I’ve lost count of the number of fash who’ve accused me of being a traitor to my race. Having first made this ridiculous allegation (as though whiteness was something deserving of loyalty in the first place) they then find themselves in the unenviable position of having to explain it. The most common method, equally hyperbolic but surprisingly popular, is to claim that it’s because I’m ashamed to be white. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I’m no more ashamed to be white than I’m proud to have dropped ear lobes or an ‘inny’ navel. I might just as well be ashamed of the length of my armpit hair or the crinkliness of my scrotum for all the sense it might make. They’re all just irrelevant accidents of birth – an artefact of my genetic heritage with no bearing upon my rights, my value, my character or my worth. The truth is that, far from feeling ashamed, I simply don’t care.
But shame is an interesting concept. It’s a self-judgement that tends to be total. This is most easily understood when we consider our awareness of wrong action.
If I do something reprehensible then I can regret the deed. I can use that regret to accept my folly and to motivate me to make amends. It’s not a judgement about who I am – it’s not my ‘all’, it’s my human fallibility that is at issue and once I’m aware of my mistake I can work to make amends. Regret, then can be a positive force for growth.
That’s different from shame. Shame isn’t limited to a particular deed or behaviour. Even if it begins that way it quickly grows to become all-encompassing. Ashamed people tend to judge everything about themselves through that single, shame-coloured lens and in their own opinion they will always come up wanting. There’s no incentive to make reparation from shame because there’s no way to overcome it.
Shame is destructive and toxic. Regret is instructive and often developmental – it helps us grow.
Now, let’s consider whiteness through those same lenses.
I’m not defined by my whiteness. I’m as much defined by my behaviour as by any of the countless physical characteristics I possess from skin colour to the shape of my jaw. Compared to the way I treat those around me the colour of my skin is considerably less significant. Also, since I didn’t do anything to cause my skin colour I have no business feeling either regret about it or pride in its ‘achievement’. Let’s face it – there’s nothing to be proud of in passively accepting your genetic make-up. It’s just who you are. The genes that formed you in your mother’s womb had absolutely nothing to do with your choices or actions in the first place.
The same is true for shame. Skin colour is not a defining characteristic any more than the thickness of my browridge or the prominence or otherwise of my ‘Adam’s apple’. So I can’t possibly feel shame about something so trivial in the greater scheme of who I am. Nor can I regret in any personal, blameworthy way a situation I didn’t cause. My skin colour has absolutely nothing to do with my worth or with my choices. It truly is an accident of birth.
So why do racists want to pretend I’m ashamed of my colour when the reality is obviously so different? I’m pretty sure that for many of them it’s just an excuse for themselves.
They know, deep down just how bigoted and irrational they are. They need to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings and on to the imagined faults of those around them. So they accuse me of a shame which they acknowledge is irrational whilst attempting to hang on to the pride that, somehow, they want to portray as reasonable.
But unfortunately for them, you can’t have it both ways. If there’s no place for shame, there’s no place for pride either.
Skin colour, like scrotum wrinkliness is irrelevant in both cases. And they know it!