White People's Burden

October 1, 2005

University of Texas professor Robert Jensen offers his analysis of the "white people's burden, saying in part, "That is the new White People's Burden, to understand that we are the problem, come to terms with what that really means, and act based on that understanding." He makes an interesting case, one that is completely lost on most of the commenters at this site. I suspect that many of the people responding so strongly against Jensen haven't had a good heart-to-heart with someone who has experienced racism and prejudice first-hand.


Stephen, as always you're both thought-provoking and compassionate. There's a great book called "My Traitor's Heart" that's the autobiography of a white sort-of civil rights proponent in South Africa. It's about exactly what you're talking about: recognizing your own contribution to the problem and then taking the dificult steps of working to act based on that knowledge. It's a pretty brutal view of the situation, but it made me consider a lot of things and I highly recommend it.

Grr, even in a state like TX where hispanics are almost the majority, there is still a sense of "us" and "them." I think the problem is no matter how hard anyone tries, they are going to have some degree of racisim. The key is recognizing that and trying to counter it. In Texas, I felt like I was constantly educating people on what an Indian person is, yes we speak good English, yes I was born in TX, etc.

When I moved to Chicago, it took me a long time to feel comfortable living in a neighborhood with few whites (and I'm not white!). Its just what I was used to, being a suburb dweller. I knew it was my own perception of things that was screwed up.

I quickly caught on to the fact that I don't have to explain myself here. There are so many categories of "different" in a area much smaller than Houston, that unless a whole mass of people walk down Michigan Avenue in burkas or klan garb or whatever, it just blends in. It makes me feel more comfortable.