The White Man’s Burden




The white man’s burden

Rang loud and clear

Trumpeted by church and state alike.

Exercise dominion over the colored savages.

Cleanse them of their heathen ways.

Civilize them in Western manners,

And bring wealth and power

Back to your homeland.

And so in search of his holy grail

The white man plundered

The colored world.

He stole the riches of the

Incas, Aztecs, and Native American Indians,

Vietnamese and Asian Indians,

Yoruba, Ashanti, Maasai, and Zulu,

Not just gold and gems

But land, precious ancestral land.

The white man created a world of

Homeless people,

Uprooted from their land,

A key to their sustenance and sense of self.

He forced his faith, the Christian faith,

Upon the conquered peoples,

Belittling the faith of their fathers,

Robbing them of another aspect of

Their sense of self.

Much as they tried to do with their fellow white man,

The Jews, who although not heathen

Were held to be infidels, Christ-killers.

The self-righteousness of the Christian white man

Knew no bounds.

And in the process of plundering and colonizing,

The white man committed genocide

Against the colored man.

In Mexico, Central and South America,

A population of 38 million when the Spanish arrived

Was reduced to 6 million 200 years later.

In North America, a population of 7-12 million

Was reduced to 237,000 by the end of the Indian wars.

In Africa and Asia numbers are not available,

But the slave trade stole 17 million from their

Ancestral African homes and way of life

To toil under the lash of slavery.

Although the majority of deaths were caused by Western disease.

Acts of purposeful violence and population control were common.

The record of United States history

Against Native Americans in this regard

Is clear and transparent.

These lands were not, as the white man likes to say,

Uninhabited and available for settlement.

They were home to millions of people in

Long-established civilizations, with

Vibrant cultures and religions.

The white man will say that

Slavery was abolished, recognizing its evil.

But while it was abolished, not the Civil War

Nor the 13th and14th Amendments,

Nor the Civil Rights laws

Restored the Black man to his

Rightful dignity and respect

As a human being

Because the dominant white culture

Would not accept that;.

Though no longer slave

The black man was held inherently inferior.

As a result, now in the 21st Century

The white man, or better put,

The Christian white man

Has a very different burden.

It is the burden of having committed

Crimes against humanity

For hundreds of years

In the quest for power, dominance, and wealth.

To relieve himself of this

Spiritual and social burden,

The Christian white man must

Atone for his sins,

Both those of today and those of his forebears.

Atone by acknowledging these

Acts of inhumanity and genocide

Through public commissions and hearings.

By changing all history books to

Accurately state the abundance of

Indigenous culture,

It’s destruction by the white man,

And the role of even these

Decimated populations and imported slaves,

And their descendants, in the development,

And yes, often even the defense, of

The new nation state.

Atone by adopting an attitude of

Remorse and understanding

For the suffering that his actions

Have caused colored people

Both in the past

And continuing to this day.

Atone, most importantly, by finally offering

The colored man respect and true equality.

The white man’s burden is huge,

His responsibility for past evil is vast.

The need for him to atone for past sins

Is self-evident if he wishes to be considered

A human being,

A child of God.

Ron Hirsch, Hanh Niêm, has walked the path of Buddhism for 25+ years, finding Buddhism at age 49. His Zen practice follows no particular lineage but reflects the teachings of his Vietnamese and Korean zen mentors.  Hirsch has had a varied career as a teacher, survey researcher, non-profit executive, composer and writer. His blog,, has been selected as one of the top 50 Buddhist blogs on the web. He is the author of three books on Buddhist practice and two ecumenically spiritual works, How to Find Inner Peace and Raising a Happy Child.


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