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With a Ku Klux Klan-endorsed president-elect on the eve of taking office, white guilt is at an all-time high. But how can white liberals fight the system without the pesky feeling that they are part of the problem?
Comedian Milly Tamarez is here to help. The New York City-based performer is no stranger to white guilt, and she’s offering her services to anyone who’s willing to Venmo her a few bucks.
Tamarez explains the service in a video she made for her sketch comedy team Deada$$, but unlike services featured in most comedy sketches, this one is very much a reality. Interested parties can Venmo Tamarez with an explanation of why they’re asking for forgiveness, and she will respond on her Tumblr.
Tamarez asks permission before sharing the faces and names of salvation-seekers whose crimes vary. From liking Wes Anderson films…
…to only bedding white dudes…
…to sporting white cornrows for most of middle school.
There are also simple requests for forgiveness:
While the tone of Tamarez’s responses is largely funny and kind, the project is rooted in real, frustrating experiences.
Tamarez tells the Daily Dot she became acutely aware of the self-serving nature of the white desire to be “forgiven” when a former college classmate reached out to her on social media: “A few years ago they said ignorant things to me and I blocked them. Then, a few months ago, they messaged me with a sincere apology and told me they were actively doing the work to not be so racist. I accepted their apology and it was really sweet. I re-added them as a friend and said whenever they were in New York City we should hang out. Not even 24 hours later that person asked me if they could screenshot our convo and share it… so other white people can learn from them. That’s when it clicked. They didn’t care about how they made me feel. They just wanted to feel better about themselves, and they wanted other people to see how great they were.”
Following the election, Tamarez spoke with other people of color and found she was not the only one having this experience. Many friends shared that they were being contacted by white friends and acquaintances who were eager to absolve their guilt.
Tamarez had a thought: “Wouldn’t it be funny if every time a white person wanted to get rid of their guilt they had to pay for it?”
Tamarez then pitched the idea to her sketch comedy team and shot the video, but she didn’t anticipate how many friends of friends would actually participate.
“I thought one, maybe two people were going to do this,” says Tamarez. “I have gotten requests from people I barely know or don’t know at all, and it’s really cool to see.”
The requests are often hilariously embarrassing and painfully honest. For example, one of the guilty patrons confesses to confusing which famous black celebrities are an item.
One man admits he backed away from an interracial hookup for fear of seeming, ahem, inadequate.
And another woman expresses her shame over a college essay about Irish slaves.
A scroll through the project is a breath of fresh air. While many are taking to social media to assert their status as allies, Tamarez cleverly flips that narrative on its head. Here participants can receive attention by outing themselves as flawed.
One such participant is plagued by memories of poorly cast student films.
And another simply asks for forgiveness.
There’s even a request from a person of color who made an embarrassing dad joke while buying pants.
Tamarez is hopeful that the project will create a little breathing room in an oppressive political climate. “I think the idea of taking a step back and laughing at it will help people really heal or let go of their shit,” she says.
“I am so fortunate [to live] in New York City, a liberal place where the glass ceilings are higher and I can surround myself with a community that empowers and believes in me. That being said I think one of the strongest things I realized about this project is that even though I have purposefully lived in a bubble, these awesome people in my circle have racist baggage on them,” she adds.
It’s a harrowing reality, but at least there’s a simple solution.
Nayomi Reghay is a frequent contributor to the Daily Dot, covering body positivity, feminism, sex, relationships, and gender. She is also the author of the advice column “Swipe This!” A former New York Teaching Fellow, her writing has been featured in Reductress, Rolling Stone, Mic, Someecards, and more.