On metaphysical guilt


Steve Bantu Biko, in I write what I like, describes it as being

There exists among men, because they are men, a solidarity through which each shares
responsibility for every injustice and every wrong committed in the world, and especially for crimes that are committed in his presence or of which he cannot be ignorant

Biko

He then goes ahead to write

This description of “metaphysical guilt” explains adequately that white racism “is only
possible because whites are indifferent to suffering and patient with cruelty” meted out to the
black man. Instead of involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from
their white society, liberals waste lots of time trying to prove to as many blacks as they can
find that they are liberal. This arises out of the false belief that we are faced with a black
problem. There is nothing the matter with blacks. The problem is WHITE RACISM and it
rests squarely on the laps of the white society. The sooner the liberals realise this the better
for us blacks. Their presence amongst us is irksome and of nuisance value. It removes the
focus of attention from essentials and shifts it to ill-defined philosophical concepts that are
both irrelevant to the black man and merely a red herring across the track. White liberals
must leave blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the
real evil in our society—white racism.

Steve Biko

which, from what I read of some societies where racism is still a problem, almost rings true. But I could be wrong given that the problem of race did not have a long gestation period here, not that it didn’t exist at all. No it did. We have white neighbourhoods and African estates. There were miscegenation laws among other racist policies here too.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

31 thoughts on “On metaphysical guilt

  1. Ark says:

    Melanin has never been an issue for me, but culture is another issue altogether.
    Can’t have these bloody Manchester United supporters living in the same suburb as normal people!
    😇

    Liked by 1 person

  2. renudepride says:

    None of us are perfect with the exception of you, O holy one 😉 Racism is present in all societies because too many of us are too lazy to look for the underlying cause of differences in us all. Biko was very adept in his search for cause. Great posting! 🙂 Naked hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. shelldigger says:

    The first part of that rings true. I don’t know how many times I have felt the need to apologize to the world just for being a man.

    I do not feel the need to apologize for being a racist. I can tolerate anyone, of whatever nationality or color of skin, or sexual preference. If, they just aren’t being insufferable idiots. That’s where I draw the line. Consequently I do not have a lot of friends 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barry says:

    Across the millennia every society at some time or other has been guilty of racism. It’s occurring in China right now at the hands of the Chinese government and military, and the same in Myanmar. No doubt it’s also occurring in other countries with with the approval of the state.

    I’ve experienced racism myself when in rural Japan – mostly subtle, but occasionally more blatant. For whatever reason, human beings have a suspicion of “other”, and consequently confirmation bias doesn’t take long to find “reasons” to validate the suspicion.

    But race is just one form of “othering” and prejudice. Ethnicity, and religion are two other forms that are fuel to prejudices, but the othering/prejudice that affects me more than anything else is society’s attitude to neurodivergence, and the refusal of most of society to make the slightest effort to accommodate the needs of autistics and other neurodivergent folk.

    Liked by 3 people

    • makagutu says:

      I disagree with your first statement. Racism, I think is a very particular European problem. This is not to say there has not been discrimination of minorities or majorities over the ages.
      Is what is happening in China racism or discrimination on religious grounds? And the same thing in Myanmar. Religion is being used the excuse to discriminate whole populations.
      Other class systems include the caste system in India based purely on circumstances of birth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        This is not to say there has not been discrimination of minorities or majorities over the ages.” Isn’t that what racism is? I prefer to call it “otherism” as that’s what it is no matter in what guise it occurs – other skin colour and/or facial features: racism; other religious beliefs: religious intolerance; other cultural norms: cultural intolerance. If you want to see what otherism is, send “half breeds” to a rural school setting in Japan. My children experienced otherism there in ways they don’t in Aotearoa – and from adults as well as from their peers. My observation is that the less diverse a society is, the less tolerant it is overall to differences. And the more diverse a society is, the more tolerant to differences it is, while at the same time a subgroup within it the majority group becomes less tolerant. YMMV.

        As for China and Myanmar, the victims are a different ethnicity from the majority. Call it ethnic cleansing or genocide if you prefer. It’s still a form of racism or otherism, but a more extreme form. I have yet to hear of a society that hasn’t been guilty of that at some point in their history. Perhaps why European otherism is “different” is because collectively, European culture is most wealthy and powerful at this point in history. That won’t last indefinitely. We already see the Chinese government attempting to stake a claim to all peoples of Chinese descent, no matter where they live.

        I belong to a multi-ethnic whānāu (extended family), and I can assure you that racism is prevalent in all ethnic groups, although Māori seem to be less inclined to hold such views. New members to the whānāu often refer (with embarrassment and in confidence) to how their own family reacts when it learns that one of their own has become emotionally/romantically involved with someone from a different ethnicity. Far East Asian ethnicities (our Near North) seem to be the least accepting, viewing other ethnicities as “barbarian”. See how the Ainu have been treated by the Japanese as an example.

        As a whānāu we do not see “race”, however we do see ethnicity, and we value new insights and experiences they can bring. On the other hand, we have a Japanese acquaintance in NZ who is too embarrassed to be with her grandson in public because he is black. The father is Ghanaian and the child is is probably as dark skinned as you are Mak.

        I have lived in two suburbs where Pākehā were a minority, and yes at times the wife and I did feel like “outsiders”. The social norms of the community were so different from our own that it was uncomfortable at times. It takes time, not to mention an open mind and a willingness to assimilate to the norms where they are different from one’s own.

        Liked by 2 people

        • makagutu says:

          Racism is purely on skin complexion and with an aim to subjugate n dominate. I don’t think, for example, the discrimination here against the Ogiek community by past governments would count as Racism but it is discrimination.
          I have no issue with “otherism”. But I think if we called every form of discrimination Racism, we lose the meaning of words and cannot address the problem.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            If the treatment of the the Ogiek community isn’t racism then the colonial government of NZ in the nineteenth century wasn’t guilty of racism with regards to Māori. Admittedly I’ve only done a brief look at the situation in Kenya, but here the now outdated idea was to make Māori into “brown Pākehā”, not subjugate and dominate. For example, Māori got the vote before Pākehā Women. Today we acknowledge that it was very racist and are making attempts at remedying the sins of the past.

            When I was a child, Māori children were punished for speaking Māori in school – even when speaking to other Māori. If that isn’t racism, then I don’t know what is.

            The fact that Māori and Pasifika have poor health outcomes in a Pākehā based health system is not due of the colour of their skin. It is because our cultural practices differ, especially when it comes to how the body and modesty is perceived, how nursing practices differ and even differences in how family is involved in the treatment of patients. If requiring Māori and Pasifika patients to conform to Pākehā practices isn’t racism, then I don’t know what is.

            I’ll concede that the term “race” is seldom used here (apart from by a few who are, without a shadow of a doubt, racist). We talk about ethnicities, and where there has been discrimination against ethnicities it is referred to as racism. Perhaps our respective histories have given different meanings to the word racism?

            Liked by 1 person

            • makagutu says:

              I wouldn’t call the discrimination against the Ogiek racism. It is not based on colour of their skin. It is simply because they are a small minority. And when I think of it, our society and many others are not egalitarian.

              I find the thinking of Biko, that in an egalitarian society, we would have people. Just people. Not minorities or majorities as rights would be granted to all without regard to race or creed.

              When I was a child, Māori children were punished for speaking Māori in school – even when speaking to other Māori. If that isn’t racism, then I don’t know what is.

              Are Maori white or brown people? Interestingly, our teachers punished us for speaking vernacular in school. We had to speak in either English or Kiswahili. I wouldn’t call our experience racism but a failure of the education system to find ways to integrate local culture and foreign language without antagonism.

              We talk about ethnicities, and where there has been discrimination against ethnicities it is referred to as racism. Perhaps our respective histories have given different meanings to the word racism?

              We, too, talk of ethnicities and whenever there is discrimination against ethnic groups, we call it tribalism or nepotism but never racism. We only ever introduce race when there is skin complexion difference.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Barry says:

                I dislike terms such as “white”, “brown” “black” etc, and generally they are not used here (except by racists). Māori are “brown” in the same way Pākeha are “white”. Remember you once declared I was “red” when you saw an image of my hand on a posting about this very subject 🙂
                People are discriminated against by their ethnicity, not their skin colour, although occasionally an assumption may be mistakenly made about one’s ethnicity by assuming a person’s physical characteristics belong to a specific ethnicity. Racists assume Pākehā (European) culture is superior or “more civilised” than the Polynesian cultures of Māori and Pacifika. It’s the culture that makes the person A person brought up in an inferior culture will become an inferior person. Extreme examples of this were seen in Australia and Canada where children of indigenous peoples were forcibly removed from their families to be brought up in a “more civilised” manner. The assumption was that a person’s character, especially character flaws were the product of culture, not their skin colour. It took NZ over one hundred years to realise monoculturalism does more harm than good. In this corner of the world monoculturalism is now recognised as a form of racism.

                Māori and Pasifika tend to have a much darker complexion than Pākehā or Asians (but lighter than typically seen on the Indian subcontinent), black wavy to curly hair brown eyes and a heavier build. But due to a high rate of intermarriage, there is considerable overlap in both groups. Of my grandchildren, two look Eurasian and one looks Māori, yet all three have the same parents – a Eurasian mother and a Māori father.

                My understanding of racism is based on how that term is used in Aotearoa, and from my perspective, limiting only to skin colour is not very useful.

                Liked by 1 person

                • makagutu says:

                  I will concede that you make a good point wrt culture. That skin colour then is the pretext but the issue really is a cultural one.
                  Most Europeans I have met are not white but more pink or pale. It is interesting to know how they became white.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • Barry says:

                    I’m not denying that for a few people skin colour does determine the nature of a person, but for most it’s a matter of culture and the incorrect assumptions that their own culture is somehow superior than others. On other words, colour is a pretext.

                    As for being “white”, did you know that Europeans referred to East Asians as white until the beginning of the 19th century? and according to this Wikipedia article “whiteness” in the US has been something of a moving target.

                    Like

                    • makagutu says:

                      This wikipedia link is quite interesting. White includes people from North Africa. It is so Hegelian.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      That’s why I find referring to races unhelpful and using colour to do so renders such terms meaningless.
                      By the way I hadn’t heard of the term Hegelian so I googled it and would you believe the first link I clicked on was Understanding The “Hegelian Dialectic” – an article by a racist, Christian, New World Order conspiracy theorist! Health warning: reading the article may raise your blood pressure.

                      Like

                    • makagutu says:

                      Hegel wrote

                      Africa must be divided into three parts: one is that which lies south of the desert of Sahara–Africa proper–the Upland almost entirely unknown to us, with narrow coast-tracts along the sea; the second is that to the north of the desert–European Africa (if we may so call it)–a coastland; the third is the river region of the Nile, the only valley-land of Africa, and which is in connection with Asia.

                      And his disciples still abound, many unwittingly so.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      I respectfully submit that he was talking through a hole in his head.

                      Like

                    • makagutu says:

                      He still has followers to date. Some don’t even know they are his disciples

                      Like

                    • Nan says:

                      I tend to agree with this — but for most it’s a matter of culture and the incorrect assumptions that their own culture is somehow superior than others. On other words, colour is a pretext.

                      I was raised without prejudice against others … so I tend to see the PERSON, not the color/tint of their skin. However, as you say, culture often inserts itself and often, whether we realize it or not, we discriminate.

                      Like

                    • makagutu says:

                      But here is the crux of the matter. I am because we are. A person is a person because of the culture they are raised in. To discriminate based on culture is to then be guilty of ethnocentrism or racism as Barry has argued.

                      Like

  5. We are all racists in many shades of grey and of course ‘white racism’ is the most pronounced. Despite white liberalism’s fashionable rhetoric, I have not witnessed any middle-class whites moving willingly into a black neighbourhood.
    Racism is the fear of the other and until we all get bunkered up in faceless high-rise silos of the megacities, racism will continue as much among whites themselves and blacks alike.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Despite white liberalism’s fashionable rhetoric, I have not witnessed any middle-class whites moving willingly into a black neighbourhood

      This is something. And a system that creates such segregation is problematic.

      Like

    • Barry says:

      Admittedly I do not live in the USA but I (Pākehā) and the wife (Japanese) have bought homes in predominantly Māori and Pasifika suburbs where we lived for 5 and 6 years respectively. Were we entirely comfortable? Not entirely. The cultural norms are different from the experience of either the wife or myself. Assimilation takes time and a willingness to adapt. The children adapted more easily, but (no surprise) they were subjected to some bullying based on their “mixed race”. However it was mild to what they experienced while attending school in rural Japan.

      Like

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