A Discussion of “‘When Reparation Is Felt to Be Impossible’: Persecutory Guilt and Breakdowns in Thinking and Dialogue about Race”

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Jane Caflisch’s discussion (this issue) of white liberal guilt is recognized as a bold and ground-breaking exploration of how the Kleinian concepts of paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions may shed light on the question of reparation for racial injustice. I suggest that, in addition to persecutory and depressive guilt, melancholic guilt also operates in racist mind-sets, and constitutes the more serious obstacle to reparation. Guilt of this sort prompts defensive repetition, thereby perpetuating racist mind-sets and acts and taking one further and further from the possibility of reparation. On the other hand, the more normal interplay between persecutory and depressive guilt, which is illustrated through a clinical vignette, is seen as opening up a path to reparation. Brief vignettes are offered illustrating points about melancholic guilt and how a culture of facing rather than evading persecutory guilt enabled an opportunity for reparation to be recognized and used.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-612
Number of pages9
JournalPsychoanalytic Dialogues
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2020

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