The End Of White Guilt?

Posted on Mon 07/27/2009 by


Nancy Morgan nancy-photo-133px-blogBy Nancy Morgan

Something strange is happening in America. For the first time, a white man is standing up to a black man’s charge of racism. And he is being supported by his employer. In another first, the media coverage of this event does not automatically employ the time worn premise that only whites can be racist.white guilt 160

For those of you who may have missed the unrelenting 24/7 media coverage of the latest racial tempest in a teapot, the basic facts: A white policeman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the alert for 2 reported black burglars, detained a prominent black professor. The black professor then proceeded to play the race card, accusing the officer of being a racist. After challenging the authority and mother of the policeman, professor Henry Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct.

This incident may have gone the way of millions of others but for the fact that this professor was a friend of President Obama. Luckily for Henry Gates, the most powerful man in the world took time out from pressing world affairs to take his call.

The president of the free world then announced to the world that the Cambridge police Department ‘acted stupidly’, even while acknowledging that he wasn’t familiar with all the details.

What makes this incident unique is the fact that the automatic assumption of racism on the part of the white policeman is actually being questioned. In a very public way. Signaling the possibility that the ‘white guilt’ America has embraced for the last 45 years may finally be consigned to history.

White guilt is best described by author Shelby Steele: “White guilt is literally the same thing as black power.” Steele hypothesized that America lost its moral authority when it acknowledged and apologized for the sin of slavery in the early 60’s. This ‘moral authority’ transferred to the victims of historical racism and became their great power. The power to stigmatize one as a racist became a powerful tool. The power to evoke white guilt was effectively used for many years to bring corporations, politicians and public figures to their knees. And shield generations of blacks from accountability.

Because white guilt is a vacuum of moral authority, it makes the moral authority of whites dependant on proving a negative. As in, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife yet?’ For over 45 years, discussion of the issue of race in America has been constrained by the threat of being deemed racist. It now appears this might just be changing.

Another indication of change is the noticeable absence of the Revs Jackson and Sharpton from the current racial imbroglio. These media anointed champions of black oppression are wisely staying silent.

Perhaps they see the writing on the wall. The writing indicates that racial oppression and racism are charges that ring false now that a black man has been elected to the Presidency. The writing that indicates that Americans are ever so tired of having to prove day and night that they ‘are not racist’. The writing that indicates that America has paid its debt to the black man and they are now welcome to compete, on an equal footing, with the rest of America.

Finally, Martin Luther King’s dream may become a reality – Americans may now be free to judge a man based on the content of his character instead of the color of his skin. High time.

Nancy Morgan is a columnist and news editor for and she lives in South Carolina.

Read more from Nancy Morgan at Right Bias