LOVE AND RACISM
This way of teaching--genuine love for students of color accompanied by mindset of "saving" them from their non-Whiteness--is my modern, liberal manifestation of the White Man’s Burden. That term comes from a poem written by Rudyard Kipling in 1899, in which Kipling "appears to [give] a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule other nations for the benefit of those people."
It might suprise some people to know that I don't feel guilty for teaching under this mindset. After all, I'm White and I grew up in a country founded on and maintained by Black subjugation and White domination. Is it any surprise I've absorbed a deep belief in Kipling's White Man's Burden, even within my liberal political framework?
the "outside" world
And by and large, we've been successful. Our world--in which the blind pursuit of money within and across borders is acceptable to most governments, regardless of the impact on mostly brown-skinned people--would make Kipling (or his tongue-in-cheek alter ego) proud.
The dominant cultures of wealthy White men have shaped my world into a comfortable throne for me. So when I look down at the toiling masses at my feet and shake my head at their problems, dilemmas, and cycles of trauma, it's so easy for me toforget that it has been my people who have shaped the material conditions that these people live in.
My people shaped our American culture, in which the average Black family has 1/20 the financial resources of White families, despite their ancestors being forced to create America's wealth as slaves.
As my people continue to dominate the world I live in, I realize that we have also assumed responsibility for the conditions of that world, both good and bad. If my goldfish's water tank were dirty, would you blame the fish or me?
This is the real White man's burden--understanding that the material conditions of the toiling masses I've been looking down on are actually a reflection of my own culture. We defined and continue to define the material boundaries and rules of our world, and so what happens within those boundaries offers us a beautiful reflection of ourselves.
It makes sense that I would tend to stay stuck in the defensive "re-integration" stage of White racial development. My self-image has been formed on a foundation of superiority across multiple identities. What would it do to me to accept the reality that my "superior" identities have so effectively maintained the wickedness of the world, albeit in new forms?
The burden of carrying the weight of our broken modern world is too much for me to bear. But my White man's burden is actually a double-burden: I also have been conditioned to force myself to deny that I am carrying that burden. Hence my fragility as a White person when White privilege is named, or my defensiveness when someone mentions patriarchy in my presence. I have to deny the ideas that would reveal the cracks in my foundation.
But there is nothing more toxic to the body and mind than a forced denial of a truth that lives deep inside of me. As a White man, by default I filter the truth trying to come out of me through a screen of denial, and that denial is poisoning my insides.
Poison insides. When you have power over others and you're poisoned inside, they will live your poison too. That's how we end up with the story of #SandraBland, a 28 year-old Black woman moving to Texas for a new job who ended up hung by the neck in a jail cell.
The authorities call it suicide, but the only suicide in Sandra Bland's case is that of the White soul. When we are complicit in a society that can take a person like Sandra and have police murder her in a jail cell and pretend it was suicide, then we know that our White souls were hung right alongside Sandra.
RELEASE THE BURDEN
Black people have been fighting for 400 years to free themselves from the lie of White supremacy. We don't have to go it alone. We get to follow.
This is what freedom looks like for me, the White man: letting go of the weight of the broken world and letting go of my denial of what I've done to help break it, and joining the river of humanity demanding freedom from the death culture of White supremacy.
#BlackLivesMatter. So does #MyWhiteSoul.