I would like to get all my cards on the table. The phrase, the white man's burden, is both stupid and racist. Rudyard Kipling's poem, The White Man's Burden, spells out his and the British overt racism even though the poem was written about US racism in the Philippines.
The White Man's Burden:
The United States and The Philippine Islands
Take up the White Man's burden, Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man's burden, In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit, And work another's gain.
Take up the White Man's burden, The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man's burden, No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,
Go make them with your living, And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man's burden And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?"
Take up the White Man's burden, Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man's burden, Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!
Kipling in 1889 sent a letter to Theodore Roosevelt about America's involvement in the Philippines. He wrote in part, "America has gone and stuck a pickaxe into the foundations of a rotten house and she is morally bound to build the house over again from the foundations or have it fall about her ears." Kipling was so filled with hubris and his self-importance that he is telling Roosevelt to continue to do the same thing that the British colonialists were doing in other parts of the globe. With that attitude, it is not much wonder why those in countries hated the colonialists.
While Kipling's poem popularized the notion of noblesse oblige, the attitude of British racist condescension predated him. A generation prior to Kipling, David Livingston, a medical missionary, went to Africa. His view of Great Britain's colonization of parts of Africa was for three reasons or what was called then the 3-Cs: Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.
Several months ago, I spent 4-weeks in Myanmar, which used to be called Burma. Kipling wrote another poem, Mandalay, which some think that he wrote at the Great Pagoda in Mawlamyine. Mandalay is not as overt racist as The White Man's Burden, but it expressed both British haughtiness on the issues of racism and sexism. Nevertheless, the issue of the white man's burden was so pervasive among those carrying the burden that a hand soap advertisement stated:
The White Man's Burden Pears' Soap
That quote is from this advertisement.
Perhaps, they should first wash out their mouths with the soap.
Kipling was so into the notion that the British were superior to everyone else, that he missed the effects that this better than thou attitude had. However, George Orwell, another British writer, also was in Burma as a police superintendent. Orwell understood that the British were wrong and he understood why so many Burmese hated big brother, the British. He wrote about his time in Burma.
Burmese Days is about the dying days of British colonial rule in Burma.
In Shooting an Elephant, Orwell addresses the Burmese hatred of the British colonialists.
While the issue of the white man's burden really looks foolish as we look back upon it, need to be careful about what we say in the 21st century that might be racist. We need to think about word that might seem socially acceptable within some parts of our society as they were during Kipling's time.
We have some in America that deal with racism based on their claim that President Obama was born in Kenya.
President Barack Obama birth certificate
The birthers merely replace abusive language with a politically correct term, birthers. Birther is just a replacement for the words that they would rather use. All my adult life, we have confronted racism. However, for 4-hundred years, blacks have faced slavery and racism in general here in this land of the free...if you are white.
This is President Obama in the Oval Office.
The color or pigmentation of one's skin has no bearing on one's mental abilities or ethics. I am white, and I never even thought to apply to Harvard. In addition, I was never an editor of a law review nor graduated magna cum laude or received a Nobel Prize for Peace. Parenthetically, I wonder how many white birthers went to Harvard, edited the Harvard Law Review, graduated magna cum laude, and won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Having dissed the nonsense of the birthers and the white man's burden in general, all of us in the world came from descendants who came from Africa starting around 70,000-years ago. Livingston, Kipling, Orwell, Trump, Cruz, and the rest of us - including Obama were related to one of The Seven Daughters of Eve, which is the title of Bryan Sykes' book.
The Seven Daughters of Eve
To be even more precise, all people in the world can trace their Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) of one or more of those seven women. The white man's burden is their racist stupidity, which they have carried for far too long.
This is a funny cartoon, but sadly, the birthers won't get it.
Burmese independence flag
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."
Visit the Stupid is As Stupid Does page to read more about this topic.