Historically, white people have been generally horrible to all the world’s non-white people, which is why, until recently, I failed to adequately understand the common distaste that many non-white people share for the white liberal. Put into the context of the acts of their forefathers, I thought it was something to be admired for a white person to acknowledge and advocate the concepts of justice and equality among all people, regardless of their race. They live a different kind of life from the rest of us–I can only imagine the amount of thought, consideration and feelings of discomfort that must go into opposing such things that were either directly or indirectly meshed into your being, learning the true, limited nature of things you once thought universal, and choosing to challenge, rather than accept them because they have shaped you. However, today I understand that such endeavors, in this specific case, are actually not to be admired but only silently respected; one does not receive praise or reward for doing what they are supposed to do.
People aren’t often very fond of the white liberal because white liberals tend to give the impression that they think that by acknowledging the racial inequities of the American social climate that they are inherently making it better. They tend to give the impression that they think their beliefs in racial equality is something of virtue. This is in conjunction with their whiteness, and they often use this union to separate themselves from other, non-liberal white people. In their support of a better socioeconomic condition and experience for those more pigmented than they, they tend to forget, or maybe even recognize that the inequality they are so against is based on race and not humanity, while their beliefs in equality are supposed to be based on humanity and not race.
Simply put, they know they’re white but they don’t know they’re white.
There’s a poem by Rudyard Kipling titled, “The White Man’s Burden”. Written during the Philippine-American War, the piece essentially suggests that white people carry the burden of civilizing the Third World through colonialism and imperialism, but civilizing the Third World, even by those means is noble and nonetheless philanthropic, given the magnitude of the task.
This is just western philosophy. This “burden” of the white man gives rise to the ‘white savior complex’–succumbed to by he who holds himself in high esteem for his efforts in “supporting” members of those groups that are “lesser” than his own. This sentiment is ingrained in the world that white people have built for themselves in this country. As an example, despite the existence of thriving, free blacks, part of the reason slavery was allowed to persist, in the years leading up to the Civil War, was because southern whites thought black people lacked the capacity to take care of themselves; they thought the Negro was better off held in bondage where he was “taken care of”, for if he were allowed to be free he would die out. But he who holds himself in high esteem for his wrongdoings gives birth to he who feels guilty for his benefit from the wrongdoings of those who came before him, and combats those feelings by trying to be as virtuous as he can.
But a leopard can’t change his spots. While the aims and views of white liberals are not
based on colonialism and imperialism, their whiteness is, and this is where they slip up. White liberals, in their liberalism, are doing no favors. Their beliefs in equality are not philanthropic, or noble, by any means. They are only human and humane, and because of this, their ability to have and understand those beliefs is not as significant as perceived. While their views differ greatly from those of many non-liberal white people, they are inherently similar to non-liberal white people because they share the experience of being white, and their shared whiteness, all the same, is inherently oppressive to those of us who are non-white. It’s a cycle and a paradox.
I don’t mean to devalue the feelings of those who are white and genuine in their beliefs that all people of all races are equal. If you are a friend to someone, you will not have to tell them. So in case you were wondering why, when you sometimes aggressively and assertively present yourself as an “ally”, you are still met with recoil, the reason is that maybe you have not stepped back far enough.