Should white people feel guilty?

The Great Debates seems to be be predominately filled with liberal viewpoints (especially among the “moderators”). And thus I can already foretell what the replies to this post will be. But I will post anyhow.

In regards to such issues as slavery, segregation, the “taking of tribal lands”, etc., do white people owe non-whites anything? How can I, as a heterosexual white male, make amends? Should I feel guilt? Who should I vote for to make things right? What causes should I support? Basically, how do I become politically correct?

Hey, when American Indians were being rounded up and killed, and blacks being shipped over here into slavery, MY ancestors were being chased around Russia by Cossacks. I’VE certainly got nothing to feel guilty about.

Any Cossacks out there wanna apologize on behalf of my great-grandma?

Nobody now alive need feel guilty for anything he or she did not personally do. Have you bought any slaves lately or dispossessed any Indians? No? Then don’t worry about it.

If you want to feel guilty, feel guilty about telling racist jokes, about hating people because they are of another religion or color, about voting for that Texas chucklehead.
If you haven’t done any of these things, then don’t worry.

Hey, some of us weren’t even alive when LBJ ran for president! :smiley:

Well, I never owned any slaves, nor did anyone in my family tree. In fact, Irish Catholics had a wee bit of trouble finding work at all back when many blacks were gainfully employeed whether slave or free. And my Iroquois ancestors – well, let’s just say I’m still waiting on my share of the casino money.

(Oh, and none of my German Jewish cousins are listed in the phone book anywhere over there. :confused: I wonder if something bad happened to them after my great grandparents left…)

If I were a rich descendant of slave-traffickers, growing fat off unearned gold derived from the misery of others… then I might feel guilty.

As I’m a descendant of intermittently employed Liverpool dock workers, I don’t think I’ve grown fat off anything except too much beer. Guilty? Not me.

NOFX - Don’t Call Me White

Like the other posters said, why should you feel remorse if you haven’t done anything. You can’t help, negate, change, or make amends for anything your ancestors did, especially not when the people they did it to have been dead for decades or, more likely, centuries.

sorry to interrupt this love-fest, but…

most of us probably aren’t rich by American standards. but by the world’s standards, almost all of us are filthy rich. your car costs more money than millions of people will see in their entire lives. millions of people die because they can’t get clean drinking water and we shit in ours. does anybody in this country really understand how good we have it? i’ve never made more than $20,000 a year (pretty slim by bloated American standards), but when i think about how easy my life is, how much luxury and free time i have, it disgusts me.

this is a gigantic disparity that we like to blindly ignore. that the 5% of the world population that Americans comprise uses something like a third of the world’s energy is a crime. our wealth doesn’t all come from hard work and honest labor. much of it is based on stolen resources and slave labor from the “developing countries” of the world.

if you think that injustice ended when slavery was abolished, you haven’t visited the “Third World” lately. if you think the stealing of land from indigenous people stopped in the 19th century, you’re not up on current events in the Amazon.

we are all complicit. we participate in a society that allows these things to happen. I feel enormously guilty and i’m not even white–just being American is crime enough.

I feel like i should write 20 pages just to crack the surface on how much misery we are responsible for around the world (do you ever really wonder why people hate Americans all over the world?), but i really don’t know where to begin. i’m probably going to get an avalanche of responses calling me a wacked-out conspiracy theorist, but please just read this with an open mind before you attack me.

how can one country have so much of the world’s wealth? how is wealth created and what is it made of? where does ** your** wealth come from?

thanks for reading.

I don’t believe guilt is required, although it is perhaps appropriate that one acknowledge the advantage associated with being born white in America. Or would it be phrased better to say “the baggage that goes along with being ‘non-white’ in America”? And the disparity increases when economics are added in.

hapaXL - perhaps grounds for an interesting debate, but I am not going to be the first to follow you down that hijack.

sorry–i really wasn’t trying to hijack this thread. i thought the OP was pretty wide open and that was my best attempt at a response.

of course, it hasn’t seemed like much of a debate so far, so what the hell? let’s spice things up.

I don’t think you should feel personally guilty.

However, there are institutionalized vestiges of our less-than-stellar past that continue to hold people back and hurt people. No one is personally responsible for them, but they still continue. It is our duty to seek those out and change them.

I don’t have any ancestors who owned slaves, I don’t think. There was one small part of the family who were here pre civil war, but I don’t know much about them. I DO have racist relatives and many racist ancestors. I don’t feel guilty about it. Maybe a bit embarrassed. Mostly I’m proud that my parent’s generation have mostly thrown off that bit of heritage and become more enlightened. I’m happy that I didn’t have that burden myself. Now I am on my way to becoming wealthy. That path has been greased by the fact that my family have been heavily involved with aiding Cambodian refugees. I think I deserve the rewards of my labors. My new boss is an ex refugee who lived with my family for a time.

As I have said in other threads, I have little tolerance for uneducated minorities who cling to their ignorance because it has become a tradition of their culture. And, I have great sympathy for those who strive to learn but are denied a quality education because of poverty and poor public education. I believe that only education can reduce racism, and anyone who consistently fights to improve education has no need to feel guilty about the actions of their ancestors. Go ahead and feel guilty about your own actions if that is appropriate. I’m not perfect and have caught myslef thinking racist thoughts on occasion. I feel guilty about that.

None of my ancestors were even in North America until the 20th century. There is no way I feel guilty about anything. However, even if my own father bought and sold slaves, why would I be guilty of anything. It is ridiculous to pass blame through generations.

If you people are trying to pass blame around, I wonder how much you are going to give to the black tribes in Africa for selling the slaves to the slave traders. Guess what you history revisionists, whites males aren’t responsible for all the evils in the world.

The best thing for anyone to do is read up on some history, find out the true story, and quit believing that everything you hear is the complete truth.

I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am guilty. Not necessarily because of my predecessors violently displacing native people who were doing a hell of a lot better with this continent than we ever have, though that royally pisses me off.

I am guilty because I am an American consumer. I eat cultivated, processed, packaged food that takes many units of fossil fuel energy to produce a single unit of food energy. I own a fairly large wardrobe. In fact, I just checked the tag of my pajama pants, and they’re made in the Sultanate of Oman. I don’t even know where that is, but I’m guessing the person who made these pants isn’t reading the SDMB right now. I’m guilty because I’m sitting in front of the computer with the television on right next to me, even though I’m not really watching it. It’s on for background noise. What kind of person am I that I am consuming part of this planet’s unreplacable energy supply for background noise? I’m guilty because I buy shit that I don’t need. You get the point.

So, I guess I’m following the hijack, but is it really that far removed from the OP? Whites are, on average, richer than minorities, and therefore are bigger consumers than those in lower economic standing. Even sweatshop labor along is a big enough issue to get right to the heart of the OP. So we’ve abolished slavery in our own country. So what? I’m just as guilty as the slave owners in pre-Civil War days were, because I own sweatshop made clothes (although to be fair, I usually try to be vigilant about it, and I didn’t buy these pants myself, but I’m still very much to blame in this and many other problems), and every one of you that owns sweatshop goods is just as guilty as well.

So of course I feel guilty. And I’m a bloody liberal “hippy” vegetarian environmentalist. I try to make it a point to live simply and without waste. All the waste I produce is compounded for the average American, or member of another industrialized society. But I know that I am still, on the whole, a liability to this world and the lesser advantaged people in it. I don’t pretend that being a member of American/industrialized society is an innocuous thing. It’s not. It’s a very harmful thing, but I was born into it, and I’m too entrenched in it to leave now, although I do occasionally entertain fantasies of living in the wild, but who am I fooling?

Damn. My family’s been here the whole time. I can’t use this out.

My bad, I guess.

Sorry 'bout the slavery and the Indian-killing and stuff.

I am 1/2 Jewish. When I meet a German who wasn’t even born during WWII, do I in any way associate them with the holocaust?


That’s my $0.02.

…on how much land you own. considering most own practically nothing should be figuring out how the rich whites got it all.

on the confederate flag thing. 70% of the men that fought for the confederacy WERE NOT slave owners. so white men waving the confederate flag are saying: “70% of white men are really stupid, and we’re sooooo proud”

the ECONOMIC WARGAME is a continuation of the MILITARY WARGAME by other means. the way you keep score is NET WORTH. what’s your score?

Dal Timgar

My father was born in El Salvador, and lived - quite literally - in a hovel as he was growing up.

He managed to aquire an education, a job, diplomatic residency in the U.S., and ultimately U.S. citizenship.

I’m not sure, then, at which point the scales reversed themselves, and he became an oppressor instead of a victim. Please let me know, so I can begin reparation payments.

  • Rick

There is no color person on this planet that hasn’t at some point been a slave. There is no color person on this planet that has not at one point been a slave owner.

Anyone that thinks otherwise is being naive.

Also, remember that slavery in the United States ended before slavery ended in Holland, Spain, Brazil, and in several other countries. Also, remember that slavery existed in many countries such as England, Spain, Brazil, and many others for a great many years longer than it did in the United States. Slave trade ended in the United States years before it did in many other countries. None of this matters though because every race has been both the slave and the slave holder.

Unless you are personally responsible for someone being a slave, you shouldn’t feel guilty about slavery.

Hmm, feeling guilty because you have it better than someone else. I think id rather be happy now because just because I am rich now doesent mean I will always be. IMHO feeling guilty for stuff like that could imply that you feel you are better than them.