The Fallacy of White Guilt, Part I
By Reed Benson
Do you feel guilty? If you are White you should, at least according to many people in our society. If you listen to most politicians and media moguls, White people are the source of virtually every problem that besets our world, real or imagined. Are there Black people who cannot find work? White racism is the cause. Is the Middle East at war again? White crusaders and colonialists are at fault because we abused the Arabs. Is the climate changing in an unexpected way? White westerners started the Industrial Revolution and polluted the atmosphere. On and on it goes.
Society at large alleges that White people, White Christians in particular, have done many wicked things—far more than any other people on the planet. The underlying tone is that we should eliminate ourselves from existence because the world would be better off without us. What a wonderful place planet Earth would be if only all White people would just disappear!
These kind of accusations are not new in world history, for the Bible records that the enemies of Jehovah used false charges against God's people in an effort to destroy them. Let us engage in a quick scriptural foray to see how a previous generation of White Israelites had to defend themselves from deceitful accusations in order to preserve themselves.
Esther and the Judeans
This story begins in the empire of Persia, 500 B.C., about a century after the Babylonians destroyed the nation of Judah, and many thousands of Judeans were taken into captivity to the great city of Babylon. We know that seventy years later, some of the descendants of those captives returned under Ezra and Nehemiah to reconstitute their nation. But others chose to remain in the East as a subculture within the vast Persian Empire, the successor of Babylon.
Two such Israelites were Mordecai and Esther, of the tribe of Benjamin, who lived in the Persian capital city, Shushan (Esther 2:5-7). You may recall that Esther, by virtue of her beauty and God's providence, unexpectedly became the wife of the mighty king of Persia, Ahasuerus. The happiness of the situation was interrupted when a Haman, a descendant of Agag, an Amalekite (Esther 3:1-2), launched a wicked plot to destroy all Jews (true Judeans). An immensely wealthy man, he bribed King Ahasuerus with 10,000 talents of silver and persuaded him that the Judeans were a danger to him and his empire. The solution Haman proposed was their complete extermination.
Why did he so hate the Judeans? He nurtured a grudge centuries old, going back to animosities in the land of Canaan. Note the reason the king agreed to put Haman's evil plot into action was because Haman convinced him that these Judeans were a danger to the empire. He planted false charges against them in the mind of the king (Esther 3:8). The Judeans (Caucasian Israelites) had supposedly committed terrible crimes. It was, if you will, White guilt.
As most of us will recall, the plot collapsed. God providentially intervened late one evening when the king, suffering from an acute attack of insomnia, was listening to court records being read to him and was reminded that Mordecai had saved his life from an assassination plot. It was plainly evident that the Judeans did not hate Ahasuerus or his government; rather, they were respectful of the great king's authority and posed no risk to the tranquility of the empire at all (Esther 6:1-3). Shortly after this, Esther meekly revealed her true identity and made her submissive appeal to her husband for protection and justice on behalf of her wrongly accused people. Remember now: her entire people had been falsely accused of terrible things they had not done!
The king received Esther's appeal favorably and soon executed Haman. Hooray! But a wrinkle still remained to be worked out. It was a longstanding legal principle among the Persians that once the king had put forth an official edict, it could not be changed. Ahasuerus could not simply rescind his order for the destruction of the Judeans. So, he did the next best thing he could: he issued a new command giving the Judeans the right to "gather themselves together, and stand for their life" (Esther 8:11). While the previous dictate officially was still in force, it was plain enough that the king was no longer encouraging such action. When the fateful day arrived, as we recall, it proved to be a day of victory for the Judeans, not a day of calamity. The false charges against the Judean people did not bear the intended fruit for which the enemies of God had hoped! The charge of White guilt had failed!
Our Present Circumstance
As White Israelites living in America and other places in the Western world, our circumstances are less dire than Esther's. Yet, they are parallel to some degree. White people labor under false charges used to justify national policies that will reduce, damage, and possibly eliminate us. This guilt which our enemies seek to impose upon us is found in every White nation on our planet. While it is a powerful factor in the United States, its effects may be even greater in Europe and elsewhere. In South Africa, where Whites are already a small minority, the impact of guilt-laden politics is wreaking near catastrophic results already. In that southern nation, White farmers are murdered routinely, their land often stripped from them, and travel is exceedingly dangerous. In another decade or two, barring a miracle, there will be few if any Whites living in South Africa. White guilt and the political policies that flow from it will have achieved their goal of ridding that once prosperous African nation of White people altogether. (Many readers of this essay know that such a development will only bring poverty and hardship to the Blacks that remain, but that is another story.) Here in America, we are not at a point where we need to "stand for our lives" like the Whites of South Africa must and the Judeans in Persia once had to do; but that moment is certainly imaginable and indeed may not be far into our future.
Is there anything we can and should do now? There is. Like the people of Judah and Benjamin of old, we need to "gather together, and stand for our lives," not with weapons, but with facts. We need to know and teach the truth about our people. We must resist the false charges that have been leveled against us to make us feel guilty, weak, embarrassed, and small. Instead, we need to exercise just a little pride about who we are, what our forefathers accomplished, and why we deserve a future. Rather than shrivel as a people and decide we should not propagate our race, we should have many children and teach them that they are as worthy as any other race, perhaps more so. We must arm ourselves with the facts of history that are being intentionally distorted. Let us make truth our ally and reveal the false charges that have been leveled against our people.
White Guilt and Slavery
Probably the most intense and incessant strategy to make White people feel bad about themselves is the sundry accusations about how we supposedly disdain Black people and always have. Society at large claims that the legacy of Negro slavery still is alive and well in America among White folks. It is not necessary to list all of the sundry specific accusations against White people regarding this topic, for all of us have heard them many times. What we really need are some accurate facts to bring balance to this one-sided conversation. Consider the following:
1. In the 1860 census, on the eve of the American Civil War, only 2% of White Americans owned Black slaves. This was the moment in time when Black slavery was at its maximum extent in the United States. Even in the South, only 5% of Whites owned slaves at all. This means that the vast majority of White Americans did not participate in the institution of slavery, even when it was most extensive.
2. The first slave owner in America was a Black man, Anthony Johnson. He had been brought to Virginia as an indentured servant, like many Whites and Blacks were in the first half of that century. Like many in this condition, he earned his freedom. In 1651, Virginia's laws changed to allow indentured servants to be kept perpetually in their state of servitude. The first man to take advantage of the ability to own another person's labor for his entire life was Anthony Johnson, a Black man.
3. As is generally acknowledged, many Blacks in the North were free in 1860. What is less well known is that some Blacks who lived in the South were also free. Indeed, there were thousands of free Blacks in southern states, according to the 1860 census.
4. Not only were many Blacks in the South free, but also some of them owned other Black slaves. In 1860 in New Orleans alone, over 3,000 free Blacks owned other Blacks as slaves. The most famous, or perhaps we should say infamous, Black slave owner was William Ellison from South Carolina. He owned sixty-three Black slaves and was feared across that state for his cruelty and harsh treatment of those of his own race.
5. Despite the popular image and the reality of an occasional harsh owner like William Ellison, American slaves were treated reasonably well in the American South. They typically worked hard, but so did virtually all Americans of any race. Most of them ate and lived as well as most free Whites Southerners, who lived humbly in rough-hewn cabins on small plots of land and had to scratch out a hard living from the soil. Black slaves in the American South enjoyed far better circumstances than their contemporaries in Latin America, especially on the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean. On those torrid islands, slaves did not propagate themselves; rather, freshly imported slaves regularly arrived from West Africa and had an average working lifespan of only five years. They were cruelly worked until their health collapsed and they perished, at which time another replacement slave was purchased.
6. Slaves were a universal reality throughout history until the early 1800s. Every ancient empire used slave labor. Medieval serfs in Europe were essentially slaves (and were White, of course). Russian serfdom was a slave institution. Japan's social order enslaved the lower classes, as did the Chinese. India's caste system was built on slavery. African tribes practiced slavery. Indeed, most slave traders who brought Blacks to the New World as slaves simply purchased them from Black tribes who were dominant over their neighbors. Virtually all American Indian tribes held slaves who were captives from other tribes. It is a myth that such people were usually adopted into the tribe as full-fledged members. Far more often was the harsh reality that they were used as beasts of burden until their health broke down and they died. Slavery in the American South in the early 1800s was far from unique. Indeed, slavery was practically everywhere on the planet.
7. Only about one million Blacks were brought to the United States as slaves. The Arab slave traders took an estimated eighteen million Blacks from East Africa to Middle East as slaves over a period of many centuries. Where is the effort to make Arabs feel guilty for this action? Even today, many Muslim nations like Sudan still hold slaves at this moment. Where is the outrage about that?
8. Whites were the first race to promote the idea of a society without slaves. It did not occur until the British Empire, under the leadership of William Wilberforce, outlawed slavery in 1833. It was only thirty-two years later that the United States followed this example. The United States was thus among the first nations in the world to end slavery. Many other countries around the world continued to hold slaves after we had freed all of ours.
9. Many Whites in America, even some in the South, wanted to end slavery. The problem was how to do it without grave disruption of society. The inflammatory, abolitionist rhetoric of the 1840s and 1850s made it impossible for reasonable minds to reach a workable accommodation. Opinions about slavery grew more polarized and rigid, eventually finding outlets in John Brown's two abortive raids and a fracturing of the Democratic Party. Anxieties and misunderstandings grew, finally resulting in secession and civil war.
10. Today, less than 3% of living American Whites have any ancestors that owned slaves. By what logic should a person like me, who has no ancestors whatsoever that owned slaves, be punished?
11. By contrast, some 30% of American Whites alive today have ancestors that fought for the North in the American Civil War, the direct result of which was the abolition of slavery. Again, I am an example of this, for I have a great-great grandfather who fought in an Iowa regiment and thus had a small part in ending slavery. Why should I be made to feel badly about the existence of Black slavery when none of my ancestors owned slaves, but some of them helped abolish the practice?
12. Slavery in most of Africa was not stopped until White European colonial leaders compelled its end in the 1890s. Far from European colonizers abusing Blacks in Africa, they were instrumental in ending the abuse of Blacks by other Blacks of a different tribal background. In addition to freedom, White colonizers brought medicine, hospitals, roads, schools, and disease-free water sources. The life expectancy of Black Africans soared, as did their overall quality of life. Why should White people feel guilty about African colonialism when Blacks were the direct beneficiaries?
Here in the United States, unknown billions of dollars have been spent to aid former Black slaves and their descendants develop a better life for themselves. Aid in the forms of housing, education, utility expenses, and food has been available to Blacks ever since the establishment of Freedman's Bureau in 1865. In recent decades, preferment in hiring, low interest loans, and admittance into exclusive universities have been granted to Black Americans based solely on their race and the presumption that their ancestors were once slaves— some six or seven generations ago. Despite the grave problems in American inner cities, Blacks in the United States still have the highest standard of living among their race anywhere in the world. Yet, they complain! And the liberal minds among us continue to make White people feel guilty about American slavery! Incredible!
Conclusion: White Americans owe Black Americans nothing. Do not feel guilty.
White Guilt and the American Indian
It is now a generally accepted notion that White people treated the indigenous people of North America quite badly when this continent began to be settled by Europeans in the 1600s. This alleged poor conduct on our part continued for the next three hundred years throughout the westward expansion of the United States. You have surely heard the accusations: we stole their land, cheated them in sundry treaties, killed them in wars we started, intentionally introduced diseases among them, and then forced them onto tiny reservations where we hoped they would starve to death. There is only one problem in this colorful narrative intended to promote White guilt: little to none of it is true. Consider the following facts:
It is generally assumed that before the arrival of Whites in North America, the natives lived peaceably with one another in a continent filled with bounty. In truth, all of the tribes of North America lived in a constant state of intermittent warfare among their neighbors. In this stone-age society, game and food were not abundant, but were hard to get. Starvation, raids for scarce food, and larger scale conflicts for revenge were commonplace. Violence and cruel warfare are values that American Indians glorified.
Land was "owned" collectively by a given tribe, but only as long as they controlled it by killing other aboriginals who wandered in. Tribes only "owned" the land to the extent that they were currently the only people walking on its soil. This "ownership" was constantly in flux as one tribe drove out another. For example, the Sioux (or Lakota) claim today that the Black Hills and the northern plains were their land that White people stole in the 1870s. What they and other ignorant liberals have not told you is that the Sioux stole it from the Blackfeet and the Arapahoe in the 1770s when they decided they wanted to leave what we now call Minnesota. Similarly, the Shawnee claim White people took what is now Ohio and Indiana from them in the first decade of the 1800s. That sounds most unjust—until you realize that the Shawnee took the region from the Fox and Sauk tribes. And on and on it goes: the Comanche pushed out the Apache from West Texas, who pushed out the Ute and Navaho in southern New Mexico and Arizona. The Assiniboine and Nez Perce pushed out the Shoshone in Montana and Idaho. The notion that any tribe permanently "owned" any chunk of real estate is fictitious. The reality is that the White man proved to be better at a game that the American Indians had been playing for centuries.
3. On the eve of the arrival of the White race, the inhabitants of North America were unspeakably cruel. The Aztec nation practiced human sacrifice on a vast scale. Tens of thousands of people from among their enemies were ritually killed and eaten. Yes, the Aztecs were also cannibals. In 1520 under Cortez, the Spanish stopped this macabre, hellish activity permanently. And yet, the conquest of Cortez is today portrayed as cruel and unjust. Just the opposite is true. Further north, American Indians from regions that later became the United States routinely tortured all captive males for days until they died. This torture was so routine, so ubiquitous, and so commonly expected that it became embedded in their cultures. Celebrations and religious significance were associated with these torments; entire villages gathered to watch and possibly participate in the ritual torture of captives through slow burning, leisurely disembowelments, and other diabolical afflictions.
4. American Indian society was not the egalitarian utopia that foolish liberals like to pretend. Indian females were routinely bought and sold as "wives," as were an Indian male's daughters. Females performed all physical labor, including wood gathering, slaughtering of animals, packing up of teepees, and the primitive gardening they practiced. Females were packhorses when needed, routinely carrying huge loads. One famous Huron chief, when scolded about having so many wives, retorted, "If I don't have all these wives, who will paddle my canoe?" On top of all this, they bore and cared for their children, usually beginning at age thirteen or fourteen. Rarely did females live past age thirty-five. Indian males had two responsibilities, and only two: they hunted, and they made war. All other tasks were considered feminine. And White men are supposed to feel guilty?
5. American Indians were stone-age savages with no written language, no written law, no use of the wheel, and no domestic animals until the Spanish introduced horses and sheep. They practiced agriculture without the use of even a simple wooden plow, and until the Spanish introduced wool and the loom in the American Southwest, the Navaho and Hopi had no cloth. Laws and customs were oral and, contrary to liberal notions, were subject to change when strong personalities imposed new practices.
6. As is well known, they lived by hunting and gathering. But it was hard to ever get enough to eat. Thus, the twin specters of starvation and deficiency diseases were common. Because a hunting/gathering lifestyle took about fifty times as much land to support one Indian as farming did to support one White man, the natives viewed North America as already "full" of people, whereas the White man saw it as mostly "empty." With a crowded Europe behind them, the White man did what was natural and just. Why should White Europeans remain packed and suffering in the small continent of Europe while the large, undeveloped continent of North America had only a thin population of stone-age aborigines? How would that have been just and fair?
7. Most American Indian tribes were exceedingly immoral, buying and swapping wives at the slightest whim. Venereal disease was rampant. Indians in Cuba and Puerto Rico introduced Syphilis to White Spanish soldiers, who made the mistake of fraternization with native females. Upon their return to Europe, these soldiers introduced it to the larger European population.
8. It is true that several European diseases, smallpox in particular, wreaked havoc among American Indian tribes. But as has been noted, disease transmission worked both ways. Furthermore, no one planned this work of death among the native population; it just happened. It could not have been stopped once a measure of contact was made.
9. The destruction of indigenous North American tribes was mostly by disease, not war. The native population had little immune resistance to smallpox, typhus, and several other Old World plagues that Whites and Blacks often survived. These diseases mysteriously preceded the bulk of White settlers, thus thinning the land even further of natives, making the frontier zones even emptier. Liberals today act as though the land should have remained empty; but that was ridiculous and never happens in world history. Someone always seizes land with value. Why should the White man not have a chance at empty land?
10. Alcoholism was rather common among the Indians, but usually at their insistence. They demanded it from White traders; rarely did anyone force it upon them. Indeed, many traders would not sell it because they knew the Indians became instantly violent and belligerent.
11. In terms of warfare, far more Whites died at the hands of Indians than the reverse. Indians males were exceedingly skilled at killing animals and man. But this should not earn our praise, for they were cruel and slaughtered man, woman, and child without remorse. The "massacres" that liberals are always scolding Whites for perpetrating, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, and so forth, were relatively infrequent. Far more abundant are countless, nameless atrocities that American Indians inflicted upon white settlers who were vulnerable on the frontier. One of the charges made against King George III in the Declaration of Independence was this: "he has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions."
12. The reservation system was devised to protect the remnant of American Indian tribes from self-destruction when hunting and gathering were no longer possible. The reservation system was not meant to destroy them. It actually fed them on the government dime while they were required to do nothing in return. At the expense of the White man, schools were established on these reservations, and techniques of farming and animal husbandry were taught. But Indian males would not farm, work, or attend schools. Instead they got drunk, fought, and died young. Furthermore, considering the relatively small populations on these reservations, their geographical size was, and still is, quite large.
Today, vast sums are spent to keep Indians somewhat functional on their reservations, with hospitals and an extensive network of social services available. They enjoy special benefits, cash grants, gambling privileges, housing allotments, and other perks. All of this is paid for with federal money—the tax dollars of hardworking Whites who themselves are not eligible for such generous treatment.
Conclusion: White Americans owe American Indians nothing. Do not feel guilty.
This concludes Part One. The next issue of the Watchman will continue this essay.