White Guilt Is a Sociological and Social Research Paper

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White guilt is a sociological and social psychological phenomenon that refers to a collective taking of responsibility by the dominant group for perpetrating past injustices. The phenomenon of white guilt is usually associated with greater support for affirmative action and other activist approaches to mitigating the effects of racism. Therefore, white guilt can be perceived as a desirable or positive variable that can predict pro-social behavior. Indeed, research has shown statistically significant correlations between perceived white guilt and low levels of prejudice against people of color (Swim and Miller). Likewise, there is strong support in academic literature that white guilt is associated with more support for affirmative action programs (Gunn and Wilson). White guilt is also associated with the acknowledgment of the existence of white privilege, which is the phenomenon of whites benefitting from their social status (Iver, Leach and Crosby; Swim and Miller). The experience of white guilt is a sense of shame for having access to white privilege. It can be construed as solidarity with people of color, or it can be construed as a demeaning manifestation of racism.

Therefore, white guilt is not always framed as a desirable phenomenon or experience. Shelby Steele has written much on the adverse effects of white guilt: which Steele frames as a patronizing means of perpetuating racism under a disguise of kindness. Vanairsdale likewise calls white guilt a "post-P.
C. behavior" that is indicative of collective insecurity rather than a need to actually create social justice. Kivel claims that white guilt can create sense of distorted reality: in which some white people -- arguably recipients of white privileges -- deny being white. The sense of guilt over being white represents distaste for being lumped in with the dominant group that has perpetuated racism.

Granted, Jews and other ethnic groups who have themselves been the subject of overt discrimination, ghettoization, and genocide have a point. Identifying with the dominant "white" category would be simply wrong for Jews, were it not for the fact that Jews have also been able to take advantage of white privilege. Visible minorities like African-Americans cannot, by definition, take advantage of white privilege. White guilt can therefore be defined in part by the desire to deny whiteness. As Kivel claims, "we must take whiteness itself and hold it up to the light and see that it is a color too," (9). The fact remains that people are perceived and treated differently depending on their skin color: which is more immediately apparent than non-visible signs of minority such as homosexuality or Judaism.

This research will address the phenomenon of white guilt from a number of different points-of-view. White guilt will be defined, in all its complexity. The history of white guilt will be explored: when….....

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