Discrimination Opinion

Racism, neo-colonialism and 'whitewashing'

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Shelby Steele is an author and thinker involved in Stanford University's Hoover Institution (image via YouTube)

This social moment shouldn't be used to disempower black people from addressing issues of systematic racism, says Branko Miletic.

WHILE SOME white people are undoubtedly honest and sincere when joining movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM), others do so to reinforce historical racism by repackaging white privilege in a shiny new box in order to assuage their own collective "guilt".

African American academic, Ian Rowe, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute writing in The Wall Street Journal noted:

'The narrative that white people “hold the power” conveys a wrongheaded notion of white superiority and creates an illusion of black dependency on white largesse. This false assignment of responsibility, while coming from an authentic desire to produce change, can create a new kind of mental enslavement.'

In a recent interview, another African American scholar and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Shelby Steele, said:

'White American's live under this accusation that they're racist, they need to prove that they're not racist. In order to prove that you're not racist, you need to take over the fate of black people and say, go with us, we'll engineer you into the future, we'll engineer you into equality.'

But racial whitewashing is not just limited to whites. CNN anchor Don Lemon, who is black, told his colleague Chris Cuomo on air that “it is not incumbent upon black people to stop racism. It is incumbent upon people who hold the power in this society to help to do that, to do the heavy lifting". 

Steele objected to Lemon's idea, pointing out the perversity that in order to prove they are not racist, white Americans must "control" and "fix" the lives of Black Americans. This is not just a way for whites to feel good about themselves: it is another form of controlling black people, another way of putting black people into a form of submission.

As Steele goes on to say:

'What's going wrong with Black America? Why are they so dependent on White America, on the government? That all they can think of is themselves as victims, which then, of course, deflates them as human beings, undermines their best energies, their best intentions, and so, after 50-60 years now, past the Civil Rights Bill, we're worse off in many socio-economic categories than we were 60 years ago back then.'

Similarly, Australian Indigenous academic, land rights activist and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership Noel Pearson said that:

"If the fight against discrimination was the most important development in the cause of human dignity in the second half of the twentieth century, then the soft bigotry of low expectations must be the most important in the first half of this".

The phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations" was actually coined by former President George W. Bush, highlighting the perceived problems with expecting less from a black person than from a white one and treating blacks as if they were somehow less capable is a case of explicit as well as implicit racism.

Bush called it “another form of bias”.

What better way to crush black souls than to infantilise, delegitimise and disqualify any, if not all black potential? After all, colonialism was not just about invading a country and stealing its resources; it was also about infantilising and delegitimising the non-white population.

What some of BLM's white support base are tacitly agreeing to is for black people to get ahead, whites must exercise their "control". They have become so addicted to the notion of victimhood, that they are blind to the fact they are participating in a form of reverse-engineered colonialism and self-administered racism.

As Steele puts it: 

'We have to engineer ourselves. Period. There is no other way. Unless you can rewrite the rules of the human condition. There is no circumstance in history where people can, no matter how much guilt they have over the oppressive majority, to somehow get them to lift you up and get you out of the condition that you're in.'

The issue here is not just about the "feel-good" factor or the social media-driven virtue signalling, where middle-class white millennials claim online bragging rights.

This racial whitewashing has more to do with power. both actual and potential.

The reality of this collective guilt peddling is so that whites – especially those in academia and certain parts of the media – can feel good about themselves and the only way that will happen is if they help tear down "the system", upon which they will be finally unburdened of their own guilt.

Emancipation delivered through the guilt-laced prism of superiority.

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That, in a nutshell, is not only a sign of moral vacuity on the part of some whites, it is also a demeaning and patronising way to treat another racial group. It is neo-racism and redux colonialism writ large, where the white man once again governs the lives of blacks.

The condescension of the intellectual now reigns supreme.

The only people being "liberated" here are those whites who have signed onto "the cause" and for who the tearing down of systemic power structures and replacing them with their own self-constructed realities is the one thing that stands between their eternal damnation of collective self-guilt and frolicking blissfully in a sea of dopamine-infused myopia.

Black lives certainly must and do matter, but it seems for some people, enshrining white privilege matters far more.

Branko Miletic is a journalist, editor, historian and author who has written extensively on the wars in the Balkans and post-Yugoslavia politics for the past 20 years. You can follow Branko on Twitter @journovox9.

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