The “White Man’s Burden” in Toons

The White Man's Burden - Philippines

I had forgotten that Rudyard Kipling wrote his remarkably racist and smug poem to encourage Americans as they took over my homeland, the Philippines.  The “burden” white men take up is the burden of civilizing the world.

“Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.”

The poem is complete with preemptive carping—

“Take up the White Man’s burden–
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”

—as if calling conquered peoples “new-caught” and “sullen” shouldn’t lay some groundwork for “blame.”

In 2012 JANIE DOUTSOS, then a graduate student in North Central College’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program did one of the short assignments for MLS 634 – The “Third World” on Kipling’s poem, commenting briefly on it by pairing it with cartoons reflecting on the history of imperialism.  Two of the cartoons she used are above and below.  Go HERE to see the complete short paper where you can read all of the poem and see the rest of the toons.

Economic Imperialism

She arranged the cartoons in three groups.  “Group One,” she says, “is true to Kipling’s point of view.  In these cartoons we can see the heroic imperialist.” “In Group Two,” she continues, “the cartoons begin to see things through the eyes of the colonized.  Their purpose is to shame the imperialist powers by revealing the true agenda of colonialism.”  And finally, Group Three gives us “examples from a more modern perspective of neo-colonialism.  In these the economic assault of the colonized by the imperialist powers is the main theme.”  Mickey Mouse, Shell, Coca Cola—more snares to enforce the original traps of “new-caught” and “sullen” peoples.

 Go to the lead “Third World” post or the Teaching Diversity main page.

 For more on Philippine culture and its “entrapment” go Here, and go HERE for a list of all writings on the Philippines.

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