Recently, Bill Maher spent some Real Time going off on liberal white people who shame themselves for being white — the ultimate neurotic humble brag, one might call it. Missing from the comedian’s rant, however, was any insight into why the phenomenon of white guilt exists at all. I, for one, have a theory.
What’s really behind white guilt?
Could it be that white people feel guilty because, essentially, they’ve done very little to better race relations in their own lives, and by extension, the country?
Think of it as guilt by disassociation, something familiar to their liberal white ancestors, according to Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation, a book by Nicholas Guyatt, who points out that even back in the day, liberals were at odds with the true notion of equality.
All men are created equal, a paradox of a proposition, even as it was shaping our nation’s destiny.
It seems we collectively dream of the founding fathers as being ignorant or even innocent of the soul crushing racism and genocide they perpetrated (because they didn’t live in the context of the modern world). Not true.
As an excerpt of Bind Us Apart reminds us, the founding fathers and their successors were America’s best and brightest, the greatest, post-Renaissance movers and shakers of the continent. They were also quite aware of the hypocritical nature of their oaths and the inevitable outcome.
Slavery was the issue of the day, the evil twin of “all men are created equal.” The dams of racism would eventually fail to hold back the floods of progress. But want to do with the slaves once they’re liberated?
Since the nation’s birth, that was the biggest question preventing the emancipation of black people. Options discussed ranged from letting them go free, (as long as they left the United States), to setting them up out West, but never on the table was the idea of letting black people live, love and die alongside white people.
All men are created equal, but black men should live in another country!
Apparently, white people couldn’t imagine the ex-savages living in the USA without wanting to cut off white people’s heads, among other niggerish nightmares.
Translation: even many abolitionists couldn’t imagine embracing blacks as fellow human beings; couldn’t imagine everyone joining hands across America and singing “We are Family”; couldn’t imagine asking for forgiveness and showing they meant it by giving blacks things like citizenship, land, education, housing, bank loans, voting rights, a noose-free experience in this country.
In short, it was never about letting the blacks become full members of the American family, even when it was about setting them free.
As Guyatt states:
“In the decades between the Revolution and the Civil War, the idea that the races might be separated became a mainstay of the movement against slavery in North and South alike. It was promoted by reformers across the country, but was especially popular in the northern states.”
So once America’s conscience (and a Civil War) got the best of it, America freed the blacks, but white people didn’t free up their minds. They opened the shackles but not their hearts.
This so-called white guilt that modern liberals feel is a strain of that same viral inhumanness.
Generally speaking, modern white liberals tolerate blacks and believe blacks should have an all-access pass to the American Dream. Additionally, they believe blacks are capable of incredible things in life, that they can even become leaders, politicians, presidents.
But black people still are not integrated into these same white people’s lives, and vice versa. Life in America is still separate and far from equal, and liberal white people know it. They also don’t do much about it, and when it comes down to it, they don’t have black friends, spouses or family members.
If all men are created equal, how come so many white liberals have very few men (or women) who happened to be black in their actual lives? In their wedding photos? In their vacation pics? In their Facebook friends list? In their romantic and sexual dreams?
How many white liberals, or white people, in general, have ever been intimate with a black person? How many white Americans have ever looked a black American in the eyes and said, “I love you?”
Not many. Which makes their words and actions not all that different from so-called white conservatives.
If I were liberal white person who never truly opened up my heart and mind to a black person, I’d feel pretty shitty, too.