Back in the days when grammar schools taught history and geography I remember having to memorize the names of the countries of Africa. In the forty some odd years since the map below was drawn, things had changed – and they have continued to change on that continent. Names that were once familiar to us students no longer exist and boundaries have been redrawn many times with many countries now being called by names based on their indigenous residents’ native languages rather than by names imposed on them by the western European countries that had formerly included them as part of their global empires.
If you were to ask the average student, young adult or, I suspect your typical American thirty or forty year old, which countries had claim to empires in the twentieth century or earlier, I believe you would get a rather blank stare as a response. How many of those you interviewed, were you to ask what countries Portugal had under their crown’s control would be able to tell you that Brazil was once part of that nation’s global empire? Or that Pope Alexander VI divided the entire continent of South America between the Spanish and the Portuguese in 1493? History does have implications.
Now if you were to ask those same people about the question of “White Privilege” you might do a little better. Although this currently voguish PC catch phrase gets bandied about regularly, I am still waiting to hear, other than it’s being a veiled attempt to conjure up guilt that should be shared by all white Americans because of their skin color, exactly what it is. But the nice thing about PCspeak is that what you say doesn’t have to follow the dictionary rules of providing an exact definition but can be morphed into whatever the speaker wants at any given moment in time. This technique, of course, makes any real debate on this subject virtually impossible, which is fine as far as those who employ the term are concerned, because debate requires presenting purported facts that can be discussed and possibly debunked.
As to the term, “White Man’s Burden” which we learned was theoretically a motivating factor in European expansion throughout the world (beside the obvious that England, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and others had ships and as long as you have ships you might as well use tem to go places), I doubt that most of those who throw about “White Privilege” know what the “Burden” term means.
Simply put, it was a quasi religious/sociological term that suggested that whites, (by virtue of their skin color) were superior to people whose skin color was darker and that as a result of that inherent superiority it was their responsibility to care for those less fortunate and to impart (as much as they might be capable of comprehending) the culture, religion and knowledge which whites had been gifted to receive from the Creator. In essence, the white man was the farmer and people of color were the farm animals who were given to him to care for and nurture.
That philosophy seemed to serve most Europeans rather well until Hitler came along and decided that even among whites, some were clearly better than others and that it was the imperative of the Aryan race to do away with those pseudo-whites like Jews and Slavs. Fortunately Hitler was defeated. But one can only imagine if he had succeeded in his first effort to “purify” humanity, how he would have dealt with the black and yellow and red inhabitants of the world. I can’t imagine that would have been a pretty picture.
It would be not only fair but accurate to describe the term “White Man’s Burden” as a racist concept. But then, so is the term “White Privilege”. Any term which begins by using race as a descriptor is a racist term. “White Power” and the “Black Congressional Caucus” are both racist by their self-styled names. And anyone who refers to “White Privilege”, whatever that person’s own race, is in fact using a racist term and perhaps exhibiting their own racist views.
Today we would view the colonial concept of the “White Man’s Burden” as primitive and exhibitive of racial prejudice. The idea that whites are inherently superior to those of other races – well that’s nearly antediluvian by most peoples’ standards. Or is it?
The only real difference between the “White Man’s Burden” and “White Privilege” is the attribution of guilt in the second of these terms. If you question this you have no further to look than at the percentage of the American black community that receives government assistance (largely paid for by the white American population) because they are obviously, like the colonial farm animals, unable to fend for themselves. And who are those who constantly search for new ways to find more programs to fund these underprivileged souls? None other than they who scream “White Privilege” the loudest.
I guess that goes to their point that “racism” is alive and well in America. Perhaps before levying their next charge, they might want to consult a mirror.