My wife is a homemaker (in laymen’s terms: stay-at-home mom). She’s truly amazing at it and I will readily admit that I want no parts of that job.
Some days when I come home, she makes me aware of how rough her day has been. Between missed naps, cleaning, and temper tantrums, there are times I feel guilty. Other times, I feel as if she is simply trying to make me feel guilty. Still other times, I think she is just complaining. The result of these three scenarios is that I end up not even wanting to ask how her day went. I come home from a hard day’s work and essentially try to avoid any conversation about her day. That’s not cool at all.
The reality is that her telling me about her rough day should not make me feel guilty nor is she trying to make me feel guilty. She is not complaining, she is just giving me the reality of her experience for the day. She just wants to make sure that I know, understand, and appreciate her experience. If anything, it is more about us connecting as husband and wife than it is about guilt or complaining.
Furthermore, more times than not, she is not telling me as a “call to action.” She isn’t telling me to do something about it—she just needs to vent and needs to know that the person who says, “I love you” while leaving the house every morning cares about what happens while he’s gone.
As I thought about my unwarranted husband guilt, I wondered if it’s similar to ‘white guilt’ folks often feel in conversations about race with people of color. When they hear people of color speak on race issues are they hearing voices that are trying to make them feel guilty or voices that are doing nothing but complaining? Are these thoughts and feelings pushing white people away from the race conversation?
As I mentioned earlier, avoiding a conversation that is very dear to my wife, ultimately affects my connection with her. Normally, I think everything is fine and have no clue that there is an issue brewing between us. I wonder if this is the same thing that happens with people of color and white people. Is this lack of conversation on race—something that is very dear and inescapable to many people of color—causing a deeper divide, unbeknownst to the majority race?
As a person of color, I can say that when I have tough conversations on race with white people, it is not to make them feel guilty and I am not complaining. I am just giving you my real life experience. And, often I am not telling you for you to do anything about it. Most times, I just want to know that you, someone who says they care about me, knows what I have gone through. I want you to see life through my eyes. I want to know that you care about what affects me as a person. Again, to my white brothers and sisters, this is not for you to feel guilty (I actually think that “feelings” of guilt and empathy are very similar if not identical at the core, but the individual’s reaction to the feeling determines the designation—that’s for another blog post, though).
I know this analogy probably has some holes in it, and may not stand the test through and through, but it did cause me see why a person may experience white guilt. Now, in a sense, I can relate. Yet, like my husband guilt, white guilt is still unwarranted.
However, it was right for me to feel guilty when I recognized how my avoidance of an important conversation was making my wife feel.
Grace and peace.