White Guilt

Andrew Hacker, a white man, summed it up so well for me, that I didn’t even have to write an article on white guilt.  This was extracted from his interview:

Hacker: Well, quite obviously various Black men and women, Colin Powell, you know, other individuals, succeed in American society, I would say mainly they are ‘co-opted’.

I would say at a certain point the military, the White House felt they needed someone like Cohn Powell, or someone like Clarence Thomas. Yes, we say, Black people make it on their own, but at all times, they make it when Whites, who after all, we control employment at every level … when we decide we want a Black face somewhere. And they know that. Black people know this.

Heffner: Why does a White person write this book?

Hacker: Because I am partly a historian, partly a social scientist, partly simply a citizen, and I wanted to clear my own mind … this is why one writes a book, get your own thinking clarified, about this topic which is, you know, so central in our lives, and then I hoped, once it was completed, to aid the understanding of other people.

Heffner: What you mean aid the understanding of other people’ … you’re talking about the unthinkable.

Hacker: To look oneself in the mirror every so often and say ‘You know, you know, why is it?”. Particularly my … this book is written … it’s interesting … when I started out in my preface, I had at the end of the preface, I was going to have a preface to the White reader, and then a second one to the Black reader.

And I looked at that and it was in for a while, even got set up in type. And finally I decided, “that isn’t necessary” … both Black and White readers will read their own books in their own way. Notice I said, “books … plural”. Now in this case I haven’t had problems with Black readers because most of them say

Heffner: “That’s the way it is

Hacker: Pretty much, “that’s the way it is”. And they said, “you know, you’re not telling us all that much we didn’t know before, but we’re glad you’re putting it all together this way”.

With White readers, of course, there have been a variety of, you know, reactions to this.  But really what one of the things I wanted to emphasize was, for those of us who are White, to really confront what ‘Whiteness means to us.

You know, it’s like people who have their sight … we never think from day-to-day, ‘hey, we can see things”, it’s only if we lose it that we can. And I have a little parable in the book, you know, maybe I’m being a bit mischievous, but I said, “Alright”, this is to our White reader, ‘think that some day a gentleman will come to you, you know one of these suave people like James Mason, and look at your name and say, ‘Oh, yes, Richard Heffner, isn’t it?’ … yes.

Well, you know, a terrible mistake was made many years ago … you accordingly to our records were supposed to have been born to a different set of parents, you were supposed to have been born Black. Well, these things happen, you know.

According to our procedures, we must remedy this mistake. So at midnight tonight, you are going to now have the body at the age you are now of … that you were originally supposed to have. Inside you’ll be the same person, same ideas, intellect, but outside, you will have what anthropologists call ‘negroid features’, dark skin, black skin and the rest”.

But, I then go on to say, “because we are a very wealthy organization, I mean we don’t boast about it, we are prepared to offer you recompense. Now that you’ve lost your Whiteness, what would you like from us … I can write out a check to make up for this”.

But when I put this to students, I generally put this to students in my class, they would like about a million dollars a year, to make up for losing their Whiteness. Which means that White people really know not only what it’s worth to be White, but what it’s not worth to be Black.

Heffner: What an incredible tale that is because as I read it in your book, and as I listen to you now, it is mischievous, but it is also very, very, very, very pointed and yet,

I keep saying to myself “What is Andrew Hacker doing? Does he want me to feel more guilty than I do? Does he want me to recognize something that he says is indisputable, but that there is nothing to do about it?’ That’s why I asked you about motive.

Hacker: Alright. I’ll continue with that. First of all, on guilt, I have quite a section there on White guilt…

Heffner: Yes, indeed.

Hacker: … and White guilt can do more damage than good. You know, when…because in many ways those of us Whites who do feel guilty often act out in various ways, it ends up being condescending, patronizing, you know applauding a little longer for a Black speaker to make him feel good … he knows what we’re doing.

I happen to be … well, I don’t know whether I want to call myself a scholar … but my aim is the truth. And we have so much self-delusion when it comes to race that at least I thought I would put several cards up on the table and say, “here is the truth”.

Now we know that people, very often when presented with the truth, push it aside, don’t want to see it. You know, we know all that. But there it is between the covers of a book, if people want to look at themselves. And by the way, Black people want to look at the way White people look at them … that was my intention.

Heffner: Now, I think, if I were a Black person, but I know as a White person that I think there’s more than mischief here because I believe that what you have offered is an Rx in part … not the solution of racial problems, but couldn’t it be that I would say to you or others would say to you,

“You’ve provided a wonderful rationalization for continuing the racist attitudes because you’ve said it’s inevitable given the way Blacks came to this country as slaves .. given our history there is a kind of inevitability about it, and if something is inevitable, why worry why feel guilty, why make amends?”.

Hacker: I haven’t heard that interpretation…

Heffner: And it’s not just a mischievous interpretation…

Hacker: I … I understand that. I’ll take my chances with that. I would say that the truth comes first. And we have a problem here because it is not just the notion that Black people are inferior. There is also fear, tremendous fear of people of African ancestry. Fear, of course, of crime. And as you know, I have quite a chapter there on what, inevitably, I end up calling “Black crime”, and I’ll mention why I call it that.

Any White person would much rather be attacked by a White assailant and lose much more money, then be attacked by a Black assailant because there is the fear that not only does he want your money, or not only does he … violate your body, but that also he is doing this for retribution, that at a certain point he may take another minute, second, and do something to just make up or some recompense for the wrongs your people have done to his people.

That’s why White people are afraid of Black criminals, that’s why we have so many of them in our prisons. And what can we do about this? You know, be nicer? I mean when the fear is so deep there.. because here is … this is the fear the slave owners had. You know, they worried every night that their slaves would rise up, you know, and slay them in their beds. Well, that persists.”

Mr. Hacker succinctly sums up the biggest problem in healing race relations in America; this guilt that whites are suffering because of the wickedness of their beastial ancestors, and the hypocrisy of it.  If whites were so afraid that a slave would rise up against them, then why didn’t the demons just let them go?

Thus, this current day fear is likened to the fear of their ancestors – that Blacks may harm them for all the wrongs meted upon millions.  But again, if the fear is so great, why do they remain focused on their self-interest, and do so little to right the wrongs of the mass murders and theft of millions of free resources given to them by Black slaves.

If whites are suffering so much guilt, why not be more open to dialogue, reparations, ending discrimination, rigging voting machines, unfair sentencing guidelines, racism, removing red-lining, redistricting - on and on and on.  It’s hypocrisy at its worst.

Also, it is interesting that when confronted in a college setting, college students are more open and honest, while the adults who are much older, choose the cowardly option.

By pretending as if they have no idea that Black people are still experiencing racism and discrimination, especially since another Black president is in the white house.

This proves that concern for their own guilt, is far more important than acknowledging the truth.

It’s nothing but pure piousness and arrogance that the white race is more concerned about  avoiding their guilt and how to mitigate any discussions, rather than working to actually resolve the problem of the 20th Century, which is the problem of the color line.

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