White Guilt and the Western Past

If you haven’t read Shelby Steele‘s new piece in Opinion Journal on why America is so “delicate” with its enemies, I recommend it highly. Here’s a portion:

Why this new minimalism in war?

It began, I believe, in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty. This idea had organized the entire world, divided up its resources, imposed the nation-state system across the globe, and delivered the majority of the world’s population into servitude and oppression. After World War II, revolutions across the globe, from India to Algeria and from Indonesia to the American civil rights revolution, defeated the authority inherent in white supremacy, if not the idea itself. And this defeat exacted a price: the West was left stigmatized by its sins. Today, the white West–like Germany after the Nazi defeat–lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation. There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority.

I call this white guilt not because it is a guilt of conscience but because people stigmatized with moral crimes–here racism and imperialism–lack moral authority and so act guiltily whether they feel guilt or not…

…White guilt makes our Third World enemies into colored victims, people whose problems–even the tyrannies they live under–were created by the historical disruptions and injustices of the white West. We must “understand” and pity our enemy even as we fight him. And, though Islamic extremism is one of the most pernicious forms of evil opportunism that has ever existed, we have felt compelled to fight it with an almost managerial minimalism that shows us to be beyond the passions of war–and thus well dissociated from the avariciousness of the white supremacist past.

Mr. Steele references how white guilt is present in America’s inability to enforce its immigration laws. We don’t want to be seen as racist thugs who cruelly throw illegal immigrant law-breakers out, although we have every right to do so and should do so. Now we are in a situation where our borders are continually crossed illegally and approximately 12 million illegal aliens have taken up residence here. Steele continues:

Whether the problem is race relations, education, immigration or war, white guilt imposes so much minimalism and restraint that our worst problems tend to linger and deepen. Our leaders work within a double bind. If they do what is truly necessary to solve a problem–win a war, fix immigration–they lose legitimacy.

To maintain their legitimacy, they practice the minimalism that makes problems linger. What but minimalism is left when you are running from stigmatization as a “unilateralist cowboy”? And where is the will to truly regulate the southern border when those who ask for this are slimed as bigots? This is how white guilt defines what is possible in America. You go at a problem until you meet stigmatization, then you retreat into minimalism.

Now we see the results of this minimalism in immigration. The “America is Imperialistic” language and attitudes were utilized by the open borders crowd during the illegal immigration protests yesterday. Speakers provoked the crowds with statements like “You took this country. You killed people in order to take this country for yourselves” and “They can’t deport you from the land that they stole from you!!!.”

More at Riehl World View, Dr. Sanity, Daily Pundit

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