Hari Kondabolu: Racism vs. White Guilt

By Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Stumbling through Tumblr, I found this gem from comedian and vlogger Hari Kondabolu breaking white liberal guilt all the way down.

Transcript after the jump.

So, I went to a prestigious small liberal arts college in Maine. Like many other people of color who’ve gone to prestigious institutions of higher learning, I had a lot of white liberal friends. And I am sick of some these white liberal friends telling me how guilty they feel all the time, how their whiteness makes them feel bad: “I feel bad. I have so much white guilt.”

You know, I’m not impressed! Because, if I had the choice between white guilt and racism, I’d take the white guilt every time. White guilt sounds great! Are you kidding me?!?

Imagine this: you’re on a line, right? You’re about to board an airplane. All of a sudden security shows up. They pull a sikh man with a beard and turban off. They’re search his bag again. And you’re watching, and what do you think to yourself?

“Oh, this is terrible. I feel terrible. This again? Racial profiling? That man’s done nothing wrong. How about they search me? They should search me. I’m a white man. I could be the next Timothy McVeigh. They don’t know that. Why don’t they search my bag? Because I’m white. I feel terrible. I feel so terrible—I mean, I’m still going to board the plane—but I’m gonna feel bad about it. I’m gonna sit in my chair and feel—oh! I’ll write Rachel Maddow an email! That’s what I’ll do! I’ll tell Terry Gross. And I’ll read bell hooks on the plane! Then everything…everything will be better! I’ll feel better. I’m a good white liberal…I’m a good white liberal…I’m a good white liberal…OK.”

So, by any chance, if there are any white liberals watching this video, remember this: your white guilt is a part of your white privilege. Enjoy it…while it lasts.

 

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  • http://apihtawikosisan.wordpress.com/ apihtawikosisan

    My problem with white guilt is the same problem anyone’s guilt.  You can’t make everything about your guilt, and ignore the feelings other people are having just because you feel guilty.  A lot of time is spent discussing white guilt.  A lot of energy and attention is given to this topic.  I want to say, “Shhhh!  Stop talking for a bit and listen to what others have to say!”  It’s much more useful than wallowing.

  • Taneesha Johnson

    it seems to me that there should be more categories to responding to racial injustice than either racism or guilt..how about compassion?

  • Taneesha Johnson

    it seems to me that there should be more categories to responding to racial injustice than either racism or guilt..how about compassion?

  • Taneesha Johnson

    it seems to me that there should be more categories to responding to racial injustice than either racism or guilt..how about compassion?

  • Taneesha Johnson

    it seems to me that there should be more categories to responding to racial injustice than either racism or guilt..how about compassion?

  • Anonymous

    Eh, I never really thought of it that way. I still know a substantial amount of people that still ask “if racism isn’t over how come we have a black president?” so at the end of the day(for me anyways) White Guilt > White denial, though I can see how it would get annoying.

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  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Great video he was spot-on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002629591663 Shahed Kadem

    This was great! loved it; exactly what I needed today.

  • Steve Murgaski

    As you might guess from my other comments, I don’t accept your first point.  I really believe you should rethink that assumption.

    Your second point I like better.  I do see value in haranguing liberals for not doing enough — though singling out the white ones strikes me as counterproductive.

  • a rua

    white guilt is a myth, when they say that they really mean “shut up and stop making me feel bad”. They just want to enjoy their ill-gotten privilege without being reminded how they got it. If they felt guilty about racism and imperialism they’d stop doing it.

    • dersk

      @Rua – A, you’re wrong, and B, don’t presume to speak for my intentions.

    • Hazeleve

      I don’t want or desire anyone to ‘stop making me feel bad.’ I’m not a baby.  I want to be reminded- any thinking person with a conscience would want to be reminded.  I work against this bullshit wherever and however I can every single day.

    • Hazeleve

      I don’t want or desire anyone to ‘stop making me feel bad.’ I’m not a baby.  I want to be reminded- any thinking person with a conscience would want to be reminded.  I work against this bullshit wherever and however I can every single day.

    • Hazeleve

      I don’t want or desire anyone to ‘stop making me feel bad.’ I’m not a baby.  I want to be reminded- any thinking person with a conscience would want to be reminded.  I work against this bullshit wherever and however I can every single day.

    • Hazeleve

      I don’t want or desire anyone to ‘stop making me feel bad.’ I’m not a baby.  I want to be reminded- any thinking person with a conscience would want to be reminded.  I work against this bullshit wherever and however I can every single day.

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  • Neurochick

    Good point there because guilt doesn’t always translate into action.  

    • Hazeleve

      Powerful amount of agree. Guilt doesn’t mean anything in the bigger spectrum. In a egotistical masturbatory way it does, but that’s of the tiny spectrum.

    • Hazeleve

      Powerful amount of agree. Guilt doesn’t mean anything in the bigger spectrum. In a egotistical masturbatory way it does, but that’s of the tiny spectrum.

    • Hazeleve

      Powerful amount of agree. Guilt doesn’t mean anything in the bigger spectrum. In a egotistical masturbatory way it does, but that’s of the tiny spectrum.

  • http://2in20.blogspot.com yes

    I LOVE THIS MAN!!!

  • PatrickInBeijing

    Great post!  Very true.  I was in line in SF once, and the people just behind me were an Indian couple with a small child, and a very elderly Sikh gentleman.  Only a totally idiot would consider any of them as potential terrorists.  Duhh!!  So, they got pulled out of line to be searched.  I am a fairly standard white male (a bit on the fat side, but that is fairly standard).  I had been helping the Indian couple with their stroller and luggage (they were really  nice people), so I got pulled as well.  We all got our luggage run through (at that time), a new security screening machine, and then moved in front of everyone else.  It was all stupid beyond belief.  Come one folks, who takes a baby on a terrorist mission?  And an elderly person who can barely stand on his own?  None of this makes any sense.    Me, heck, I am guilty of taking advantage of my friendship with POC to move to the front of the line.  But of course, it doesn’t always end up this way for them, whereas my white privilege always applies.
    But I don’t feel any guilt.  I was happy to move up in the line because I had befriended some POC, thus having double advantage (do we have a term for this??).   Even though that was not my intent (really, don’t most people help other people in line????  I am not sure)
    Personally, I am interested in justice, not guilt.  Thanks for posting this and making me think.
    PatrickInBeijing

  • Steve Murgaski

    Kondabolu’s position is quite bloodthirsty.  Sure it’s possible to mock white people who feel guilty about their skin-color.  That helps exclude them from any movement that tries to change things.  So it helps make sure that any change, if it happens, will happen violently.

    I don’t think that’s tactically smart, quite apart from the ethics of it.

    • Anonymous

      What part of Kondabolu’s position is “bloodthirsty,” exactly?

      • Steve Murgaski

        I should mention that I was responding to the transcript.  Now that I’ve played the video, I think his delivery softens the message a lot.  Sorry I missed that the first time.

        Even so, what he’s saying seems very typically racist to me, even if the subject of his racist statements is atypical.

        “So, I went to a prestigious small liberal arts college in Maine. Like many other people of color who’ve gone to prestigious institutions of higher learning, I had a lot of white liberal friends.”

        (I.E., I am about to mock white people who feel a certain way, because their skin-color invalidates what they feel.  But I went to college with a lot of white people, and I have a lot of white friends, so i know what I’m talking about.  I know a lot about ‘them’.)

        Then he gives us a parody of the ineffectual white liberal.  If it weren’t for his emphasis on their whiteness, his stereotype might go over well on conservative talk-radio: bleeding-heart liberals don’t have any courage; they write a lot of emails, and make a lot of noise, but that’s all they do.  He wouldn’t make it with that audience only because he includes whiteness in the stereotype — as though a differently-colored liberal would step forward and fight the customs officials right there in the airport.  His portrayal implies that only the white-colored liberals are spineless, and of course that wouldn’t do (because most people are sensitive to racism when it’s directed against them, and that listener demographic would be mostly white).

        His closing remark spells out what he’s been saying a little more explicitly.  “remember this: your white guilt is a part of your white privilege. Enjoy it…while it lasts.”  I take that to mean “I don’t want you to try and translate your sense of guilt into effective action.  I want you to shut up and enjoy your privilege (so that you’re easier to hate?)  I like for you to be the Other.”

        That’s why it looks bloodthirsty to me: because it tells white people to “Enjoy your privilege, while it lasts,” rather than try and change anything.  It says, essentially, “White liberals are pathetic: and since you can’t stop being white, I wish you would stop being liberals and become the kind of overt oppressor that’s so much easier to rebel against.  I don’t want to be your ally: I want to smash you.”

        Peace.

        • Anonymous

          He brings up “white liberal friends” because he is about to discuss “white guilt”. Why would he bring up other liberals of color when he is discussing this phenomenon? Also, it is not generally conservatives who feel guilty about racism, so why include them? He even qualifies his statement with “some” so as not to generalize all white liberals this way. This is his personal experience with some white people; he is not claiming that this is how all white liberals feel or stereotyping them. I don’t read anything in your last paragraph as being implied in what he says. If anything, I think he is pointing out that guilt doesn’t automatically equal allyship or action on the part of the guilt-ridden party. You seem to equate liberal with ally or anti-racist, and that is just not always the case.

        • k.eli

          I think the problem is that you’re looking at this issue from a different perspective than Hari & some of the other posters. And I think that’s understandable because we are all different and people can interpret the same thing in different ways. However, I do have to respectfully disagree with your critique of his “enjoy it … while it lasts” comment. I don’t think there was any malicious intent behind it. It was, I believe, a tongue-in-cheek way of mocking those who are constantly inciting the fear that white people are going to lose their centuries-long power grip on this country to us scary POC.

          At the end of the day, I think the message he was trying to convey was that having white guilt doesn’t mean crap in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, there are those who will cry out about their white guilt one minute but then laugh at a racist joke the next. I don’t care if you feel sorry that you benefit from a racist society; what are you doing to challenge it? I can feel all the pity in the world for minks and ermines but if I’m still buying fur coats, my lip service means nothing.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002629591663 Shahed Kadem

          It’s not about “skin-color”; it’s about the power and privilege that white people have as a result of oppressing people color. if you think this discussion about “skin color;” than you’re not seeing the forest.

      • Steve Murgaski

        I should mention that I was responding to the transcript.  Now that I’ve played the video, I think his delivery softens the message a lot.  Sorry I missed that the first time.

        Even so, what he’s saying seems very typically racist to me, even if the subject of his racist statements is atypical.

        “So, I went to a prestigious small liberal arts college in Maine. Like many other people of color who’ve gone to prestigious institutions of higher learning, I had a lot of white liberal friends.”

        (I.E., I am about to mock white people who feel a certain way, because their skin-color invalidates what they feel.  But I went to college with a lot of white people, and I have a lot of white friends, so i know what I’m talking about.  I know a lot about ‘them’.)

        Then he gives us a parody of the ineffectual white liberal.  If it weren’t for his emphasis on their whiteness, his stereotype might go over well on conservative talk-radio: bleeding-heart liberals don’t have any courage; they write a lot of emails, and make a lot of noise, but that’s all they do.  He wouldn’t make it with that audience only because he includes whiteness in the stereotype — as though a differently-colored liberal would step forward and fight the customs officials right there in the airport.  His portrayal implies that only the white-colored liberals are spineless, and of course that wouldn’t do (because most people are sensitive to racism when it’s directed against them, and that listener demographic would be mostly white).

        His closing remark spells out what he’s been saying a little more explicitly.  “remember this: your white guilt is a part of your white privilege. Enjoy it…while it lasts.”  I take that to mean “I don’t want you to try and translate your sense of guilt into effective action.  I want you to shut up and enjoy your privilege (so that you’re easier to hate?)  I like for you to be the Other.”

        That’s why it looks bloodthirsty to me: because it tells white people to “Enjoy your privilege, while it lasts,” rather than try and change anything.  It says, essentially, “White liberals are pathetic: and since you can’t stop being white, I wish you would stop being liberals and become the kind of overt oppressor that’s so much easier to rebel against.  I don’t want to be your ally: I want to smash you.”

        Peace.

    • Anonymous

      I am white. I do not feel excluded from the anti-racist movement because of this video…if anything, I appreciate him calling attention, through comedy, to the uselessness of white guilt.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697711208 Lola Jusidman

        no. this video does not say that white guilt is useless, it says that white guilt is a small price to pay for white privilege. this doesn’t just happen to white people, all privilege has guilt as a byproduct. what he’s saying is that white people shouldn’t feel saintly or burdened because they feel white guilt. they should accept it, stop whining, and realize that whatever guilt they feel is nothing compared to the suffering of the less privileged.

        • divalive

          Amen !!!

        • Anonymous

          I understand the distinction you’re making and it’s an important one. Thank you.

        • Anonymous

          I understand the distinction you’re making and it’s an important one. Thank you.

        • Anonymous

          I understand the distinction you’re making and it’s an important one. Thank you.

  • http://www.quentinlewis.com Quentin Lewis

    This video is great.  Bonus Trivia–Hari’s brother Ashok is “Dap”, the Hype man from Das Racist!