Last month, I received an email encouraging me, as a white woman, “to get off my Peloton,” fly across the country, and demand that a governor in another state issue an executive order banning guns. My only excuse for not getting on an organizing call was that I was in surgery.
I didn’t join the call. I’ve been busy organizing a guaranteed basic income pilot for survivors of incarceration. And finishing up a year-long grant on anti-racist worship practices. And moving our county towards memorializing the lynching death of George Taylor. And organizing around efforts for our county to create a robust non-police response unit for 911 mental health emergencies. I also could never afford a Peloton.
But more than that, I am not convinced that we can build movements based on white shame. I’ve lived through many attempts to activate me through white shame – and I understand why. Shame is powerful. We will do just about anything to get out of the crushing weight of shame because shame is personal. Guilt, we could say, has to do with my action. Shame is about me – who I am intimately, in my very being.
One of my companions in reflecting on racial shame is Sara Ahmed who has written about the shame in acknowledging wrong-doing towards Indigenous people in Australia. “We” have done something awful and the bad feeling is shame. But, Ahmed asks, “what does it mean to build an identity through shame?”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Bad Theology in the Good Place to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.