When your guilt isn’t a compliment.

An abundance of others people guilt, weighing on me.Not on purpose, but possibly with the intention of making me “feel better.”Are you really trying to make me feel better, or good about myself?

I’m unsure if these comments are genuine. or simply a way to make yourself feel like you’re being an ally. I always feel a strong sting of “I feel guilty for the discrimination you, and people like you have had and continually have to face.”

Someone said to me, and she’s not the only person to do this; while complimenting my clear skin she said all of her black friends are the most beautiful out of all their friends. I found it hard to take as a compliment. It felt like a reach for acceptance of not being discriminatory, and to be praised for open mindedness. Questions came to mind that I couldn’t bring myself to ask. Why are you denying individuals their own beauty? How many black friends do you have? How many people of other ethnicity are you friends with? What is it about black people that make them more beautiful to you?

I know black is beautiful, I know black don’t crack. Also a phrase I hear often from people who are not black. Maybe it’s because I try to take care of my skin, maybe it’s simply genetics. I felt a sense of exclusion while I was expected to take it as a compliment. Is there such thing as positive discrimination? What’s the word for that?

I am seen for who I am. I am Aretha and Aretha is black, but I am also separated and othered because of who I am. I am put in a separate category or on another level because of my skin colour, beautiful or not. Admired possibly out of guilt, simply saying “I think you’re beautiful” or ” Your skin is so clear” would have been sufficient. Now I’m under the impression she only thinks I’m beautiful because I’m black, not that I am beautiful and I am black. There is most definitely a difference. Maybe there are some underlying factors that I just don’t know. I’m not angry at her for the attempted compliment, I do think sometimes your good intentions aren’t what’s right for someone else. Sometimes words, although kind, are not necessary.

I want to point out the error in the way these intentions are expressed. It may not sound like any pressure or expectation is placed on me to appease the subconscious, but I see it this way, unrecognized guilt is on par with feeling guilty and apologizing for slavery. Leaving out modern day oppression for the time being. You didn’t cause slavery, or ever own slaves, and I was never a slave. Apologizing for it has no benefit to me, and only temporarily relieves a false sense of guilt within you. So to compare me, and tell me all your black friends are the most beautiful friends, or even apologizing to me for being white. Doesn’t stand as a compliment to me or something that will make things better. If I take the compliment, it only relieves an underlying guilt within you, temporarily satisfied by my acceptance.

I don’t want to be discouraging to people of a fairer skin tone wanting to be allies to marginalized groups. The point isn’t to make it known you’re not “racist”, and I’m not here to carry the weight of that. It’s not my duty to appease your unrecognized guilt, to make you feel that you’re being modern, and ‘woke’. To have POC friends does not automatically make you an ally. Think about the way your words might be dividing rather than uniting, and more importantly listen to the voices of those discriminated against. Listening is a step in the right direction. Understanding and unlearning the things ingrained in our society to make things feel better is another. So take the time to think about why you’re saying something.

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