Friday, July 31, 2015

Reparations, White Guilt et alia

Usually I write these posts at home because I do not have the distraction of the Internet at home. I go to the local library to use the internet. As a result, sometimes I have to rely on memory for what I posted. This occasionally results in a misremembering, but just as often what I do remember about the post is the insight that I was after in the post especially when that insight found its way into words willy nilly.

From what I remember about the post about about blindness to race-based oppression being an important part of whiteness, it had all the feel of being the start of a case for group guilt and reparations. Protestants with their notion of individualistic guilt are astonishingly unable to grasp the possibility that their could be any other kind of guilt. Washing in the Blood is for individuals. It is for individual souls. If Guilt and Redemption exclusively concern individual souls, the whole idea of group guilt is not even wrong. It is nonsense like the babblings of an infant.

Ironically, The Holy Scripture they claim to read closely as a history of their God’s actions and self-disclosure in the doings of human beings contains numerous examples of Divine commands commands to eradicate whole populations. Sometimes exceptions are made for women and children, sometimes not. Sometimes their Deity exterminates whole cities like so much vermin (the case of Sodom and Gomorrah). And let’s not forget the greatest extermination in their history: the Great Flood. Or perhaps some of their religious leaders heed these stories. There have been numerous explanations of natural disasters as visitations of their God’s wrath upon the guilty and the innocent, not even sparing infants or the virtuous over which Abraham’s bargains with their God.

The concept of group guilt is not lacking in their theologies. The problem is in its application. When group guilt is applied, it is applied to violators (who curiously enough are always outsiders) of their Divinely sanctioned mores. Washing in The Blood washes Sin and Guilt away to leave the soul clean and pure, white as driven snow. For most denominations, the outward manifestation is at best recognition of feelings of guilt about behavior toward individuals, and even then only toward one’s neighbors. Neighbor has strong implication of shared locality: neighbor refers to those physically close in the same village, on the same street, or even only one’s fellow Christians in the same congregation.

No doubt, there have been denominations which have a notion of Guilt and Sin extending beyond mere feelings of guilt to the broader social and economic implications of their sins. These are far and away in the minority in the U.S. and probably in the broader history of Christianity.

Once you get away from Protestant fabrications of Guilt, Sin, Individuality and Redemption, it is quite clear that there is White Guilt and it is not derived from the paternalist nonsense about the Burden of the White Man. The recognition of guilt of any kind brings with it regret and a sense of uncleanness. In this case there is no mechanism in place to overcome the regret and get rid of the feeling of being soiled. Because there is no mechanism for redemption from this kind of guilt, recognition, if only of the most fleeting kind, brings with it powerlessness, frustration, despair. Imagine this situation as Living on the Day Before Redemption. The revelation of Jesus’ cleansing power shines brightest just before the moment of disclosure. Consequently, the deepest, darkest despair is when the sinner is most acutely aware of the need for Redemption. Living on the Day Before Redemption means Jesus never reveals Himself. There is no Hope. There is only despair. Most people do not have the psychological whitheral to cope with soul-crushing despair. It is much, much easier to make believe that such extreme states do not exist or are only symptoms of a diseased mind.

One of the seemingly infinite ironies of racial relations in this country is that Whiteness which presents itself as aloof and self-sufficient is in fact just as dependent on Slavery and Jim Crow for its place in the world as are African-Americans. The essential difference being in the majority, it one has the luxury of avoiding unpleasantnesses in its history. Whiteness and Blackness have become inseparably intertwined, more like Cain and Abel than Master and Slave.

I wrote “have become” because at the very beginning, when that first ship arrived in Jamestown it would have been possible to refuse that Cargo, or even send it back to Africa or wherever it came from. The history of Race Relations in this country is mostly a marriage without possibility of divorce between two people who desperately despise one another.

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