foundlingmother replied to your post “foundlingmother: philosopherking1887: iamanartichoke: Friendly…”
@philosopherking1887 Well, I do say “participated in”, and that’s supposed to point to Thor’s actions on Jotunheim. That’s a much bigger part for me than the fact that Thor’s enriched by all the stolen gold. It’s those actions I want acknowledged more than anything. I don’t think it’s good to wallow in the crimes of the past, but I think it’s good to acknowledge them, which people aggressively avoid doing, insisting they possess no privilege.
In fact, I’m kind of confused why you got what you did from my post… do you mind telling me? I think I’m pretty clear about being critical of the cover up of past crimes, and never say anything about redistribution or the personal responsibility of those who benefit beyond the fact that we should be critical of those who think uncritically and deny that history did bias the results in a certain direction.
That doesn’t assume that we must forever lash ourselves to these crimes we are unwittingly the benefactors of, or set things right by giving away the shirts on our backs, only that the first step towards any sort of compensation, forward-thinking or otherwise, must be acknowledgement of the crimes of our ancestors.
I suppose my actual opinion, summarized, is that white people alive today need to accept responsibility, not admit guilt, for the crimes of our ancestors and work towards a better future not by undoing the crime (as you say, this is impossible), but through that forward-thinking compensation. So I’m not sure we disagree in principle, though our particular ideas of what forward-thinking compensation looks like might differ.
I thought I should get this discussion off poor @iamanartichoke‘s post because it was getting pretty long (sorry for spamming!). And it’s about to get longer.
@foundlingmother there were a couple things in your original comment that made me think you were ascribing guilt to the descendants of conquerors simply in virtue of their descent and inheritance, not in virtue of their refusal to acknowledge it or attempt to make amends. First: “I don’t think Thor’s at Hela or Odin’s level whatsoever, but he’s the crown prince of an imperial power. He did benefit from and participate (unknowingly) in this imperialism.” When you said “participate (unknowingly),” it wasn’t clear that you meant Thor’s invasion of Jotunheim. That could certainly be construed as unknowing participation if he didn’t think of ‘keeping the Jotuns down’ (to paraphrase Randy Newman) as a perpetuation of oppression, but just a strategic necessity, given their (presumed) warlike nature. The “unknowingly” made me think you were talking about just the wealth and power he inherited, rather than something he did knowingly and voluntarily… but given your clarification, I can see that it could mean something he did without knowing that it fell under a certain description. (Sorry if that came out jargony; I may have lost the ability to think in non-philosophers’ terms.)
The other thing that pointed me toward that reading was this: “Black Panther avoids insulting white viewers to the extent it would be appropriate to do so. … The wrongdoings of white people exist on the periphery, but they are not the focus. If Ragnarok’s critique weren’t so muddled, it would have been a critique of white imperialists. It would have been a condemnation of erasing history and the uncritical thinking that allows people who benefit to rationalize their relative good fortune.” It seemed that you were collapsing the categories of “imperialist” and “descendant who benefits.” Of course, the distinction isn’t all that clean when imperialism survives in the form of globalized capitalism… but there are white people in the global north whose primary fault is ignorance of the conditions that allow them to enjoy their cheap consumer goods, and who may or may not be in a position to do anything about it directly, so it doesn’t quite seem accurate to call them “imperialists.” As to Black Panther, I think it was pretty clear about the wrongdoings of white people: they are the necessary background condition of the dilemma that T’Challa and Wakanda find themselves in. The issue of what white people should do to correct the harms of past imperialism and continuing neo-imperialism is incredibly complicated, and it wasn’t the what-if question that Black Panther was interested in exploring as a piece of speculative fiction.
Perhaps I was being uncharitable in my reading of your comment… I do come into the issue with some annoyance at a certain strain of rhetoric on the Left that dwells ad nauseam on white guilt. They often make it sound as if they think white people are inherently morally worse than people of color – which is a particular instance of the general principle that members of oppressed groups are inherently morally better than members of privileged groups, but one that appears to trump all other instances of the principle. There often seems to be a mythic narrative at play in the background according to which oppression was invented by white people (i.e., Europeans) in the 15th century, and before that everything was hunky dory. There also seems to be the implicit assumption that the reason non-white people didn’t end up conquering the rest of the world was out of some sort of morally virtuous restraint… which ignores the amount of brutal conquering that did go on in every part of the world long before the modern era. So I can see why some white people end up feeling like the Left is blaming them for being alive, and why they end up feeling defensive. That isn’t enough to put me off my commitment to realizing racial equality, and it doesn’t justify the defensive white people in ceasing to be allies, but I can also see where it’s coming from. But of course that’s just my “white fragility,” isn’t it…? Oy.
Oh, and then there were the white people on Facebook saying they thought Killmonger was right. And I’m like… so you’re saying you’re in favor of arming all the non-white people with incredibly advanced weapons and just letting them have at it? Don’t get me wrong, I think they have some very real grievances against white people in general. But I also don’t believe in the inherent goodness of the oppressed, and I don’t believe that arming them indiscriminately would result in the overthrow of all unjust systems, the institution of just ones, and the punishment of those responsible for oppression in proportion to their level of responsibility. Also, most of the time I don’t want to die violently, and I suspect my white friends on Facebook don’t either, so I’m pretty sure all the “Killmonger was right” stuff was just social justice posturing/point-scoring. And no, my saying that doesn’t mean that I think brown people are evil and violent; it means I think they’re people (which goes to your point, @musclesandhammering). Arming oppressed white people doesn’t usually end well, either; look at the French Revolution. Achieving justice needs to involve cooperation between the (erstwhile) oppressors and oppressed, with the latter presenting their grievances and the former voluntarily divesting themselves of their undue advantages, not just turning over all power to the injured party and letting them wreak revenge.
… and now I’m gonna get a bunch of hate and “No wonder you didn’t like Ragnarok, you’re a racist colonizer.” Oh well.