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"The Real White Man's Burden"

This satire of Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" was written by Ernest Crosby, a pacifist and president of the Anti-Imperialist League of New York. Crosby's verses poke fun at Kipling's assumption that the "civilized" way of life is inherently superior, using irony to highlight the contrast between the industrialized world and "those benighted shores [where]/They have no cheerful iron-mills/Nor... department stores." Crosby also alludes to "the Maine," the ship whose sinking sparked the Spanish-American war, concluding with a scathing indictment of what he views as the imperialists' hypocrisy.

The Real "White Man's Burden"

Take up the White Man's burden;
Send forth your sturdy sons,
And load them down with whisky
And Testaments and guns.
Throw in a few diseases
To spread in tropic climes,
For there the healthy niggers
Are quite behind the times.

And don't forget the factories.
On those benighted shores
They have no cheerful iron-mills
Nor eke department stores.
They never work twelve hours a day,
And live in strange content,
Altho they never have to pay
A single cent of rent.

Take up the White Man's burden,
And teach the Philippines
What interest and taxes are
And what a mortgage means.
Give them electrocution chairs,
And prisons, too, galore,
And if they seem inclined to kick,
Then spill their heathen gore.

They need our labor question, too,
And politics and fraud,
We've made a pretty mess at home;
Let's make a mess abroad.
And let us ever humbly pray
The Lord of Hosts may deign
To stir our feeble memories,
Lest we forget -- the Maine.

Take up the White Man's burden;
To you who thus succeed
In civilizing savage hoards
They owe a debt, indeed;
Concessions, pensions, salaries,
And privilege and right,
With outstretched hands you raise to bless
Grab everything in sight.

Take up the White Man's burden,
And if you write in verse,
Flatter your Nation's vices
And strive to make them worse.
Then learn that if with pious words
You ornament each phrase,
In a world of canting hypocrites
This kind of business pays.

Source | Ernest Crosby, "The Real White Man's Burden," The New York Times, 15 February 1899.
Creator | Ernest Crosby
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Ernest Crosby, “"The Real White Man's Burden",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 5, 2023,

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