The Drain Hole Of Emotional Labour

Aulina Chaudhuri calls for white people to check their privilege and educate themselves rather than drown in white guilt.

Aulina Chaudhuri calls for white people to check their privilege and educate themselves rather than drown in white guilt.

The growing momentum of race consciousness in general discourse is astounding and exciting, yet there is something insidiously ‘bleached’ about how these ideas are communicated.

Watching beneficiaries of privilege profit from engaging in race discourse as it enters mainstream consciousness but avoid their own whiteness in these conversations has made me weary. The frustration of dealing with white guilt and tears weighs on me regularly.

I want to engage in a discussion that is built on a foundation of true understanding of racial inequity and how it manifests in interpersonal relationships, academic institutions — how it pervades all aspects of life.

When dealing with hegemonic patriarchy, white wom*n are particularly quick to jump on the bandwagon of empathising with the oppressed. However, I have noticed an unwillingness to interrogate their own role as possessors of white privilege.

Emotional labour is undoubtedly a gendered phenomenon, where wom*n typically assume the role of care-takers or dispute resolution advisors due to attributed ‘nurturing’ or ‘maternal’ qualities.

From my observation and experience, the burden of education and ‘growth’ generally falls onto wom*n of colour who must over-extend themselves consistently and without question.

I aim to deconstruct both the consistent social passivity and expectation that wom*n should carry the burden of emotional responsibility, as well as the entitlement to be free of this burden and evasion of accountability, which whiteness and masculinity demand. It is important to be aware that these two issues are not mutually exclusive.

This act of deconstruction shows how changes are needed in the embedded makeup of how we as a community deal with emotions, relegating the burden of responsibility and labour to wom*n of colour.

I have reflected on the journey of communication with perpetrators of racial discrimination and responses to their racism when identified. In these responses, overwhelming negative feelings like guilt and shame were consistent, as was gaslighting (selectively omitting/twisting events to minimise the oppressed voice) and derailment.

This typifies what Robin Diangelo describes as white fragility, which often results in a deafening silence and/or argumentativeness that reinstates the white dominance equilibrium. This is what I am endlessly working to dismantle in these conversations.

There are so many better, more engaging issues than whiteness to partake in, yet I am constantly barraged with this drain hole. Facing your own complicity in oppressive behaviour is an ugly, difficult process. However, I implore those who are ‘race-conscious’ to overextend themselves as the people that educated them did.

White Passivity in the context of inter-personal relationships is damaging and reflects both a product of privilege as well as the paralysing effects of your fragility, which is YOUR burden to bear. Be self-aware and critical of your emotional response in discussions about race and interrogate whether your reactions are valid in that context.

Another thing to note is how discussing emotions serves a dual function. Firstly and more importantly, as validating lived experiences of oppression and secondly an integral part to deconstructing whiteness.

Having a ‘rational,’ measured approach is something I am unable to engage with as I have been deeply affected by an aspect of my identity that has been used to define me, simultaneously stripping me of agency.

I am angry, hurt and resentful at those privileged enough to not face the truth of what race means in society.

Shallowly engaging with buzzwords like ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘intersectionality’ misses the pathos required for genuine discussion and growth, where we hold each other mutually accountable for improving ourselves as introspective individuals within a community.