Wednesday, October 27, 2010
White Guilt: Assigning Value to Skin Color in Reverse
A subconscious focus on skin color leading to a set perception of a group is nonetheless a viewpoint that can be considered racist though the person may not necessarily associate negative connotations with that race.
White guilt (or white blindness) is not a phenomenon fueled solely by racism or bigotry; instead it is a self serving and equally damaging perception that whites may develop to counter the feelings of conflict and guilt associated with the collective white racist view and treatment of blacks (or the ‘other’). These whites feel guilty about the historic treatment of blacks, therefore they befriend the blacks, champion the cause of blacks and side on the black team as they vigorously admonish the past ills of the white race.
The paradox is that while embedded in a quest to display solidarity with blacks these whites over look blacks as true members of the human race. To these whites, blacks remain a race that is in need of, deserving of and is worthy of white respect but only after the white has taken up the charge of the black cause. Blacks do not deserve respect by their own merit; rather, blacks deserve respect when a white person decides they should. This type of personal value assignment is counterproductive since it allows the whites to decide and barter black human worthiness for their own personal conscious salve.
The whites that break their necks to befriend, protest on behalf of, marry and reproduce with blacks as proof of their un-racist views of blacks still manage to offer us a tangled version of division. I would prefer if one marry whom they fell in love with, befriend who is compatible and fight on behalf of a cause because it’s the right thing to do as it relates to all humans. Not because they are rallying against all they feel is wrong within their own white race.
Those who fall victim to white guilt leave little inducement to comprehend blacks as human beings because achieving this type of dissociation from racism brings whites a feel good self hug of the morality that they feel they lack as an attribute of having white skin. The self hate they feel for themselves demotes their own ability to see both themselves and blacks as humans.
Whites are not guilty by choice; rather they are driven by the feeling that their compassion is nonexistent due to the white race’s bigoted history. It isn't that they are blind to the human conditions, but in fighting to salvage their humanity they have become blind to everything but their own needs. Their view is one of tunnel vision; it leaves no room for personal determination based on the experiences of humans as individuals. Rather the ‘us’ against ‘them’ becomes a further separation in the debate regarding who is worthy of value and why.
Some whites acting in the name of blacks do so not to improve black well being, but to right the wrongs of this country’s history and to dissociate themselves from white created racism. This causes problems because they are not seeing blacks for who they are or what their qualities may be. Instead they see blacks (or other ‘out groups’) as a group who is in need of protection, elevation and encouragement and not as a people equally capable and diverse in historical beliefs and practices.
These ‘guilt ridden’ whites do not see blacks as victims of a campaign of power plays that had much to do with economics and resources; skin color was merely an easily visible characteristic factor to identify the power class from the servant class. The belief that blacks are different, less than and insubordinate are still relevant in the thought process of whites that seek black solidarity specifically versus those who enjoy a diverse outlook that considers people of other races as parts of the segmented population of the human race.
With white guilt, disassociation is all that is required to re-establish one’s moral bank account. Some whites only need to replenish their moral self perception by protecting the “out group” and damming the ruling class. This belief continues to place value on white supremacy and black inferiority as has been the practice in American society.
Xenocentrism is the preference for the products, styles, or ideas of someone else's culture rather than of one's own. Xenocentrism results from an attempt on the part of an individual to correct his or her own racially tinged views. As an individual reacts to his perceived ethnocentrism; s/he may overcompensate and instead begin to place undue consideration upon the ideas and needs of social groups that are not their own.
Holding the opposing social group responsible for the actions of individuals and social systems that serve them is still placing collective value on skin color. Removing one self from association with the power group is done to alleviate association with what the person deems evil. Yet holding these broad views of the white culture is just as wrong as it would be to hold broad and general assumptions about blacks.
The intent of democracy was to create an environment that would free people from judgment based on ethnic or class status through the development of principles that would forbid it. Democracy’s promise of liberal freedom depends on a collection of fragile and abstract ideas and principles. White racism created a hypocritical society which used God, false reason and a self appointed value system as an excuse to oppress and exploit. Using the same philosophy in reverse is not a leap for liberalism and equality; it is merely an extension of what we all hope to eradicate.
It’s been nearly 50 years since Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated the concept of being valued by the “content of our character“, rather than the “color of our skin” and it seems like we are not yet there.
For further reading try White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era by author Shelby Steele.
“This phenomenon, which he calls white guilt, is a way for whites to keep up appearances, to feel righteous, and to acquire an easy moral authority -- all without addressing the real underlying problems of African Americans. Steele argues that calls for diversity and programs of affirmative action serve only to stigmatize minorities, portraying them not as capable individuals but as people defined by their membership in a group for which exceptions must be made. ...Steele calls for a new culture of personal responsibility, a commitment to principles that can fill the moral void created by white guilt. White leaders must stop using minorities as a means to establish their moral authority -- and black leaders must stop indulging them. As White Guilt eloquently concludes, the alternative is a dangerous ethical relativism that extends beyond race relations into all parts of American life.”