I’m a White Man: Should I Feel Guilty About Slavery?
Writing here gives me a chance to go deeper into things I otherwise wouldn’t touch, and the question was put to me today, “should whites still feel guilty about slavery”, and I reckon the other side of that is, “should blacks still feel angry about slavery”?
First up: I have to put hands up here: I’m British. That means we have a bad history but a different relationship to slavery. We never had living men enslaved working for us on our Island, not in the way the whole economy of the (American) South came to be built upon.
Cynics would say we didn’t need to, we had the class system, and frankly, that’s a fair point, but it’s a historical fact that Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1833, a full three decades before the American Civil War, and it was abolished by White people with strong faith who abhorred the trade in living souls as an abomination before God and won the social struggle to outlaw it and bring it to an end.
Frankly I celebrate that as an achievement of my people, and why should I not?
We have to know history. We have to learn the lessons of it, and make sure we don’t make stupid decisions all over again. But we mustn’t be imprisoned by it.
We are free humans, all of us, responsible for what WE do, absolutely, but we cannot be defined by those who came before, especially when all the guilty have passed outside living memory.
Should Italians feel guilty about the Roman Empire? Should Greeks feel eternal shame for Alexander? Should Kazakhstan be making reparations to countries as far away as France for Genghis Khan?
Right then. There are limits aren’t there? The questions is, where do these limits lie?
As a Brit, and a White Brit at that, there is no point in me making any pretence I can know what it feels like to have grown up Black in modern America. I can try to empathise, and hope I manage some measure of success, but that is all.
I don’t know what it’s like to have cops suspicion on me just because of my skin colour. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up surrounded by symbols of a repressive past. I don’t know what it’s like to live with everything seeming harder, just because of who I am.
But I can have a bloody good guess whose pushing these buttons for political ends…
I’m talking here of Race Politics. At the end of the 1960’s, huge gains had been made in civil rights, but just because the law had changed, didn’t mean society wasn’t a razor maze of deep entrenched prejudices… the ideas of race identity to push back and resist and assert human dignity, trust me, such a human imperative, is easily understood, and in the almost five decades since, look at how things have changed!
Yes there are racist whites… and racist blacks… people who get pushed to the edge and get extreme and bloody minded, but really, these are all people who want to hang onto what they have got, in the hope that one day it might get better, but also to exist, to survive. Extreme prejudice is a survivalist mindset.
But the vast majority of Americans are literally colour blind!
That’s the America I love… where White American, Black American, Mexican American, Irish American, Asian American, Nigerian American, all become red-white-and-blue AMERICAN American, and want to get along as the people, the living embodiment of the country with the most amazing self confidence and vigour in the world…
Sadly, that’s the America that Race Politics is now wrecking from within… because instead of the unity, which all Americans need to pull together and solve their problems, it’s all about how different and separate people are from one another, fractured, divided, in a world of global corporations. Who does that help? How does that serve? While we are busy being sore with each other we are all sucked dry from above…
I can only do so much with this one article… so a final word for any readers who support BLM’s recent demands..
Lets say everything demanded of whites in “reparation” of slavery is given: compensation, land, property… what then? Blacks have been paid off: the matter is settled – done. What about the children? The grandchildren? If the “answer” is to receive wealth for suffering people never personally underwent, what’s learned? What’s gained? Because it’s the children who still have to make their own way, commerce, wealth, prosperity, and what will be different then, to how things are now?
Think relations with whites would be better after extorting property and wealth from them under threat of… what… losing one’s shit? Is that going to be the powerful America the world knows and loves?
Or will it be an America even more fractured and injured than ever before, crucified on the guilt of the sins of the long dead, and the inability of the living to forgive?
Will I feel guilty that my ancestors did bad things? No: but I won’t do them!
Will I feel proud that my ancestors did good things? Yes: and I will honour them!
Will I heed their example and say, time to unite now, and tackle REAL Privilege, the wealth inequality of the super rich, TOGETHER: A fair America: a fair Britain: For all!
You bet your arse I will.
John White is a free thinking, truth speaking, independent maverick from the old school, crafting perspectives for tomorrow and today.