The End Of White Guilt?|
July 27, 2009
Something strange is happening in America. For the first time, a white man is standing
up to a black man's charge of racism. And he is being supported by his employer.
In another first, the media coverage of this event is not employing
the time worn premise that only whites can be racist.
For those of you who may have missed the unrelenting 24/7 media coverage of the
latest racial tempest in a teapot, the basic facts: A white policeman in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, on the alert for 2 reported burglars, detained a prominent
black professor. The black professor then proceeded to play the race card, accusing
the officer of being a racist. After challenging the authority and the mother of the
policeman, professor Henry Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct.
This incident may have gone the way of millions of others but for the fact that
this professor was a friend of President Obama. Luckily for Henry Gates, the most
powerful man in the world took time out from pressing affairs to take his
The President then announced publicly that the Cambridge Police
Department 'acted stupidly', even while acknowledging that he wasn't familiar with
all the details.
That our president chose to get involved in the first place is a discussion for
What makes this incident unique is the fact that the automatic assumption of racism
on the part of the white policeman is actually being questioned. In a very public
way - signaling the possibility that the 'white guilt' America has embraced for the
last 45 years may finally be consigned to history.
White guilt is best described by author Shelby Steele, who says "White guilt is literally
the same thing as black power." Steele hypothesized that America lost its moral
authority when it acknowledged and apologized for the sin of slavery in the early
60's. This 'moral authority' transferred to the victims of historical racism and
became their great power. The power to stigmatize one as a racist became a powerful
tool. A tool that has been wielded for decades with virtually no opposition,
The power to evoke white guilt and the stigma of racism has been used time and again
corporations, politicians and public figures to their knees. White guilt
has also played a significant part in the shaping of public policy and political
correctness. It has also shielded generations
of blacks from accountability, with
predictable and damaging results.
Because white guilt is a vacuum of moral authority, it makes the moral authority
of whites dependant on proving a negative. As in, 'Have you stopped beating your
wife yet?' For over 45 years, discussions of race in America have been
constrained by the threat of being deemed racist. For over 45 years, most white Americans have
been put in the impossible position of having to prove a negative. It now appears this might
As usual, the Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in with his predictable and automatic assignment of blame
to whitey, calling the case an "abuse
of power" by the officer. But, in yet another first, the media declined to annoint
this blowhard his usual status as commentor in chief on all things racial. Poor
Al failed to get his usual 'face time'. His comments were, gasp, not news.
Perhaps the media sees the writing on the wall.
The writing that seems to indicate that charges of racial oppression and racism
ring false now that a black man has been elected to
the Presidency. The writing that indicates that most white Americans are ever so tired of having
to prove day and night that they 'are not racist'. The writing that indicates that
America has paid its debt to the black man and they are now welcome to compete,
on an equal footing, with the rest of America. The writing that indicates that frivolous charges
of racism will now be challenged.
Finally, Martin Luther King's dream may become a reality - Americans may now be
free to judge a man based on the content of his character instead of the color of
his skin. High time.
Nancy Morgan is a columnist and news editor for
She lives in South Carolina
This article may be reprinted, with attribution.