Mea Culpa… and nothing else

I wrote an *excellent* blog post in the shower this morning. It was funny and witty and original. I hit upon the delightful idea of comparing the back-and-forth on the internet this week between women of color and white women to a fight — a major fight — between two people in a relationship. That thing when your partner has really hurt you, really betrayed your trust in some way, and you know they really want to fix it, but you’re just not ever sure it can be fixed. I was going to pitch white women as the offender, naturally. I was going to empathize with the uncertain, hesitant WOC who want to forgive their partner (they could choose the other way, of course, but then the conversation’s mostly over) and aren’t quite sure what they need to make that happen. I was going to ask WOC to help brainstorm what it is that we, my white sisters and I, need to do to make this happen.

I was even, God help me, going to acknowledge that it’s a shitty thing to do, to make the hurt party also outline how to do the rebuilding.I was going to excuse myself with a little patriarchal stereotype, because we all know guys are clueless. And how, in the end, if you want the apology to feel right, or if you want the gift to be the right color or size, you pretty much have to do it for them, amirite?

This is not that blog post, so if you’re already reaching for the 2×4 to upside my head, give me a second.

On one hand, my analogy is embarrassingly stupid. This isn’t a relationship in which we as white women betrayed our sisters of color. The analogy doesn’t work because it implies that we were in a relationship, that we were building something together that we then damaged through our actions. And in general I don’t think we, as a whole, have been building much together. Ever. This isn’t a relationship squabble. If I want a stupid analogy, it’s more like I did something deeply, profoundly terrible to the lady six cubes over at work whose name I can barely remember. And in the process of apologizing, which I do as a pro forma norm, I’ve discovered that I really dig this lady, and I’d really like to convince her that I’m not a hopeless dweeb and maybe we can eventually be Facebook friends. If I earn it.

On the other hand, the analogy worked for me, in a backwards way. Because that thing about how your man doesn’t know how to apologize? How he’s really really sorry but he just needs you to tell him what sparkly thing you want so you’re all good again? That’s *bullshit*. It’s bullshit no matter what the genders are, and we need to quit that. He screwed up, and it’s on him to figure out what’s next.

It’s really, really hard for those of us who like immediate gratification and for relationships to be patched up after an apology, but the fact of the matter is: it’s slow sometimes. You say you’re sorry. You *mean* that you’re sorry. You work your ass off to make sure you understand *why* you’re apologizing — none of that “I’m sorry your feelings are hurt” crap. And then you keep showing up. Maybe you keep buying flowers, or other sparkly things, if that’s your love language and that’s how the two of you build emotional capital. That’s not necessarily bad. But you keep showing up, and you keep trying things, and you keep standing there saying “I want to fix this, and I am going to try this and the next thing and the next until it’s fixed, and then after that, because it’s the relationship I’m investing in. I’m not just trying to patch up one mistake.”

So. This is the post I wrote instead. I am so deeply uncomfortable. I would like to tell you that #notallwhitewomen, quibble with you about that 57%, refer you to my POC friends who might vouch for me. But I won’t, because absolutely none of that matters.

I, personally, as an individual, am sorry. I’m sorry that although I saw the problem I didn’t do enough to fix it. I did not properly estimate the apathy and lack of comprehension among my white sisters, so I didn’t prioritize bringing them along. There were things I could have done, and I didn’t do them.

I, generally, as a member of white womanhood, am sorry. I’m sorry that we haven’t been there, and that when we showed up, we were shocked that you were skeptical.

And I’m going to keep showing up. I’m going to march in the white women’s marches and other marches too. I’m going to listen and try to figure out what my role can be and how I can help. I’m going to do my best to bring my white sisters along with me. I’m going to Google and read and try to understand. I’m going to fuck up and my guesses are going to seem awkward and stupid and I’m probably even going to take some criticism that is hurtful and doesn’t take into account my good intentions. That’s going to suck. I’m not good at criticism, and I am trying hard, so it’s going to be unpleasant when that happens. But I’m going to put a pin in it and show up again anyway.

And just in case it’s necessary, I’m going to add one more thought here. Don’t thank me. If you don’t think it’s constructive, don’t share this. Don’t acknowledge it. I like clicks as much as the next blogger, but I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is. I desperately want us to work together, and to figure out how to move on and do what’s next. I will welcome your suggestions and your assistance. But I’m not waiting for them before I offer the apology I owe you, and the apology stands regardless of what you do with it. I will apologize into an utter vacuum, because this is my first step.

Mea culpa.

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