Praising liberal guilt?

Interesting piece in Slate on “liberal guilt.”  When I was a kid, it was called “white guilt,” but I suppose this is a far more accurate representation of the phenomenon.  I don’t find too many white conservatives feel too bad about racism.
I think this is part of the reason I tend to get along better with white conservatives than their liberal counterparts, even though one would probably classify me as being pretty left of center.  That’s because the “guilt” thing can be a little hard to deal with at times.
Why?  Because, honestly, I don’t think most of the white people I deal with should feel guilty about slavery or Jim Crow or any of those other long-ago travesties.  When those people tell you that stuff wasn’t their fault, they’re right.  They inherited the game like we did, an interesting analogue to Tupac’s “I was given this world, I didn’t make it” line in “Keep Ya Head Up.”
This piece goes on about how white people should feel guilty about those past injustices.  Poppycock, man.  What people should feel guilty about — particularly white liberals — is the way they see racism continue to exist, they recognize the persistent disparity between races in this group, they know that said disparity cannot be explained by differences in human capital…and so many don’t do a damn thing about that.  That means, unless racism is addressed as a significant factor, if not the significant factor, then the only logical conclusion to be drawn is that black folks are somehow deficient.
That’s what there is to feel guilty for, the same things conservatives should feel guilty for.  The difference is that the right-wing doesn’t even pretend to care much about these things.
I respect that, actually.  It feels a lot less patronizing.
While slavery and Jim Crow were dreadful things, they were rooted in the prevalent belief that black people were naturally inferior.  You know, they needed someone to make them work.  They were stupid, so they needed someone to guide them.  They were, in fact, not on white people’s level inherently.  That’s the basis of all of this.
That’s the same sort of political rhetoric that is still trotted out.  It’s also right beneath the surface of a lot of white liberal rhetoric.
The past is the past.  But the same things that made the past what it was make the present what it is — a time whose outlook, considering the current economic conditions, is bleak with regard to race.
Wanna be guilty?  Be guilty about that.  Then, you’ll actually be able to assuage that guilt, seeing how you can actually do something about what’s going on right now.  Otherwise, your guilt is not praiseworthy.  In fact it’s impotent.

11 thoughts on “Praising liberal guilt?

  1. You go Bomani! I agree that white liberals can be a bit annoying by constantly apologizing about the past. Why not help to create change in the present? I know that blacks have to help ourselves, however, because of the imbalance of power in this country, we will need the help of non-blacks to get certain things done!

  2. Bo,
    I thought Alan Greenspan was a hard to understand economist, but damn…this makes no sense.
    A bleak outlook? You have been drinking some of Barack’s “the next great depression is right around the corner” Koolaid.
    “I don’t find too many white conservatives feel too bad about racism”.
    Grammatical, rhetorical, logical nonsense. Take a do over and try to make a point.

  3. Guilty white liberals do try to address present-tense racism. They do it all the time.
    You also have to admit the lingering effects of past racism are a major problem. Past racism made black people poor. Poor people tend to raise kids who grow up to be stupid and poor. As far as i know, you did not grow up poor. But still, its a reasonably safe assumption that if you see a black guy on the street, theres a good chance he had a shitty education. To act on that assumption is wrong, but thats not going to stop people from doing it. You could debunk every genetic myth there is, but this will linger until we rectify the past.

  4. And yeah, having Obama as president will counterbalance those negative assumptions. It’ll be weird to see little kids growing up with a black president. When they get a little older, they’ll be baffled by the old prejudices. They might actually think black people rule the earth.

  5. I find the criticism from Priapus to be flaccid. Great post, Bomani.
    I think “white guilt” and “white fear” are like identical twins who have grown up in different environments. Expressing guilt without the manifestation of atonement is a way of covering the fear that one’s bullshit will be exposed — and reacted to accordingly.

  6. “Liberal guilt” is a wonderful tool of the modern left. By publicly agonizing about the past, liberals–in their own minds—hijack the self-appointed moral highground, and from that vantage point launch their policy initiatives that are necessarily premised on (you guessed it) inferiority of certain peoples of color.
    I am a conservative, and to the extent in matters, a white dude educated in the public schools of this State who is now in his early 30’s. Perhaps it is a bit self-serving, but I have never been terribly impressed with some of my friends on the left that agonize publicly about the injustices of the past (careful, you might have missed it; I will say it again)…of the past…, and then turn around and say that in order for certain groups to compete, soceity needs to have minority set-asides in government contracting and schools need to be penalized in the rankings for not allowing enough people in of certain ethnic backgrounds. So much for The Dream, eh? Curiously, socio-economic status is not a factor in the “diversity” factors in higher education rankings. Why?
    Unlike my friends on the left, I don’t happen to believe that certain racial groups are inferior to others. The best boss I have ever worked for happen to have a different skin color than I do. He is now a two star general (and counting), and was promoted on the basis that all other military officers are promoted: color-blind merit. Somehow, he was able to compete. This must seem weird to my liberal friends; that this man could succeed on his own without their benevolent intervention. I realize my experience is anecdotal and everyone has their own life, but since when has the solution to any soceital problem ever been a government bureaucrat telling you what your potential is based solely on looking at your skin color?
    Bomani’s point is correct that the way many modern liberals treat people who happen to be of a different skin color than they is incredibly patronizing. I applaud that realization, but I am curious what took so long to figure that out? Why has the African-American community had to endure so many years of pandering and soft (but unmistakable) bigotry before finally demanding some respect as peers of the left, rather than constituents? Also in late breaking news and in case you hadn’t noticed, the Clintons will say anything to get elected. Some of us have also known that for quite some time.
    I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know this: There’s a lot going on in this world outside our own echo chambers. We would all do well to step outside comfort zones and challenge ourselves. It ain’t what we don’t know; it’s what we know that ain’t so.
    Bomani, we love you on the radio. Tell AG to play all the golf he wants, because you and Joe are the best ride to work I ever had.

  7. I appreciate the piece BJ, as it definitely brought some things to mind in my dealings with folks that I’m cool with. Fortunately any ‘patronizing’ that I’ve experienced has never been to the point where I notably got angry or resentful about it. They were examples that could have simply been corrected, provided that you approached them in a peaceful, subtle way.
    But before you have too many conservative commenters happily use your piece as an excuse to smear liberalism and progressive political agendas, I think we’d be remiss not to talk about the one constant binding both white liberals and white conservatives together: Recognizable white privilege. That, in my opinion, is the ‘why’ behind any half-hearted concern on one end and absolute dismissal at the other. Both groups are heavily isolated from experiencing nor fully empathizing with the the worst of the inherited game Bomani talked about.
    Given the choice, I’d rather correct white liberals (with at least a superficial understanding) than waste time with ignorant white conservatives too ideologically stubborn to give a rip.

  8. Nate,
    I would go easy on calling folks ignorant before you have met them. It’s your call of course, but ready, fire, aim performs poorly over time.
    So called progressivism is anything but. Treating all people of a race “the same” is something we should be progressing from, not towards.

  9. Crackers aint gon’ never stop being crackers. One of my supervisors recently made a comment comparing me to a monkey!
    One of the owners automatically ‘indicted’ me when several police cars showed up at the facility to deal with a disorderly patron. After I told him that I was an employee, he seemed shocked!
    With that being said, racism isn’t the reason for niggas smoking crack and falling behind they child support. Keep it real, We all know black folks smoke the hell outta some crack!!

  10. JMHD2000, considering that you relied upon several generalizations to come to your point, I think my characterization is quite valid. You were very quick to slur ALL liberals in order to make your conservatism look good. Not only that, you yourself were quite condescending with your feigned outsider “what took black people so long” inquiries.
    If you’re truly typing what you mean to say, then I don’t feel as if I need to learn much more about you–frankly, I believe what you showed everyone the first time. That you’re ignorant.

  11. So the person who used the phrase “ignorant white conservatives” is alleging someone else uses generalizations?
    The person who used the complete sentence “That you’re ignorant.” (which, I point out, is not even a sentence in English), called someone else ignorant would be kind of funny if it weren’t so sad.
    Finally, I don’t make liberals look bad. They make themselves look bad; I’m just paying attention.
    Carry on.

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