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WWBU - Racial Guilt?

(160 Posts)
LyannaStarktheWolfMaid Sun 12-Nov-17 11:41:32

I had dinner with some very good friends last night. At two in the morning after a skinful of wine, my friend (who is a British man of Sikh Indian descent) casually threw out the idea that white Brits should feel cultural guilt about the (obviously horrific) cruelty in the history of the British Empire. Cue discussion about cultural guilt in general, e.g. how do Germans feel about the Nazis, etc. To which I responded, as a white Brit, I need to feel guilt about the crimes of my forebears to the same degree that you should feel guilty about the crimes of men against women. General dinner party concensus was that that's completely different. I'm not sure that it is. What do you think?

TheStoic Sun 12-Nov-17 11:42:43

I agree with you.

TrojansAreSmegheads Sun 12-Nov-17 11:44:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Abra1d Sun 12-Nov-17 11:44:44

I feel that feeling guilt for anything happening before I was able to vote is a waste of emotion. A wish to make things fairer, yes.

Urubu Sun 12-Nov-17 11:45:51

Completely agree with you.

ferrier Sun 12-Nov-17 11:46:34

Should a person of Muslim descent feel an equivalent guilt at the atrocities committed by Muslim extremists?

Notreallyarsed Sun 12-Nov-17 11:47:30

I don’t think we need to feel guilt as such, but recognising white privilege (and male privilege because I agree the two examples are very similar) is important.

I can’t be held responsible for what my forefathers did, but it doesn’t mean I can’t voice anger or disapproval of their actions.

MexicanBob Sun 12-Nov-17 11:51:11

Totally pointless. Guilt and emotion about things that happened before you were born serve no purpose whatsoever. My forebears played no part in the British Empire, whether getting it, defending it (other than in the two world wars) or getting rid of it. Why should I feel any sort of guilt about it? Do the Italians feel guilty about the Roman Empire? The Turks about the Ottoman or the Indians about the Maghal? Ridiculous.

Moreisnnogedag Sun 12-Nov-17 11:51:49

I don't know - I do think that there isn't a difference between racial guilt and gender guilt in the sense that people should be aware of the immense privilege their skin colour and/or gender confers on them. maybe guilt isn't the right word rather awareness.

For instance, I am a white South African who grew up in the apartheid era. I gained enormous advantage purely on the basis that I was born white. I went to a whites only school, my parents got jobs because they were white, even our leisure time was enriched by our skin colour. Apartheid ended before I could vote. Do I feel bad about my experiences compared to a black person of my age? Of course! There was nothing I could do about it and I was very fortunate to have parents that taught me it was abhorrent what was happening in our country but I'm not dim enough to not be aware that despite me not wanting it, my race gave me an advantage that will persist throughout my life.

LyannaStarktheWolfMaid Sun 12-Nov-17 11:53:51

I completely agree with you that male privilege and white privilege are both a thing. I found it interesting that, at my dinner, historical racism was (rightly) held to be a significant issue that we should bear in mind where as historical sexism was held to be somehow less significant and less serious. My point being that the number of women oppressed by men in the course of human history vastly outweighs the number of people oppressed by the British Empire. Not that that wasn't shit, it totally was, but so is the historical treatment of women.

Notreallyarsed Sun 12-Nov-17 11:55:38

OP you’ve put it far more articulately than I managed to, I completely agree. One does not trump the other, both are something that should be discussed and challenged.

LyannaStarktheWolfMaid Sun 12-Nov-17 11:56:26

I think you are right Moreisn, we are talking more accurately about awareness than guilt.

LyannaStarktheWolfMaid Sun 12-Nov-17 11:57:01

*rather than

TinklyLittleLaugh Sun 12-Nov-17 12:02:30

I think you're spot on OP. Was the split between the sexes 50/50 at the dinner party? Did the women fail to back you up or were you all simply not acknowledged and mansplained to?

VladmirsPoutine Sun 12-Nov-17 12:03:56

My point being that the number of women oppressed by men in the course of human history vastly outweighs the number of people oppressed by the British Empire.

Women from former colonies, by this logic, have had it doubly hard.

C8H10N4O2 Sun 12-Nov-17 12:10:32

I'm with you OP but what explanation did they give to say why systemic oppression of women was different from systemic oppression of ethnic or racial groups?

TinklyLittleLaugh Sun 12-Nov-17 12:11:43

Well yes Vladimir. But it probably wasn't a picnic for them even before Britain got involved.

I'm not sure about the historical guilt thing. My forebears were working the fields or dying in the coal mines. Obviously not comparable to slavery but they certainly weren't growing fat on the colonies.

Kursk Sun 12-Nov-17 12:15:07

I don’t feel guilt for the actions of others before my time. I have no control over these actions.

Times change and people move on.

RagingFemininist Sun 12-Nov-17 12:15:32

Totally agree with you there.

And your (male) friends are showing that, unlike the British empire who has stopped atrocities in its empire, men are still using their privilege to belittle women.
Which is also why they dont want to acknowledge it. Doing so and ‘feeling guilty’ (in their own words) for the way women were treated historically would force them to have a hard look at their own behaviours. Which they don’t want to do because they see themselves as being a ‘good man’ who will see women as equal. Except that they don’t .

C8H10N4O2 Sun 12-Nov-17 12:15:57

Women from former colonies, by this logic, have had it doubly hard

I'm not clear on your point here? Yes women from discriminated populations (race, ethnicity, class) do have compound discrimination but they are still be discriminated against as women as well.

AdalindSchade Sun 12-Nov-17 12:18:30

Guilt is pointless but responsibility is not.
You can't feel guilty for something you didn't do but you can feel responsible for acknowledging the privilege you have and the culture you live in.

VladmirsPoutine Sun 12-Nov-17 12:19:21

But why does it have to be an either / or - game of top trumps?

It really makes a farce of oppression if it becomes a case of "Well I feel guilt because of abc, but by the same token you should feel guilt over xyz."

Do moderate football fans have to condemn their hooligan counterparts?
Do muslims have to denounce ISIS?

bluebells1 Sun 12-Nov-17 12:20:50

'But it probably wasn't a picnic for them even before Britain got involved'

This is where you are wrong. Many societies were matriarchal with unprecedented powers and rights being bestowed to women until us Brits went over and tried to change it around and forced them to take up our Victorian values.

One of my friends is a historian and he tells me that in India the culture was that property and other rights automatically passed on to the women in the family, not the men. This was also true of the kingdoms. So if a king is ruling, his successor will not be his son but his nephew/niece (sister's son/daughter). And the women had total freedom to choose their partners and also had their own wealth to decide on what they want to do with their lives. Until we fucked it up. So yes, we made things worse and we are the worst when it comes to sexism.

VladmirsPoutine Sun 12-Nov-17 12:22:30

but they are still be discriminated against as women as well.

I'm not clear on your point here either. They are also discriminated against because perhaps of the texture of their hair, their skin colour (indeed how dark or light it is), their body shape (hyper sexualisation)... I really could go on. The point is it's not an either/or.

AlecTrevelyan006 Sun 12-Nov-17 12:27:09

It is pointless feeling guilty about something over which you have no control.

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