Rush Limbaugh almost kinda sorta has a point, muddled as it is, in his claim that white people should not feel guilty for slavery. But like most wingnuts, he thinks that working to end racism has something to do with “white guilt” rather than a concern for justice and fairness.
If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery it’s Caucasians. The White race has probably had fewer slaves and for a briefer period of time than any other in the history of the world. [...]
Despite all that, no other race has ever fought a war for the purpose of ending slavery, which we did. Nearly 600,000 people killed in the Civil War. It’s preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery when they have done more to end it than any other race and within the bounds of the Constitution to boot. Yet white guilt about slavery is still one of the dominating factors in American politics.
There’s a kernel of legitimacy inside that otherwise inane screed. I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever for slavery. Why? Because I had nothing to do with it. And I don’t believe in collective racial guilt of any kind at all. I don’t think white people should feel guilty for slavery any more than I believe an individual should feel guilty if the found out they had an ancestor who was a serial killer. Each person bears responsibility only for their own actions, not for the actions of people, even direct ancestors, long dead.
But this notion of white guilt is totally irrelevant to any related policy disputes. We should work to end racism not because of some vague notion of “white guilt” but because it’s the right thing to do. And we should not fan the flames of bigotry the way Limbaugh routinely does because it is the wrong thing to do.