I’m white but feel no white guilt. Nothing bad that I have ever done was caused by my whiteness. Neither as far as I know am I related to white people who did bad things to coloured people. I have traced my family tree back two hundred years and all 32 great-great-great grandparents seem to have come from the working poor. No sign of a plantation owner or colonialist in India.
Yet even if some of my relatives had turned out to have exploited coloured people, this has nothing to do with me. They were them and I am me. I am not responsible for what English people did before I was born, any more than modern Turks are responsible for the atrocities their ancestors committed under the Ottoman Empire.
In the past pretty much everyone was a racist, including black, brown, yellow and red people. The only difference between whites and coloureds was not that the latter were more virtuous and dove-like but that they were culturally less advanced and thus found themselves on the losing side of most wars. This doesn’t mean it is okay to invade and conquer backward cultures, but in the past it did. Trying to explain to a marauding Viking, Norman, Hun, Mongol, Zulu, Comanche, Ottoman or British colonialist that it is morally wrong to conquer weaker cultures would have been like trying to explain to Lionel Messi why it is wrong for him to score so many goals and for Barcelona to win so often. Conquering other peoples is just what humans did. Now they don’t. Some silly white people confuse being culturally backward and militarily weak with being virtuous; what Bertrand Russell called the fallacy of ‘the superior virtue of the oppressed’. In reality these people were not nicer but simply unable to defend themselves against a stronger group.
Equally, no one, not even Jesus himself, used to considered slavery wrong. It was just what had always gone on since time immemorial. Americans joined in the slave trade for 2½ centuries before deciding the practice clashed with their Christian idea of the equality of all men. Americans then fought a civil war over the issue in which over a million Americans died and America bankrupted itself. The practice was then proscribed in America and the Royal Navy sailed the seas stopping any ships carrying slaves.
So slavery was by no means unique to white cultures, though we were unique in outlawing it. Therefore, if white people are going to feel anything at all about slavery, perhaps they should feel pride at having put a stop to the practice.
Here is Jim Goad on the fraudulence of concentrating only on the role white people played in the Atlantic Slave Trade and here is Patrick West on the silliness of feeling guilty for crimes you had nothing to do with.