Author Topic: is 'white guilt' dead?  (Read 14335 times)

michaelintp

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Re: is 'white guilt' dead?
« Reply #30 on: November 03, 2009, 07:55:19 am »
Quote
The phrase describes a collective phenomenon. You don't need to outline it. That's the point of the phrase. If I describe someone as just another Angry Black Man, that too is a description of collective behavior. Shorthand that allows the listener to diminish and ignore the validity of the "angry black man's" opinion and, in fact, his life. The same is true of "white guilt." That's all it's for.

But it doesn't, unless how I've used it, and how people around me have used it, are the exception to the rule.  We do not assume that "white guilt" is a characteristic of all "white people".  It is a characteristic of individuals.  On the other hand "angry black man" does imply a collective, simply because the actions of one African-American (or other minority) are often - through racism - applied back to the entire group.  This kind of thing does not - or rarely - happens to white people. 

The phrases "white guilt" and "angry black man" are both broad negative racial characterizations, used to disparage the actions or words of individuals.  Redjack is correct that they are identical in tone and purpose: both are racial stereotypes used to dismiss others.

It is clear that "white guilt" and "angry black man" are in fact applied back to subsets of both groups as a whole, the former phrase "white guilt" to white folk and the latter phrase "angry black man [or woman]" to black folk who speak out or are active (in some capacity) in support of civil rights, social programs, condemnation of racism, and the like.  Neither phrase is applied to all white or black folk, but only to those who are outspoken or active in some way.  As a way to mock their motivation and dismiss them.

michaelintp

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Re: is 'white guilt' dead?
« Reply #31 on: November 04, 2009, 07:51:47 am »
WORDS USED AS WEAPONS.

The thought occurred to me that the phrases we are discussing (and others like them) illustrate how words are used as weapons.  The exact same emotions and motivations can be described as "concern for fellow human beings" or as "white guilt," (2) being an "outspoken activist" or being an "angry black man," and so on.  

So, perhaps, we are not framing the question properly. The real issue may not be whether motivations and actions exist (they do) but rather why some choose to describe them one way, while others choose to describe them in a different way.  This seems to be another case where precisely the same motivations, deeds and speech can be characterized as a positive, as neutral, or as a negative.  In the same way that attributes of individuals or cultures can be portrayed as positive, neutral, or as negative -- depending on the perspective of the person doing the describing and the emotion-laden words he chooses to use.

The second point to recognize is that prejudice can play a role in the descriptive words selected.