I get mail -- oh boy, do I get mail. About half of the swpd-related emails I get are from readers who like what goes on here, and the other half are from people who very clearly don't. Among the latter, a few accuse me of pretending to be white. A LOT of them accuse the blog of being nothing but "typical white liberal guilt," and me of being such things as (and I quote) a "a purveyor of white guilt," a "white guilt monger," a "hopelessly guilty white liberal," "another guilty 'whitey,'" and "an ironically fascist white-guilt pusher." Another such reader sent me the above cartoon, assuming that I simply must be a "white liberal" who blindly adores Obama because he's black.
"White guilt." Please help me with this -- what is up with that term, anyway? And why does the phrase so often come from opponents of anti-racist efforts? What feelings are they expressing when they say that? And why is it a phrase I almost never hear from people who oppose racism?
If you get accused of being a white-guilt pusher, how do you respond?
I have some tentative answers about those who use it a lot. Accusing others of "pushing white guilt" is a way of simply dismissing everything they're saying, instead of carefully listening and responding to the points they're making. There's also an assumption behind the use of the phrase that since "racism is in the past" ("we're post-racial now," etc.), whites have nothing to feel wrong or "guilty" about anymore.
Here's one more example to consider -- since it's Friday, some music, Kid Rock's "Amen." This song is apparently Kid Rock's attempt to provide his target demographic with an anthem. His audience is, clearly, very white, a segment, or maybe some segments, of the white population -- a mainstreamed, crossover appeal of "rock" mixed with overtones of "country."
The only time that whiteness is overtly marked in the lyrics and images occurs when, at 45 seconds, Kid Rock asks, "how can we seek salvation when our nation's race relations got me feeling guilty of being white?"
And the totally implausible image that accompanies this moment? A group of scowling men carrying signs, one of which, carried by a black man at the center of the scene, says, "Race relations." (How's that for an anti-racist rallying cry? "Race Relations! Lemme hear ya now, RACE RELATIONS!") Presumably, these men are supposed to be hanging out on a corner somewhere, holding up vague, guilt-inducing signs, the same kind of people mentioned later in the song who "live off of handouts and favors." Aren't those code words for black people on welfare? (Never mind that the majority of welfare recipients are white.)
If you're not white, are you feeling guilty yet? For being, that is, one of those people who's always trying to make white people feel guilty, just because they're white?
I suppose I shouldn't be sarcastic. Especially on a Friday.
(If this video doesn't work for you, here's another version; transcribed lyrics below.)
by Kid Rock
It's another night in hell
Another child won't live to tell
Can you imagine what it's like to starve to death?
And as we sit free and well
Another soldier has to yell
"Tell my wife and children I love them" in his last breath
C'mon now amen, amen, amen
Habitual offenders, scumbag lawyers with agendas
I'll tell you sometimes people I don't know what's worse
Natural disasters, or these wolves in sheep clothes, pastors
Now Goddamn it I'm scared to send my children to church
And how can we seek salvation when our nation's race relations
Got me feeling guilty of being white?
But faith in human nature, our creator and our savior,
I'm no saint
But I believe in what is right
C'mon now amen, amen
I said amen, amen
Stop pointing fingers and take some blame,
Pull your future away from the flame
Open up your mind and start to live
Stop shortchanging your neighbors
Living off handouts and favors, and maybe
Give a little bit more than you got to give
Simplify, testify, identify, rectify
And if I get high stop being so uptight
It's only human nature
and I am not a stranger
So baby won't you stay with me tonight
When a calls away (?)
to break the sound (?)
I'm fadin down, I need someone
Oh to be someone
They just sinkin down, and holdin back
I hold the dawn and run
They don't save a child
Oh, to save a child
It's a matter of salvation from them
patience up above,
So don't give up so damn easy
on the one you love, one you love
Somewhere you got a brother, sister,
friend, grandmother, niece or nephew
Just dying to be with you
You know there's someone out there
who unconditionally, religiously, loves you
So just hold on 'cause you know it's true
And if you can take the pain
And you can withstand anything,
and one day
Stand hand in hand with the truth
I said amen, I said amen
I said amen, I said amen,