let them know about how Flint, Michigan, still does not have clean drinking water. Let them know about how Botham Jean’s white killer only got 10 years in prison for murdering an unarmed black man in his home. Let them know inner city school districts with minority-majority schools still have the lowest graduation rates in the United States. Let them know how while the United States poverty line is at 11.8%, the black population makes up more than a fourth of that number. Let them know that they continue to do what your dreaded ancestors did: oppress the black community.

White people, from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate your white guilt. But I want you to do more with it. Rather than bathing in your self-pity, start making a difference. Take that anger and shame to your nearest community of color and see how you can help them. I genuinely mean this: I don’t want your empty apologies. Actions speak louder than words, and right now, your inaction is speaking volumes. The only way to cure your white guilt is to stop sulking in your deprecation and start advocating for racial justice. That’s the only apology we want.


The Black Community.


  1. The way we live our lives is a manifestation of how we percieve them. If our core beliefs about who we are get attacked for long enough, it changes our thoughts and feelings about the way we live our lives, and that automatically changes our behavior – for better or for worse. This is obviously an example of people’s behavior being changed for the worse, but why?

    There is a point at which political correctness becomes damaging to the very people that it was intended to help. In a typical interaction, especially on college campuses, there’s a strong natural desire for people to be mutually respectful. The problem is that as the push to be P.C. becomes stronger, the consequences for not being P.C. are getting worse.

    If a single person calls you out in a class, at a party, on social media, or anywhere publically for saying or doing anything that even resembles something racist, that’s it. You’re done. For the forseeable future, you’re socially dead. Sometimes it’s appropriate depending on the situation, but its increasingly become the blanket consequence of saying, doing, or implying anything of a racially insensitive nature. And that’s the point.

    These overly sensitive, self-depreciating gestures that a lot of white people feel necessary to act on when socializing with black people are the result of the natural desire to be mutually respectful, but have over-corrected due to an increasingly strict enforcement of P.C. culture. To the extent that it is negatively effecting normal social interactions between people of different races, it may no longer be serving its purpose.

  2. Well, I’m a white male with no white guilt whatsoever. So I must be the most dangerous species for you guys, according to the latest propaganda news…

    I used to be sympathetic all my life to discrimination, but not anymore. When some people build a whole anti-racism campaign with the most blatant and ridiculous racism against another skin color, it’s like the world got mad.

    I grew up in a poor Eastern European country, and after I immigrated in the West, then in North America, I felt also discriminated because of my accent and of my name, that didn’t spell “right”. And now, we had a whole new Black community going against millions of immigrants like myself with their non-sense.

    To conclude: racism and discrimination is everywhere, and there are different forms to fight against them. But what “progressives” and most Black people did by propagating these “white privilege”, “white supremacy” and “white male” non-sense against a whole race is plain stupid.

  3. When I was young we lived in the projects in Jamaica Plain Mass. For those of you that don’t know what that is, a place where they housed all the poor people to live. There were whites, blacks, Puerto Ricans Mexicans all together in one spot. As children all we knew is we were all poor. All the kids played together all the time, halfball ( that’s a rubber pimple ball and we would cut it in half and use a broom stick as a bat ) we would play for hours and all parents would make a lunch and kool aid to drink and bring it to us for lunch, we would eat over each others house for supper. Play alot of basketball, red rover, hide and seek, tag, swing on swings to see who could jump the farthest when swinging. Go to Red sox games at Fenway park, sneak in at the bleachers to watch games, one kid would get in and tell the guard his brother lost his ticket one after another till we all got in, People say acquaintances, but I say friends we were always together and would do anything for each other. There was no color barrier back then because we didnt see it that way , all we saw was we were poor and we all ate the same things welfare steak ( Balony )beans, spaghettis, hot dogs, brown bread in a can, spam eating ant thing out was a luxury. 10 of us would go to the drive in once a month maybe we always drew straws to see who would go, if you got the longest one twice you automatically got to go on the next one, we would bring our own popcorn and kool aid to drink. That is what I remember of my childhood.

  4. When people call your racist over “microaggression” and stuff your do subconsciously, when so much rides on not offending anyone over anything of course people will walk on eggshells. Maybe they have been hit with “why did you describe her as black” one too many times. If I describe a white man or woman as the white man or white woman one will bat an eye but people get irate sometimes over using skin tone as a ID and this is just one stupid example of why we have to think about every little thing. I miss class politics when it as the poor 99% of us vs the rich the 1% of us. Now it is the poor vs the poor divided by race lines while the rich tweet our commands and the outrage and act like they are one of us.
    Maybe we have been hit with the race card so many times and now since it can cost your your lively-hood we have to treat PoC with kid gloves..I don’t want to lose my job because some sensitive person sees me cracking my knuckles and thinks I am throwing racist gang signs..

  5. I used to care about change, equality, humans being humans. Now the only thing I can think about is not offending anyone over anything ever. ID politics over Class politics has hurt progress IMO.. It has made conversation a thing of the past, changing hearts and minds is gone. Now what matters is just dont offend anyone.

  6. You seem to pity yourself and everyone with a non white skin color, it’s absolutely pathetic, just because you assume “white people” behave a certain way does not make it factual..Certain blacks seem to have a lot of talk online, why are you so timid irl because maybe we will instantly shut you down with your bs?

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