Our original sin

Colonialism in Africa

There is a belief, rife among liberals, that white people have an especially bloody past and that whites today should atone for the past sins of other whites. Though they might begrudgingly admit, if pressed, that there is no ethnic group on God’s green earth that has an unsullied past, they rarely volunteer such an admission. Others appear to believe that darker-skinned people lived in peace and harmony with nature and never once fought either among themselves or with other tribes. According to these dreamers, natives probably recycled diligently and spent their days nursing sick animals back to health.

It’s tedious to try to barter someone down from the claim that whites are to blame for pretty much every shameful event in world history. And it’s especially hard since some white people actually seem to want to believe we are uniquely evil. They really don’t like it when you point out that Arabs and blacks were as much to blame for the Atlantic slave trade as whites. They want to belong to a race that did bad things.

One of my colleagues is of the opinion that though whites were probably no more evil than anyone else, the fact that we were technologically more advanced than other races meant that the crimes we committed were on a greater scale. I have a lot of sympathy with this view. It was bound to be the most advanced civilisation that sailed out into the ocean blue, discovered new lands, made first contact with strange and exotic people, got into arguments with them and, because we had better weapons, beat them.

Of course the accusation that a technologically more advanced culture can do more harm than a more primitive culture suggests that its acts of goodness might also be on a grander scale. While black and brown people lacked the technology to take to the high seas, settle far off lands and massacre the natives on an industrial scale, either intentionally or through the inadvertent introduction of western diseases, darker-skinned people also lacked the technology to discover modern medicines that have eradicated some horrible diseases and reduced the ill-effects of others. It was white people, not dark-skinned people who stopped the slave trade, something that had been going on everywhere since the dawn oh history. It was whites who dreamed up the idea of human rights, women’s rights and gay rights, gave vast amounts of foreign aid to the poor countries of the world, implemented affirmative action programs to the detriment of our own people, flew to the Moon, mapped the world, discovered the structure of DNA and developed theories of gravity, evolution, relativity and Quantum Mechanics.It was us who raised the standard of living of colonised countries by building roads, rail, dams, irrigation works, and stamping out barbarous customs like sati. A couple of centuries of British colonialism in Hong Kong and Singapore don’t appear to have adversely affected either of those countries. In fact the Hong Kong Chinese wanted to stay British. Yet lefties don’t want to hear about that. They only want to know about the nasty bits.

Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that white people were indeed guiltier than other races of past atrocities and that their good deeds don’t make amends for their bad. And let’s say further that we can project today’s moral sentiments back into the past and accuse our ancestors of crimes that they probably didn’t know were crimes. And let’s imagine that there is such a thing as collective guilt (uniquely for whites) and that today’s whites should bear the responsibility for the sins of their forefathers. Even if you accept all this, it still makes no sense to accuse say, Swedes of any of this. After all, they were never involved in the slave trade, never had an empire and never colonised Africa or India. And what about the Irish, many of whom were themselves indentured slaves who, according to the black economist Thomas Sowell, had things just as bad as black Americans. Their death rate was actually higher than that of African black American slaves because their ‘owners’ hadn’t actually bought them. Are these people also guilty, simply because they are white? And why don’t we ever hear the Irish complaining about a legacy of indentured slavery?

And a final question. Slavery in America finished 150 years ago. Just how much longer are white people supposed to feel guilty for this? Forever? Until black people achieve the same as whites? which it is probably fair to say will never happen, due to reasons other than past or present oppression.


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