The white man’s burden.

While my articles are all opinion pieces I always do at least a couple of historical searches to make sure that my memory has the dates and general subject matter organized properly. Doing research on this title I came upon a poem by Rudyard Kipling by the same title. A little disappointed with myself. I didn’t know the poem existed-it’s-an ode to the burdensome notion of white supremacy and imperialism. The poem implores the US to take control of the Philippines. Published in 1899, the burden it seems was his feeling that white men should conquer everything and everyone who wasn’t white. He sent the poem to his friend Teddy Roosevelt who thought it made a good argument for US expansion. 1.

I’d never been particularly drawn to Kipling and would have been satisfied to know him only for childhood memories of reading about talking animals who were raising a boy in the jungle, or a cobra destroying mongoose. He was complicit with one of the great mind fucks of history-that-white men are superior. They’ve kept so many people from fully participating, how would they really know? 

Initially, my inspiration for this title was a 1995 movie starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte, White Man’s Burden. It was meant to be a look at reversed racial hierarchy.  To be honest, I can’t remember much about it only that Roger Ebert liked the premise, but not the delivery towards the end. I mention both the Kipling poem and the movie because of the similarities of the titles. I also used the picture from that movie because that it is illustrative of our society, a successful Black man with a white man holding a gun to his back.  White supremacy is a burden, but not in the way Kipling stated. I hope you’ll read on.

When we think of burdens most of us think about heavy loads that we’re forced to carry-something we don’t want, we say things like “I need to shake this burden”, “this burden is weighing me down.” There are burdens that we carry happily, like a mother carrying her child and all the things she does to make sure her baby is born healthy.

The burdens brought on by the ills in our society manifest themselves in different ways depending on your vantage point. White Christian men decided from the earliest of our recorded history that equity and equality is too heavy a burden for them to bear (yeah, yeah, I know not all white men). We’ve seen it play out in legislation and local policy throughout the history of our nation. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, The Indian Removal Act, The Chinese Exclusion Act, deed restrictions in communities as to how many “Hebrews” could live in certain areas, to mention a few. These things were perfectly legal, the people in charge-white Christian men. They wear the burden of their isms and phobias like a badge of honor. He must ask who am I without a scapegoat? I learned a lot about scapegoating from Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste, it should be required reading for every American.

Racism and antisemitism are the burdens that white Christian men happily carry. They have played out violently in El Paso, Tree of Life Synagogue, Mother Emmanuel Church, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, (even a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand) the recent shootings of mostly Asian women near Atlanta, when the shooter attempted to eliminate the Asian “temptress.” Those burdens also played out on January 6th for the world to see. I said it before, I’ll say it again, want to enrage a bunch of white Christian men? Tell them the “other” is stealing something from them. They tend to think minorities are a bunch of criminals anyway. I’ve heard the trope for years that minorities feel entitled. White Christian men are the most insecure, entitled beings on the planet, they feel like they’re owed everything and will take it if you don’t give it to them. Yet, they idolize a man who has been fined for money laundering, lied to them constantly, is credibly accused of sexual assault, tax evasion, and who knows what else, because they see themselves in him, they love that he’s getting away with it.  2.

Like the mother carrying the burden of her baby, they’ve carefully fed and nurtured these burdens, so much so that when Art Laffer says that minorities and others are not worth $15.00 an hour the host doesn’t bat a carefully mascaraed eye lash. 3. The racism is so ingrained in our society that it’s become like air or water to some folks, they don’t even notice it until someone is trying to take it away.  I’m looking at you white women, just like you nurture and nourish your babies, you nurture and nourish white supremacy. (If it doesn’t apply scroll on by) A lot of you think you’re Jane Elliot but you are closer to Phyllis Schlafly.  

For years minorities have been told that they don’t know how to raise their children usually by a white woman who feels she needs to teach everyone how to nurture. What’s going on when you see white women driving their sons to an insurrection (see Zip Tie Guy) or to murder protestors in the name of “protection” (Rittenhouse)?  In the case of Rittenhouse, the assumption was that the property had more value than the people protesting.  Oh wait, we’re not supposed to talk about any of this because it might hurt white feelings.

So now, we’ve come to the point again in the American story where mostly conservative white people are getting lathered up by something they think might help Black people, Critical Race Theory.  Our media is complicit with the idiocy because the “journalists” asking questions haven’t bothered to research what the theory is and what it’s not. It’s not a class designed to make little white children hate themselves by kindergarten. It is not a look back at history for history’s sake or a push for diversity and inclusion. If your 5-year-old is being taught critical race theory, he or she is most likely a law student and has a need to understand how race had an effect on case law-gasp-a legal theory. There are lots of legal theories, none of the others are being protested at school board meetings, because we don’t teach legal theory until law school. I have a general understanding of what Critical Race Theory is and what it is not, thanks to some very smart friends. I’m not going to try explaining beyond my understanding.

What our white friends are protesting is the history of our nation, they don’t want Confederate statues taken down, but they also don’t want our kids to learn what those Confederates did or how they did it. Perhaps, the confusion for our white friends is that they know all the atrocities committed by our American ancestors was completely legal, nation of laws after all. What they’re saying is we should never look back on any of our history with a critical eye because white kids might feel bad, really?  

For every advancement that minorities make-mostly Black people-there have been white people protesting those advancements. A lot of the protests come in form of legislation (see all the restrictive voting laws being passed today), others come in the form of violence.

 Most of us have seen the pictures of the first Black children attending what were all white schools in the South, people being pulled off lunch counters, cracked across the head while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, even beaten on St Augustine Beach. If you think white rage is not real you can start researching those incidents or by reading about the Tulsa, Rosewood, and Ocoee massacres (or the many others), you could try visiting the The National Museum for Peace and Justice, where there is a memorial to the poor souls taken by lynching. 4.

The burdens of being hated, looked down upon, and terrorized are immeasurable to the human psyche, the economic costs of the destroyed lives and livelihoods are unimaginable. We must face our past head on if we are to reach our potential as a nation, not all of us are lawyers so we don’t need to study legal theory. We must know our history. As my pastor used to say if you don’t know the Bible the devil will use it against you, the same with our collective history. The devils want us all divided and will turn our own people against us to maintain political power. You fight the devil by being educated, and not ignorant.

I hate when people gratuitously quote Dr. King, so I won’t except to say he was right, hate is one helluva burden to bear. You’ll have to ask the people who bear the burden of hate why they bear it. There is no easy answer, only for the rest of us to shut down our petty differences, come together and take a stand for what’s right. Because, to quote Alexander Vindman, “Here right matters.”

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