Why Confronting Guilt is Key to Being an Ally

The first step to being an ally / an accomplice is confronting your own guilt.

Whether the #WomensMarch#FlintWaterCrisis#StandwithStandingRock or #BlackLivesMatter, you must be willing to admit to yourself culpability for past and present transgressions. It means being humble; accepting humility. To confront racism, you must be willing to admit to being racist. To confront misogyny, you must be willing to admit to participating in sexism and benefiting from patriarchy.

I am guilty of all of these things.

As a member of a population that has historically perpetrated heinous acts – a white American of European decent – you must accept your own sybolism. To align yourself with the other means allowing a space of vulnerability within yourself. Where responsibility can be taken for your own inherent or innate biases.

That is the first step – being uncomfortable. It is alms. It is a tax. It is a necessary sacrifice. It is a form of empathy for those who have been uncomfortable for decades. Even centuries.

But it is not enough.

You must take strides, no matter how small, to change. You have to do the work. Expose yourself to new situations, new ways of experiencing the world. Be the only white guy in the room. Surround yourself with people who disagree, who challenge you, who see you, who push you with kindness, compassion, and understanding, whom you trust to call you out on your shit. With love and passion.

That is the gift.

But you must be willing to confront your own guilt, and too many choose instead to bury their roots in their ignorance, fortify themselves against the fear that they might be wrong. That they might be seen for what they truly are.

You can taste it in the long pauses. In their over-reaching opinions. The volume of their voice turned up. Set to drown out that tick, that twinge, that stinging “Maybe…” They speak over the voice in their hearts, not yours.

The tragedy is, for many people, they spend so much time blaming the other that they stop questioning it. They stop feeling the sting. They stop seeing people. And they forget how to see themselves.

In time, the guilt becomes self-hatred… turned outward. And self-hate is a weakness, a space in the armor, holes where tyrants and demagogues can plant their seeds and corrupt from within. Where the false narrative that lacks evidence, written in angst and anxiety, where the cognitive dissonance can be affirmed and exploited. Without self-reflection – without the willingness to confront your own blindness – we become enslaved to fear, entrenched in internalize victimhood, lashing out at anyone who threatens our fragile ego preservation. Self-love collapses and with it joy, trust, honesty, truth, empathy… The cornerstones of civilization.

So many choose to live in the darkness within themselves, where guilt and shame and disappointment and powerlessness dwell. A place without mirrors, because we only see ourselves reflected in others.

To become an ally / an accomplice, you must be prepared to be seen.

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