Should white people apologise?
This was the topic chosen by the participants at our last Diversity Dialogue of this year.
At these dialogues, people choose to represent different voices or points of view that are relevant to the topic. The voice of white apology set the emotional tone for the dialogue by speaking early on in the process, recognising the pain experienced by the voice of black inferiority and admitting to its own complicity in and benefit from the system. Regret and repentance were expressed. This opened the door to a different level of communication and relationship between the voices of white supremacy and black inferiority, with less provocation of black pain and anger. When an older black gentleman spoke from both white supremacy and black inferiority, it was clear that these two views usually come together. People from different backgrounds recognised how strong the hold of white supremacy still is, even in those who oppose its power.
The white apology was seen as significant, but there was some cynicism about whether it would be accompanied by real action. A longing was expressed for this to happen in more spaces and by enough white people to produce a groundswell that results in real change. There was also a wish to see white people in positions of authority taking this step publicly. The emphasis on apology accompanied by action was understood by a white voice in the room, yet at the same time this voice felt trapped in a “catch 22” situation: It is not appropriate to draw attention to the action that is happening because it seems self-righteous, but that means that appropriate action might remain hidden. This could be interpreted as an apology that is not genuine. There was also a question from this voice whether anything they do will ever be seen as enough.
A deeper conversation has started…