||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (March 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
White guilt is the individual or collective guilt felt by some white people for harm resulting from racist treatment of ethnic minorities by other white people both historically and currently. White guilt has been described as one of the psychosocial costs of racism for white individuals along with empathy (sadness and anger) for victims of racism and fear of non-whites.
It can be characterized as a strong, emotional feeling of direct responsibility for the unequal circumstances of ethnic minorities living in historically and culturally European nations, or the Western world largely due to historical exclusion of non-whites from mainstream white society. Discomfort when talking about issues involving race is also a common characteristic of white guilt.
Judith Katz, the author of the 1978 publication White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training, is critical of what she calls self-indulgent white guilt fixations. Her concerns about white guilt led her to move from black-white group encounters to all-white groups in her anti-racism training. She also avoided using non-white people to re-educate whites, she said, because she found that this led whites to focus on getting acceptance and forgiveness rather than changing their own actions or beliefs.
A report in The Washington Post from 1978 describes the exploitation of white guilt by con artists: "Telephone and mail solicitors, trading on 'white guilt' and on government pressure to advertise in minority-oriented publications, are inducing thousands of businessmen to buy ads in phony publications."
Shelby Steele, a conservative black political writer, discussed the concept extensively in his 2006 book White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. Steele criticizes "white guilt" saying that it is nothing more than an alternative interpretation of the concept of "black power":
Whites (and American institutions) must acknowledge historical racism to show themselves redeemed by it, but once they acknowledge it, they lose moral authority over everything having to do with race, equality, social justice, poverty and so on. [...] The authority they lose transfers to the 'victims' of historical racism and becomes their great power in society. This is why white guilt is quite literally the same thing as Black power.
George F. Will, a conservative American political columnist, wrote: "[White guilt is] a form of self-congratulation, where whites initiate "compassionate policies" toward people of color, to showcase their innocence to racism.
Commentator Sunny Hundal, writing for The Guardian, stated that it is "reductionist" to assign political opinions to a collective guilt such as "white guilt" and that few people on the left actually hold the views being ascribed to them by the conservative writers who expound on the concept of "white guilt" and its implications. Hundal concludes: "Not much annoys me more than the stereotype that to be liberal is to be full of guilt. To be socially liberal, in my view, is to be more mindful of compassion and empathy for others."
In 2015, when American civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal was revealed to have been passing as African American, Washington Post journalist Krissah Thompson described her as "an archetype of white guilt played to its end". Thompson discussed the issue with psychologist Derald Wing Sue, an expert on racial identity, who suggested that Dolezal had become so fascinated by racism and racial justice issues that she "over-identified" with black people.
- White privilege
- Reverse racism
- "The White Man's Burden"
- Black shame
- Colonial mentality
- Self-hating Jew
- German collective guilt
- Shelby Steele. A World of Difference: White Guilt. internet: WPSU-FM. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- Lisa Spanierman. Psychosocial Costs of Racism to Whites Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 51(2):249–262 Apr 2004.
- Alcoff, Linda Martín. "What Should White People Do?". Historyisaweapon.com.
- Lou Cannon. Phony Ad Salesmen Prey on "White Guilt". The Washington Post. January 16, 1978. Accessed September 30, 2007.
- Shelby Steele. (2006) White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. HarperCollins. Except from Chapter 4: Certain Knowledge, p24. Accessed September 30, 2007.
- Will, George F. (June 5, 2006). "White Guilt, Deciphered". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- Sunny Hundal. The guilt-free liberal. The Guardian. September 3, 2007. Accessed September 30, 2007.
- Bonnet, François (August 8, 2009). "Racial Interactions, Racism Accusations and White Guilt in France and Italy". Retrieved February 26, 2015.
- Thompson, Krissah (June 12, 2015). "Passing in reverse: What does an NAACP leader’s case say about race?". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- White Guilt: Its Antecedents and Consequences for Attitudes Toward Affirmative Action
- White Guilt and Racial Compensation: The Benefits and Limits of Self-Focus
- Teaching White Students About Racism: The Search for White Allies and the Restoration of Hope
- White Guilt: Race, Gender, Sexuality and Emergent Racisms in the Contemporary United States