‘Sitting with guilt’ poses challenges

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

I have a difficult time sitting with the feeling of guilt, particularly if it is connected to something in which I was unaware I was participating.

In fact, my knee-jerk reaction is to get as far away from it as fast as I can, usually by being defensive and sometimes before I can even feel the feeling. (I grew up in a place where foreseeing the consequences of one’s actions was highly touted.) Generally speaking, nondominant culture members have much more information about dominant culture members than dominant culture members have about nondominant culture members.

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So, women know more about men than men know about women. Black people know more about white people than white people know about black people. It’s just the way it works. Those of us in nondominant culture positions must navigate the dominant culture to varying degrees, hence, information is very important to being able to do that successfully. For dominant culture people, the stakes are lower. The idea that our livelihood, well-being and in fact our lives are predicated on the understanding of another culture fails to occur to us.

So, meanwhile, back at the experience of guilt. I think I am being asked to do something much more rewarding. I think I am being asked to listen so my understanding of another group of people can grow. I think I am being asked to challenge some of the preconceptions that are present in my life. I think I am being asked to take appropriate action. And I think I am being asked to sit with my fear of change until I see how things are better.

Those four endeavors seem like a pretty big challenge. I also grew up in a place where “hope springs eternal” and in the face of difficult times it bubbles up. I remain ever hopeful that we can continue to move in a way that benefits us all and moves closer to the ideals on which this country was founded, however much the times have changed.

Jo Weaver