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Can white be right?

22 November 2012, 16:08

I read this piece today ( ). One paragraph in particular got my attention:

 ” There is a burden that others may not know that black people go through. When someone has done something shameful, we hope they are not black. When and if we find out that the person is not black, we sigh a sigh of relief. As crazy as this sounds, when I found out that the killer of Lolly Jackson was a white man, I was relieved. When a black person is in a high profile position, they do not just represent themselves; they carry the weight and expectations of the black race. In many ways this is unfair but it is true. Being black is not just for yourself.”

I get this.

 On an intellectual level it makes sense (obviously, because I couldn’t possibly know what it means to be black). In the South African context, again, it makes sense. It makes sense that being black can unify black people across tribal and geographical lines because of shared or similar histories [think colonialism in Africa, slavery, segregation (USA)/apartheid (RSA) etc.] This is not unlike the holocaust is a unifying factor among Jewish people I suppose, and so on.

 This brings me to my thoughts as I was reading…

 Is there anything right about being white?

Seriously. Is there anything that unifies white people across all lines on a global level? More importantly, is there anything redeeming that could possibly unite white people? You see when I think about being white I think about it in relation to those who are not white.

This could be a uniquely South African experience although I doubt it. I doubt it because white people as I see it are portrayed by history as the aggressor, the enslaver, the colonialist, the segregator, the discriminator…and yes...the racist. Sadly, for the most part it would appear that factually this does bear out.

I know that, for me, in South Africa being white goes with a great deal of guilt. A collective guilt. Maybe even shame. I understand, although I desperately wish it wasn’t so, that to my fellow countrymen my whiteness will almost always come with tainted connotations and heavy baggage. (How to change that and if it can be changed is not my issue here.)

I’ve heard of and read about ‘white pride’ organisations and movements.  Invariably they end up being on the supremacist and horrible extreme end of the scale. But I don’t know what the good side of that scale is supposed to look like. There’s my dilemma.

Now I’m wondering… Is there anything great about being white that does not exist in opposition to other races?

Understand that there’s no self-loathing going on here. I don’t hate being white.

I just want to know if there’s anything that can make me say “I’m white and proud” where it doesn’t come across as a white supremacist statement. Is there any way to say it and solicit that same respect when someone says “I’m black and proud”?

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