Good White People: Settler Colonial Anxiety and the Endurance of Racism

In: Emotions: History, Culture, Society


The focus of this essay is the racialised political emotions of ‘good white people’. I examine what Berlant names ‘public feelings’, focusing on the way emotional states are part of communal experiences. My interest is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ repeated calls for mainstream Australia to genuinely engage with political and cultural difference, and listen. Such claims often make ‘good white people’ anxious. They protest, insist they are trying but don’t know what to do. Good white people’s anxiety is much more telling than the stories that are told about bad racists. Thus, it is a productive site to analyse the cultural dynamics of settler–Indigenous relations, and to understand how race structures Australian culture and the endurance of racism.

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