In part II, the relationship between the spiritual/self-actualization element and all the other elements of the circle is explored. Each individual element is inter-connected to one another; to achieve balance between the elements, one must understand these connections. The emotional and spiritual/self-actualization elements are the most interconnected.
The physical element in the Secwepémc teaching is related to the land, tmícw, since the identity of the Secwepémc people is deeply connected to the land. The language, Secwepemctsín, is influenced by the land, and traditional names given to women often show a connection to water, as indicated by the suffix –etkwe. To the Secwepémc, every part of the land, every plant, and every animal is animate, they each have a spirit. For example, the rocks are the grandfathers and are addressed with reverence. The residential school system deliberately and systemically cut the connection to the land, the language, and Indigenous teachings.
In the mental element of these materials, you will learn about the role of the legal system in the displacement and disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples, particularly the establishment of residential schools and the 60’s scoop. The spiritual/self-actualization element will require students to reflect on the dark history of the law and the legal profession and pledge a commitment to do better in future. As a future lawyer, it is important that you have seen how the law can be used to cause harm and ensure that going forward, you continue to question the morality of the law and policies. Just because something is law, does not mean that it is just. Residential schools and the holocaust serve as glaring examples of this. The TRC Calls to Action are calls to all of us to act.
The emotional and spiritual elements are strongly connected to one another. In the emotional element of these materials, you will learn about the emotional impact of Residential schools and the 60’s scoop on survivors, and the legacy of intergeneration trauma that persists today. It will be difficult to hear the stories of survivors and their children as they will be very emotional. It will often involve the elders telling their stories to re-visit their trauma. To experience the emotional element without the spiritual could cause feelings of despair, guilt, and hopelessness.
While these emotions are powerful and part of the learning process, it is important to forge them into something constructive and actionable. That is where the spiritual and self-actualization element comes in. A very powerful emotion that may come while learning about Canada’s colonial history is guilt. In many racial movements, this is referred to as “white guilt”. Below, a few excerpts from articles that address white guilt discuss how it can be turned into white accountability.
“White guilt” won’t save us by Myriam François
It is far more painful to awaken as the oppressed, than the oppressor, but beyond comparing apples and pears (or comparing structurally oppressed groups and structurally oppressive groups), there often seems to be little consideration of what should be the end goal of encouraging guilt among white folk — aside from paralysis, or further entrenching white identity, neither of which appear desirable.
There is a modern obsession in our culture with the self, with the result that individualism bleeds into our conceptual frameworks, such that moral or political problems are reframed as emotional ones, instead. Just as the mindfulness industry has convinced corporations that the way to resolve employee dissatisfaction isn’t by redressing work-life balance, but through “look-within” classes, so too much of the current conversation about racism and racial injustice is preoccupied with feelings: anger, guilt, resentment, entitlement.
White guilt is simply an emotion. It doesn’t change, disrupt, or confront. In fact, without some way of channeling or directing this guilt, for many people racialized as white, “white guilt” becomes a final resting place in the journey of anti-racism — an emotional refuge of inaction, challenging as it does the myth of white innocence so central to liberal mythology. But are those of us invested in racial justice really content to provide a refuge from accountability and action to those most in need of confronting their accountability, of making a change?
Neither guilt, nor anger — however righteous — provide a framework for moral or political transformation, though both may fuel transformation if properly channeled.
White Guilt – Just Another White Privilege? by Kathrine Kallehauge
The strength of white guilt lies in its ability to personalise racism to the white body. Whiteness is the canvas in the western hemisphere – I reiterate, it goes unnoticed. With white guilt, it becomes noticeable and a visible problem to be scrutinised. By default, racism is internalised as an intimate issue for the white body, which could potentially motivate long-term commitments to change….
The danger of white guilt is that it centers the emotions of whiteness as the feeling is heavily internalised, and heavily felt, to the extent of fully deflecting away from white complicity in racial violence and subsequent suffering. Instead, it becomes about the feeling, and how to get rid of the uncomfortability of complicity.
The detriment of white guilt lies in its companionship with exoneration. White guilt thrives alongside a need for forgiveness – the absolution of guilt. This “urgency of repentance,” as Steele frames it in his book, seeks short-term solutions rather than long-term commitments to change…
Maybe, we need to introduce a new term – white accountability. Accountability for racism and accountability for changing whiteness and its continued oppressive and supremacist nature. Instead of being a prisoner of negative emotions in a pursuit for exoneration, whiteness could simply take in the sensation of accountability.
White guilt can act as a stepping stone – it may even be a vital component to white accountability. As a powerful, personal emotion, guilt makes racism intimate to the white person. No longer is racial oppression something ‘out there.’ Through guilt, whiteness acknowledges its positionality in relations to racism. That acknowledgement can incentivise honest accountability for centuries of dispossession, aggression and oppression of non-white bodies, and the continued penetration of such unequal racial relations.
The determining point is: what are you going to do about that guilt? As evident, most individuals seek urgent exoneration or become prisoners of their emotions. But by confronting that guilt, it can transcend to white accountability in the enactment of change. In the case of Denmark, instead of being momentarily involved, the defining moment lies in that confrontation with race and thus asking oneself – how am I positioned in relations to the issue of racial oppression?
Guilt is a strong emotion, and it is okay to feel guilt during this learning process. What is important is how you move forward from guilt. This is where the spiritual/self-actualization element comes in. While the term “white guilt” specifically refers to Caucasian people, in Canada it was not just Caucasians who have benefitted from the oppression of Indigenous peoples. All non-Indigenous Canadians have an important role to play in reconciliation and addressing anti-Indigenous sentiments. Your role is not limited or defined, and the different potentials are discussed in the next chapter.
- Myriam François, “White guilt won’t save us” (4 September 2020), online: Australian Broadcasting Corporation <www.abc.net.au/religion/white-guilt-will-not-change-anything/12628630> [perma.cc/63Z7-J3KT]. ↵
- Kathrine Kallehauge, “White Guilt – Just Another White Privilege?” (15 December 2020), online: Impakter <impakter.com/white-guilt-just-another-white-privilege/> [perma.cc/XA2Z-F67V]. ↵